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Your letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, October 12, 2018

By Newsdesk Bury

PRAISEWORTHY ... gas worker Ronald Powell swam through floods to turn off gas supplies and make them safe.
PRAISEWORTHY ... gas worker Ronald Powell swam through floods to turn off gas supplies and make them safe.


I read with great interest the article about the 1968 floods (Bury Free Press, September 14).

My father Ronald Powell was born in Bury in 1928, and he worked for Eastern Gas. In September, 1968, as the flood waters rose, becoming too deep to wade through, he swam into flooded properties in Eastgate Street to turn off the gas supply and make them safe. At the same time, he assisted residents into boats to help them to safety. He spoke of an elderly gentleman who sat on the stairs, just above the rising water level, refusing to leave his home. My soaking wet father sat down with him in the hope he could persuade him to leave for dry land.

The gentleman explained to Dad that atop his wardrobe he had a box in which he kept his treasures, but could no longer reach it and he couldn’t leave it behind. Swiftly my father fetched down the box, and helped him out into the boat. Off he went, clutching his box and waving to my father, calling out in his wonderful Suffolk accent: “Thank ya, Bor”.

The water was both cold and foul, however, my father continued with this work tirelessly over the next few days without a thought for his own health or safety; a kind man and an unsung local hero.

Having spent all his working life with the gas board in Bury, sadly, Dad died in 1995 at the age of 66.

My father received a letter from his employer the following month [above].

Beverley Newman née Powell

Via email


I learned the other day – if I didn’t know already – that fame is ephemeral.

I was making a rare visit to Bury St Edmunds and, heading along Parkway, I spotted the first of a series of yellow signs warning of road closures ahead. Always alarming when you are only an occasional visitor. And then I did a double take. The sign indicated that “Robert Bobby Way” was closed. I thought I’d misread it, so I checked on the way back and found that first impressions were accurate.

I may only visit Bury occasionally, but I’d heard of Robert Boby. I Googled him years ago. He was an ironmonger, manufacturer of agricultural machinery and mayor of Bury – all in the 19th century. But that was a long time ago, and I don’t suppose the people producing the signs had ever heard of him, or the road named in his honour.

Just slightly surprised that no-one in the town, with a sense of history, had taken a pot of paint and covered the errant letter.

Ken Watkins



Bob Jones (Readers’ Views, October 5) is right to call for an investigation into the muddle that the education system in Bury St Edmunds is now in. However, any investigation should begin by asking why misleading data and hiding of truths was allowed to permeate the school Organisation Review (SOR). The data used by Suffolk County Council to convince parents that children in Bury St Edmunds were being failed by the three-tier system included SATs results from middle schools in areas including Lowestoft. If parents had only been shown data for Bury schools, they would have seen that children in the Bury three-tier system were performing just as well as students in the two- tier system elsewhere.

The real driver for changing our schools to two-tier was financial and it is time for the council to be honest about this. Two-tier systems require fewer buildings and staff and are therefore cheaper to run. Furthermore, all of the middle schools in Bury St Edmunds are sited adjacent to housing estates, allowing the middle school sites to be sold for housing in the future. Our primary schools should be applauded for the additional classrooms that have been built to accommodate the up to 120 extra children they now teach. However, the school halls, of course, remain the same size and playgrounds have been made smaller to accommodate the new classrooms, despite the extra children that now play in them. In some primary schools (Risby and Sexton’s Manor for example), the children who were supposedly being targeted to benefit most from the change to two-tier (those in Year 6 sitting SATs), are being taught in joint classes with Year 5 children, because the numbers departing the schools at the end of Year 4 to head for the remaining middle schools does not make separate teaching viable. Not only are these children missing out on the opportunities affordedby a middle school education — a gradual introduction to specialist teaching by specialist teachers in purpose- built science, technology and art rooms – but they are being taught with younger children during the most important year of Key Stage 2.

I grew up in Bury St Edmunds and my happiest school years were spent at St James’ Middle School. Speaking to friends, everyone remembers their time at middle school with great fondness and have been sad to see these special places close. Those who went to middle schools as children really understood why they needed to be saved. The well-documented dip in attainment in Year 9, as children in the two-tier system become bored with their secondary school, does not occur in children who participate in the three-tier system. There is also a wealth of evidence to show that children do better in smaller schools, which a three-tier system necessitates.

Stating that “everywhere else” has a two-tier system is not a valid argument here. The primary schools in established two-tier authorities were built to house seven separate year groups of children from the start and many are actually split into infant and junior sites–they do not expect four- and eleven-year-olds to share the same facilities, as is now the case in Bury St Edmunds. It is time to consider whether the people of Bury St Edmunds have been duped. Those who started this fiasco in the first place should be held to account for the additional financial cost caused by the mess we are now in, not those who are trying to continue to provide a system that has been proven to work. lt was the Council’s arrogance in failing to recognise the support in this town for the middle school system that has led to this situation. Some of those against three-tier education have been vitriolic in their attitude towards the brave people who fought to keep Westley and Horringer Court Middle Schools open through the Bury Trust. Which group has truly put the needs of our children first?

Louise Bradley

Bristol Road

Bury St Edmunds


In reply to Mary Pilfold-Allan’s letter last week, firstly my apologies but due to holiday I missed her query in the BFP of September 18. Regarding the Gershom Parkington Collection so generously donated to the Borough, it has been displayed at Moyse’s virtually in its entirety since February, 2016. The only pieces not on display are some incomplete mechanisms and two long case clock(s) (there are a number of other similar long case clocks included in the items on display) which is held as a potential loan piece should that be necessary. This is to accommodate the requirements to be an accredited Museum. One of these long case clocks is very big and logistically difficult to display in the same space as the others. The other, whilst not a duplicate, is another example of the work of William Clement, an existing example of which is already on display. By not displaying these two elements the Museum can facilitate loaning items from an important bequest to another accredited institution if asked without breaking up the existing displays.

The collections at Manor House and on Angel Hill included clocks which were not part of the bequest, but are often regarded as such by people who have not seen them for some years. From 2003 until 2016 the collection was often on display at Moyse’s in full, or in part, at various different times.

Please can I urge you to visit our excellent Museum and see the display for yourself, I can promise it will not be a wasted trip.

Also, you may be interested in a short biography of Gershom Parkington, available to buy from the Museum or from the Friends group directly.

I thank you for making this enquiry and hope that others will be encouraged to visit Moyse’s Hall and view not just the clock/watch collection, but the many other excellent exhibits.

Cliff Hind


Friends of Moyse’s Hall Museum


EU funding is vital to our economy in the East not only because of support for agriculture, the rural economy and the food industry supply chain, but also through the regional and social funds which support small business and public services no longer funded by cash-strapped local authorities. Following a Freedom of Information request, Buzzfeed reported that both Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils have done

risk assessments on the impact of Brexit and concluded that the counties would lose £7.34 billion of committed funds. Norfolk wants to set up a Brexit Impact Fund, but as yet

I have not seen a Suffolk equivalent. We need answers on the replacement of E U funding. Any deal that the Government negotiates must address the funding issue and, in the event of Parliament not having a deal it can endorse, a People’s Vote must be provided with the option to remain in the EU.

David Dawson

Hospital Road

Bury St Edmunds


What an unusual take on democracy displayed by John Shayer, Ian Smith, Julie Pierce and others (BFP Brexit letters). Since the 2016 referendum 1.4 million people have become eligible to vote – mostly the young who will shape our future. The above letter writers, in the name of “democracy”, believe the views of these 1.4 million should be ignored. Can they explain their reasoning for such an undemocratic stance, please? It would be valuable if Jo Churchill, MP, who says she is a champion of the young, would share her views with her constituents on the above issue.

Simon Harding

Via email


Richard O’Driscoll (Readers’ Views, September 28) argues that the result of “a single vote frozen in time” should not be enacted because people might change their minds. Sorry, Richard, but this is how it works in a democracy. When we hold parliamentary elections, the majority decision stands. The same goes for Referendums. The majority decision has never been disputed before in a Referendum (eg:Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Scottish Independence – all of which were very closely fought). It is a given in any democratic country that we implement the decision of the majority and see if it works. If at a later date it was found to be wrong, we could have another Referendum, but not before we have even tried it.

Wild predictions are being made about food shortages, floods and the spread of super

gonorrhoea. They are reported as if they were facts, but no one has a crystal ball to see into the uture. Mark Carney has predicted a no-deal Brexit will lead to high interest rates, falling house prices and rising unemployment. He made exactly the same predictions before the Referendum

and none of it came true; in fact we have had continuous rising employment ever since the Referendum. These predictions are made by Remain MPs from all parties; they feed a climate of

fear and are taken up by those in society with a vested interest in remaining in the EU.

Julie Pierce

Via email


Now that the political party conferences are over it is time to take stock of the Brexit negotiations. It seems likely that any final agreement with the EU will not satisfy everyone. The whole process has been somewhat chaotic and I for one am not at all impressed by our Westminster MPs and that they will decide sensibly. I note the request for a so-called People’s Vote and I think that the proponents have a point. We have to get this agreement correct and giving us, the voters, the chance to approve or disprove the so-called “deal” is a perfectly valid request. Given that in the two years that will have passed the young people who did not have the vote at the time of the referendum will be voters now, and as it is their future they should have a say. I believe a vote on the proposals is a democratic and sensible action for the reasons given.

Robin Davies



If we follow the logic of Tom Murray’s argument (Readers’ Views, October 5) the borough council’s development control committee would refuse every planning application to which a minority of local residents objected. There were 28 written objections to the pizza takeaway on the St Olaves Precinct. Tom will know that more than 2,400 Howard residents are registered to vote at the Newbury Community Centre, which means that more than 98 per cent of them did not object, despite extensive press and social media coverage urging them to do so. There are currently five takeaways at the precinct: fish and chips, Indian, Chinese, kebabs, and Subway baguettes. This, apparently, is okay, but a sixth – a specialist Pizza takeaway – isn’t. According to councillor Murray, the area “does not need” another takeaway. How does he know? The applicant, Papa John’s, think the demand is there for a specialist pizza shop. They are prepared to invest their own money to give residents the option. As Jamie Andrews points out in Facebook favourites in the same edition of the Bury Free Press “Don’t live on the Howard any more but if they want to move in why not, it’s going to be cheaper rent than moving to the over-priced rent in town? It’s going to give people jobs, if you don’t use it, fine, but you know people will.”

Tom is vice-chair of the town council’s planning committee, but they didn’t object. Why? Because there was no sound planning reason to do so. Having read the 28 letters of objection, I couldn’t find a planning law reason to refuse the application, so at the development control committee meeting on October 4, I moved approval of Papa John’s application. It was carried by 11 votes to 3. Had we refused it without a valid reason, the applicant would have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. The “too many takeaways” argument wouldn’t have carried much weight, and the borough council may have ended up paying the applicants costs and looking a bit foolish.

Of the 13 shop units on the St Olaves Precinct, two are currently empty. Soon that will down to one. As one of the county councillors for the division which covers half of Bury, which includes the Howard, I don’t like to see empty shops with “to let” boards outside. Hopefully, someone will come forward to rent the empty Unit 6. Instead of all the negative comments, perhaps Tom Murray could turn his attention to promoting the Howard to prospective investors in the estate? The Howard has a lot to offer, Tom.

David Nettleton

County Councillor

Tower Division


In her Westminster Life article (Bury Free Press, October 5), Jo Churchill states that the reasons for homelessness range from family breakdown to addiction and mental

health issues. What she fails to mention is the fact that a report by the charity Shelter identifies the “structural causes of homelessness as unemployment; poverty; a lack of affordable housing; the structure and administration of housing benefit; and wider policy developments such as the closure of long-stay psychiatric hospitals”. They go on to say: “These problems require long-term policy solutions such as changes in the housing benefit system, the building of more affordable homes, and ensuring that a wider cross-section of society benefits from the fruits of economic growth”.

As a consequence, although Ms Churchill is “incredibly pleased that £235,782 was made available to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for 2018-19”, the idea that funding such as

this will do anything other than apply a very temporary sticking plaster is incredibly misleading. Cash in itself will hardly help to fight homelessness unless there are radical changes to the way society and government, in particular, treat those in difficulty – and this is not something that can just be off-loaded to kind-hearted and hard-working charities to deal with.

In January 2018, it was reported that the number of people rough sleeping in England had increased for the seventh consecutive year, arriving at an increase of 169 per cent since 2010, the year when, should anyone forget, the Conservatives returned to power. In March, 2017, there were 77,000 families in temporary accommodation, including 120,000 children.

The National Audit Office reported that the number of homeless families in the UK is “likely to have been driven” by the Government’s welfare reforms and accused it having a “light

touch approach” to tackling the problem. Reforms to the local housing allowance make it more expensive for claimants to rent privately and rents have risen while benefits have been cut. This is identified as “an element of the increase in homelessness”. We are only too aware of the cost of private rents and insufficient, affordable, social housing here in Bury St

Edmunds. So, to quote Ms Churchill again, while it “is incredibly welcome” that West Suffolk’s strategy is to recruit outreach workers and agree personal housing plans, it would

have been equally “incredibly welcome” if she had refrained from voting for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits or against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

The funding that has been made available will only ensure that a few more families are placed in temporary accommodation, while what we really need is very much more social and council housing, a fairer benefits system, decent, living wages for all and a mental health system that is not consistently undermined by more and more cuts.

Bury St Edmunds

Town Labour Party

Via email


Re: Litter bins on playing areas or lack of (Readers’ Views, October 5) – I can assure Councillor Hopfensperger that the problem with littering will not be solved by fitting more bins.

Take a look around and you will see litter dropped within a few feet of bins.

I suggest that we encourage both parents and children to put the litter in their pocket or a suitable bag and Take it home!

Why is it not obvious that we need to take responsibility for our own litter – it isn’t the local authority who creates it but we blame them for it.

Come on people, have some pride and be responsible for your children and your litter before we drown in it!

Most people are happy to buy items and carry them to the play area, so why is it so difficult for them to take the empty packets/wrappers home with them?

Mrs K Bond



I note with interest that both borough councillor Paul Hopfensperger and town councillor and vice-chair of the town council’s planning, licensing and finance committee, Tom Murray, are now both lamenting the planning application for a sixth takeaway on the Howard Estate.

The initial planning application appeared before the town council who stated that they had no objections to it, but, as Cllr Hopfensperger’s much-publicised 13-year experience of representing St Olaves will have taught him, the town council relies on the information provided by ward councillors when making such decisions.It appears that none of the experienced borough and town councillors in question raised any issues in relation to the increased litter, the displeasure of residents, the increased problems of obesity or the over-provision of fast-food outlets in the area.

It has only been since the fairly new Labour councillor Max Clarke, as chair of the St Olaves Precinct Business Forum, consulted with both residents and other businesses in the precinct that this situation (with 46 per cent of the shops now being takeaways )has been brought to the attention of the public. Cllr Hopfensperger belatedly realised the significance of the planning application and joined Cllr Clarke in his fight but, unfortunately, to no avail.

The planning application has now been approved and St Olaves precinct is destined to become just a string of takeaways, with nothing in between to provide for the real needs of the residents, or to encourage the spirit of community and openness that Cllr Clarke has been trying to foster with his World Cup and World Litter-picking Day barbecues, amongst other iniatives.

A Turner

Via email

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