A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, December 26.
HOW MANY MORE EMPTY PREMISES?
I was appalled to learn recently that St Edmundsbury Borough Council has allowed the top two floors of the recently vacated Tourist Office on Angel Hill to remain empty for 60 years!
These are elegant premises with a fine staircase and at least one large wood-panelled room and five bedrooms on an excellent site overlooking Angel Hill. Is the borough council also responsible for so many of the other properties which remain empty in the middle of Bury St Edmunds? Look at the shops and see all the shabby uninhabited and unloved premises above them in the Market Square for example? How many more empty premises exist in the middle of the town? Does the borough council care at all? Would they be willing to publish a list of all the potentially residential properties which remain empty year after year in the town centre?
-- J M E Bartlett, via email
SACRIFICING THE ENVIRONMENT
In this era of heightened urbanicity, the decline of wild areas is symptomatic of our failed stewardship of co-existence with the voiceless, natural world. This is typified by the abhorent decision of St Edmundsbury Borough Council to create a temporary travellers site within uninhabited parkland dating back to the 12th century.
Felling trees, erecting fences and introducing human activity into a uncultivated buffer zone between town and transport links, is as harmful as it is crass. The council is complicit in eradicating entire ecosystems, displacing wildlife and birds, and disturbing designated and publicly owned meadowland.
Bury is blessed with a rare tract of ancient floodplain meadows adjoining its centre and riverbanks. Such natural spaces should be allowed to prevail free from human interference and management. The council would do well to heed its own signage: “Reduce disturbance to wildlife” and “Do not camp on site”. Furthermore, it should not sacrifice wild environments for the sake of short-termist political expediency.
-- Bill Hill, Bury St Edmunds
LAND STILL NEEDS PROTECTION
While the Bury Free Press article on Friday, December 12, article correctly reported that the Water Meadows Group is not continuing with its bid for HLF funds to buy the land, the group remains committed to finding ways to preserve this land undeveloped. It is unique in being the last remaining central green space(40 acres just east of the Abbey Gardens) in our rapidly growing town, yet still under threat of development long-term.
The Bury Water Meadows Group and like-minded town residents achieved a great success in ensuring that the Leg of Mutton was not included for commercial development in the new Local Plan (Vision 2031). However the work on developing a subsequent plan will commence within a few years and this period offers a window of opportunity to find a lasting solution to preserving this land.
-- Andrew Hinchley, Chairman, Bury Water Meadows Group
REORGANISATION HAS FAILED
Your short article ‘Ofsted says Suffolk is below average’ (Bury Free Press, December 12) comments on the latest tranche of KS2 results which show Suffolk is still in a parlous state … after eight years of the Schools Organisation Review (SOR), at a cost to Suffolk taxpayers of £130 million and rising, that was meant to fix KS2.
Given that Ofsted have told us that Suffolk’s secondary schools are in an even worse state than the primary schools, children not doing well at KS2 tests at age 11 is not a deficit that is likely to be corrected as these children move on to their GCSEs.
Mr Barton is quoted as saying everyone knew there was ‘huge mission to improve education’ in the county and that ‘lots of us are involved in that and determined to see it through particularly with SOR’. Does Mr Barton look no further afield than his own school?
If his gaze went as far as Lowestoft he’d see that yet another school in Lowestoft has been rated Inadequate by Ofsted. Promoted as the answer to poor performance, SOR targeted Lowestoft first as it was an area that was already performing badly. The SOR-dust settled some time ago in Lowestoft and yet here we are with three out of four secondary schools in the town now rated Inadequate.
If his gaze came a bit closer to home and looked at West Suffolk he’d see that many primaries are failing to achieve national standards. With four inside the worst performing 10 in Suffolk (all two-tier schools having already gone through SOR in Phase 2), none in the top 10 and just two in the top 15.
Indeed, if Mr Barton looked even as far as the schools in the town he would find that the latest KS2 data tell a revealing story. Compare the average performance of schools that are going through SOR with the middle phase academies of the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Academy Trust which is not. You will find that the children in the trust academies outperformed the national average on pretty much every metric – the other children in the town fell, on average, well below. For example, the percentage of children reaching level 4 in reading writing and maths is 74% in the SOR-afflicted schools but 80% in the Trust (National = 79%), 17% reached level 5 or better in the SOR-afflicted schools but 27% did so in the trust (National = 24%).
Having a settled school structure that looks at each child across the entire four-19 age range is, I suspect, a key reason why the trust has seen its middle phase school make sustained improvements in recent years.
Aren’t these all clear signals that SOR is an utter failure?
Given that SOR has spectacularly failed to improve matters in the earlier phases, one wonders what makes a headteacher like Mr Barton so determined to see it through, and once more have King Edwards as an 11 to 18 school?
-- Paul Oldman, Bury St Edmunds
POPPY TOTAL WILL EXCEED £44,000
On behalf of the Bury St Edmunds Branch of the Royal British Legion I write, somewhat belatedly, to say a big thank you to everyone who worked so hard for this year’s Appeal, and also those who helped collect either by manning the poppy tables at the supermarkets, having collection boxes in their business premises, carrying out street and house-to-house collections, and also to the schools.
Grateful thanks, too, to everyone who donated so generously. The Appeal currently stands at £43,218.97 and, with some £1,300 still to be received, the total this year is expected to be in the region of £44,500.
Thank you again to everyone who helped to raise this very gratifying amount. We will see that it is put to good use.
Your continued support is very much appreciated.
-- Dick Palmer, RBL Poppy Appeal Organiser for Bury St Edmunds
FOLK RUSHED TO MY AID
I would like to thank the kind people who helped me when I fell on my face in the alleyway next to the Post Office in Bury. Many offered tissues to mop up the blood and someone called for an ambulance. At least three people waited with me until my husband arrived on the scene. I would particularly mention Paul, from Croasdales, who came as a first aider. I do not know the names of the other people, but I am most grateful for their help. Clare and Dave, the paramedics who came in the ambulance were most efficient. I suffered two black eyes and a sprained knee, but am otherwise fine.
-- Sue MacDonald, Bury St Edmunds
STREET HAS POTENTIAL
Well done, Karen Hurden! The chairman of the Bury Society makes a compelling case for the regeneration of the much neglected Skinner Street (Letters, December 19). I agree with Karen that this narrow cobbled street could be transformed into something more than just a ‘service yard’, littered with wheeled bins of different shapes, sizes and colours. I’m keen to work alongside the Bury Society to progress our shared objectives and urge Karen not to be discouraged by the ‘It’s a service road, get over it’ remark, made by a councillor at the Bury Area meeting and reported accurately by the Bury Free Press.
I was the next speaker at that meeting and said that I didn’t want to ‘get over it’ but ‘get on with it’ instead. Not every councillor is disinterested in Skinner Street and some of us see its potential as adding to the charm of the central retail area of the town. Perhaps we can put our heads together in the New Year to move forward on this project in 2015?
-- Cllr David Nettleton, Bury St Edmunds
COUNTRY WILL GIVE VERDICT AT ELECTION
So West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, apparently without a hint of complacency, suggests that 2014 has been a good year for his constituents and is looking forward to 2015 (Bury Free Press, December 19). Well Mr Hancock so am I, because with a General Election in May the people of this country will have the opportunity to rid themselves of this disastrous Tory government that has caused so much social and economic pain for the most vulnerable within our communities.
Unsurprisingly Mr Hancock’s end of term report failed to mention the existential rise in the number of people being forced to use food banks as a way of keeping food on the family table, with the East of England now fifth out of the 12 English regions in terms of the number of people being forced to apply for a three-day emergency food supply. Since the Tory’s disastrous austerity drive, ministers like Matthew Hancock have denied there is any link between their policies and the huge rise in food bank use. All evidence would suggest otherwise.
A recent report funded by the Church of England with cross-party support concludes that ‘households have been left vulnerable by the bedroom tax, changes to disabilities benefits and the abolition of council tax relief’. Closer to home the Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau reports that ‘the removal of the spare room subsidy ( bedroom tax) and the sanctions that have been placed on people mean payments are being stopped and more people need our help’.
And what of Mr Hancock’s claims in relation to an economic recovery? The truth is that in 2010 the Tories pledged that they would balance the books by 2015 ; the reality? next year the deficit will stand at £75 billion with a planned increase in borrowing by a further £200 billion and further public spending cuts that would take Britain back to 1930s levels of public spending, 2015 can’t come quick enough when the people of this country will have the opportunity to give their own verdict on Mathew Hancock and his party’s performance.
-- Richard Soer, Great Barton
THANK YOU FOR YUOR SUPPORT
On December 11, a street collection was held on behlaf of St Nicholas Hospice Care in Bury St Edmunds and the amount collected was £200.07. We were collecting on the late night shopping day and it was very cold so a huge thank you to all those who supported us on the night and our super street collectors who braved the weather.
-- Miranda McCoy, Community fund-raiser St Nicholas Hospice Care