Bumper letters special, February 6, 2014

We have a full postbag of your letters on a range of views
We have a full postbag of your letters on a range of views

We published a bumper edition of your letters in the Harborough Mail on February 6, 2014, due to a recent surge in opinions on a host of different subjects.

If you feel strongly about any of the issues raised, see how you can write to the Mail using the contact methods at the bottom.

MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES: Savage cuts will hit services hard

Having read the proposed county council budget cuts I have been asked by the Friends of the Market Harborough Museum to make a response in my capacity as chairman.

The proposed cuts can only be described as savage and will have a far-reaching negative effect on museums and libraries within the county, leaving them poorer with, at best skeletal operations, and for some, little hope of survival.

Secondly, as we understand it, museum and library services will become heavily reliant on volunteers to fill the gap left by the professionals who will no longer be employed.

While the The Big Society idea has a certain rustic appeal, we all know volunteers can be unpredictable and changeable and many often do not commit to service for any length of time or want to be committed to regular participation.

In addition, resting some of the running of the museum on volunteers would inevitably lead to inefficiencies.

In Market Harborough we understand from the county council’s plan for the library and museum that library assistants will be brought in to cover these roles.

We think the library assistants would not have the time and knowledge to fulfil duties once carried out by the assistants.

Thirdly, museum staff are engaged in many educational activities with schools and other organisations and provide an excellent service not only for Market Harborough but for other educational institutions.

This service would be much-reduced without professional organisation.

Fourthly, having visited other museums in the county, we have learned that 50 to 60 volunteers would be required to fulfil a voluntary support role for museums and libraries. Such numbers are difficult if not impossible to recruit.

Fifthly, we feel uncomfortable with the fact that by volunteering we could be taking the jobs of the present assistants.

If you wish for a well-run museum which maintains its excellent reputation then you need a professional and knowledgeable staff.

Finally, museums and libraries are repositories of the collective memory which helps create and preserve our national culture. There is no doubt that this concept will be considerably undermined by these council budget proposals.

We therefore urge you consider carefully the possible outcomes before supporting the proposed cuts.

Think of the future of our children, our county and its invaluable institutions.

Dr Len Holden, chairman of the Friends of Harborough Museum

RETAIL: We don’t need six supermarkets

As someone who is very concerned about any out-of-town shopping development I have read with dismay the letters published over the last few weeks supporting it [Tesco’s plan for Rockingham Road, Morrisons plan for Great Bowden Road], saying that they didn’t think it would effect town centre trade, it would relieve traffic problems in town and would provide the town with a delicatessen!

When out-of-town developments are permitted it nearly always has a detrimental effect on town centre trade.

Once people have parked out of town they are unlikely to then drive into town to continue shopping and sadly it appears that people are often too lazy to walk any distance, so inevitably town centre trade is effected.

Far from relieving any traffic problems in the centre of town, this development is likely to cause new congestion problems, especially for those living in the estate round Ashley Way.

People will drive to this development and in many cases that route will still be through the town.

Tesco is very unlikely to stay for any length of time in the town centre once a new site is created. As soon as the opportunity comes up to end the lease they will be off, and would be very foolish to do otherwise, so I think the likelihood of any facelift [to its smaller Tesco Express on The Square] is somewhat remote.

I also wonder if the writer from the previous week who thought that it would be good for a delicatessen to come to Market Harborough has ever shopped in the town centre: one of the really good things about Market Harborough is the great selection of quality food shops providing delicatessen, bread, meat, fish and, indeed, even wine.

We currently have six supermarkets in Market Harborough, we don’t need any more.

Fiona Lamont, by email

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Plan must help, not harm district

Harborough District Council has presented a copy of its Open for Business report to local parish councils.

The report, based largely on interviews with less than one per cent of businesses in the district, appears to present a solution which simply repeats the mistakes of the 1990s and has no vision for 2020 and beyond.

We need a development plan which will protect and enhance the unique characteristics of our Harborough which are low unemployment, highly skilled individuals, very high levels of home-working and high-value housing.

The council even suggested dropping the word “rural” from its description of our district even though for most people this is their key reason for living here.

By assuming that it is a few large employers that can create future wealth for the whole district in sites like Magna Park, the author and council, have completely failed to spot that the world is changing and it is not the nominal location of a business that is important.

Somebody working on national minimum wage in a warehouse who is bussed in and out of the district every day will contribute far less to the local economy than a professional who is employed by a business outside the district but in fact lives and spends their above-average income in the district.

The author vilifies the latter as “out commuters” even though many of these people are increasingly working from home.

We do not want or need more destruction of the rural environment in order to create low quality, low skill, low-paid jobs on a large scale.

This will not reduce dependency or create a vibrancy in our rural communities. It is the smaller often home-based businesses and the professional workers that are already the true economic engine of our district.

Only they are modern, flexible, high value, sustainable and deliver high-quality of life and economic growth for the district. We must have a plan from the council that promotes rather than harms them if the district council wants to support a flourishing economy for 2020 onwards.

Phil Gilbert, Peatling Parva

SAFETY: Investment is needed on roads

A new mobile speed camera is to be installed in Peatling Parva following a contribution from the owners of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.

Residents will welcome this but under the “polluter pays” principle it is about time that the owners accepted greater responsibility for the high volumes of traffic passing through narrow rural lanes and villages created by activities at the Bruntingthorpe site.

The routes from the site through Gilmorton to the M1 have become rat-runs for drivers delivering vehicles to and from Bruntingthorpe and the recent spate of crashes on roads in the vicinity highlights the need to make improvements, such as those identified by Leicestershire County Council in 1993 but never implemented.

As a minimum, we need investment in improving the “official” route to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground from the M1 via Bath Lane and the A5199, we need clear signage at the M1 junction indicating all vehicles should follow the “official” route, and we need the county council to implement a creative traffic management scheme to restrict the rat-run.

Tim Smith, by email

WAR: We will do all we can for memorial

Last week saw the announcement of good news for St Luke’s Hospital: a £6.8million investment.

Also included in that announcement was not so good news: the possibility of NHS Property Services declaring the Cottage Hospital site in Coventry Road as surplus.

This we have known for sometime and we await future NHS announcements on what will happen to the site.

But this much-loved hospital for minor injuries has a much deeper presence in our community because it was built by public subscription and included the portico war memorial.

So the not so good news was the NHS announcement that their business case for St Luke’s no longer included preservation on-site or moving to another site of the portico war memorial bearing the names of 1,554 fallen soldiers of the First World War.

I, as deputy leader of Harborough District Council and Cllr Blake Pain as leader, will do all we can in our power to secure and preserve this memorial.

This week’s announcement is the first step in this redevelopment of St Luke’s/future of the Cottage Hospital. We shall monitor it closely and liaise with Dr David Sharp, area director for NHS England Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Cllr Dr Paul Bremner, deputy leader of Harborough District Council

SUPERMARKETS: Just too many stores planned

What is the collective noun for supermarkets? A concentration? Someone wrote recently supporting the building of a Tesco on the former Focus site in Rockingham Road as a means of relieving congestion.

Surely that depends on where you live? Now we hear that Morrisons are proposing yet another near the train station, adding to the four supermarkets already nearby.

Far from relieving congestion, this concentration of supermarkets at one end of town will simply make it worse.

Those coming the northern edge of town, including the Airfield Farm development, will not, if current behaviour is anything to go by, use the bypass, but will crawl through the already clogged-up High Street, or more likely, rat-run through Great Bowden, taking no account, as now, of on-coming traffic, narrow car-lined roads, weight or speed limits, or the village primary school.

And can you imagine the impact on those trying to get to the station from any direction? Commuters beware!

An even great concern would be the impact on the many excellent privately-owned retailers which characterise our village and our town and bring in many visitors.

I hope the planners realise that this concentration of supermarkets at one end of town will clog-up roads, make visiting less attractive, and will take customers away from them.

Some concentration is needed but by planners and councillors, not supermarkets.

Liz R Thomas, by email

EUROPE: What price our national rules?

The Democracy Institute may be, as Professor Oppenheim says, (Your View, Mail, January 9) a ‘right-wing think-tank devoted to the notion of small government and free markets’.

However, its findings are reminiscent of the situation after the expansion of the EU in 2004.

We were informed then that only 13,000 migrants would come here when in fact it is more than 200,000 since then. The influx continues. Did the UCL Migration Research Unit predict those figures?

As regards breaking EU law, what about the current Government? It is going to have a three-month ban on migrants from claiming benefit.

Is that not contrary to EU law?

The Home Secretary has sent advert vans around London telling illegal immigrants to own up or be sent home.

In the Laval Case some years ago, the European Court of Justice forced Sweden to allow a group of workers to be paid less than the Swedish minimum wage. This had been adopted by the Swedish Parliament and was therefore an act of law. The EU was happy to overturn that.

Does not breaking the law work both ways? If not, what price any national parliament?

Derek Clark and Roger Helmer, UKIP MEPs for Leicestershire

HUNTING: Shuddering with anger at pursuit

Yes, Jenny your letter made me shudder with anger; the thought of this fox chased into a village where there are many pets out and about, desperately trying to hide from the hounds which had apparently gone off the trail.

Just wondering if this is another excuse for the pursuit and hunting in our area?

It is a well-known fact that people detest the hunts.

Jenny was a hero to stand up to them. Anyone who suspects that illegal activities with any dogs can contact the Wildlife Police who are funded by wealthy business people or the League Against Cruel Sports who will endeavour to investigate.

Maureen Falkner, Walton

LOST: Have you found a silver bracelet?

I dropped my silver bracelet at the Coventry Road medical centre in the waiting area just inside the entrance door on October 9 while waiting for my flu jab.

The bracelet is a very expensive and sentimental leaving gift from an old employer. I wore it constantly and miss it so much.

Despite several searches by the medical centre and enquiries at the police station, it has never been found.

If you found it, I would be grateful if you will return it to either the medical centre or hand it to the police station. I am very upset at this loss.

Mary Punter, Market Harborough

POLITICS: Everyone should have their say

Harborough MP Edward Garnier voted, along with a House of Commons majority, to overturn the Lords’ amendment to the gagging law.

This law would prevent non-politicians from speaking up on the big issues of the day before elections.

Many charities and campaign groups have spoken up about this, from the Royal British Legion and Oxfam to the RSPB.

Despite how vocal civil society has been about the problems with this law, the Government has been trying to rush it through without proper scrutiny. Groups that might not usually agree have been uniting to speak out against this law.

Politics is too important to only leave to political parties, and in a healthy democracy everyone should be able to express their view.

Sarah Clarke, Market Harborough

TRIBUTE: Frank Berry did so much for us all

Seeing the photo of Frank Berry in the Mail (Mail Memories, January 16) reminded me of just how much he did in his public service as chief executive of Harborough District Council and how relevant his legacy is today.

In the 1970s I joined the newly-formed council, heading up the planning policy and conservation team.

I had the very great privilege of working with him for 12 years up to his retirement, and we see the fruits of his vision for the Harborough district today. His passion for local government, serving the public of Harborough was the driving force behind his vision.

His love and interest in history and architecture paved the way for a programme of Conservation Area designation unprecedented in the Midlands at that time.

His simple, effective, and common sense guidance to planning new development was to prevent encroachment over the ridge lines which surround the town.

But one of his most far-reaching legacies was his concern for maintaining and growing the prosperity of the heart of Market Harborough town centre.

In the 1980s the town was losing trade to Kettering, Corby, and Leicester, and the council was under huge pressure from food supermarkets chasing speculative sites around the edge of the town.

Under Frank’s guidance the council came up with the strategy of providing a site next to the town centre which would then attract food shoppers, provide more car parking and, by building a pedestrian bridge over the River Welland, create a new shopping street (St Mary’s Place Shopping Centre) linking the supermarket, a new general market and car park to the town centre and hence boosting trade for existing businesses.

If the council had bowed to the pressure from food supermarket operators for sites on the edge of town then this would have most certainly spelt disaster.

And today we face a similar threat again.

Let us hope that this legacy will continue and Tesco’s new store proposal will be refused, otherwise all the good work of the district council will be undone.

Francis Graves, by email

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