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Bury Free Press readers' letters to the editor




Town centre parking, the health service and the state of our roads were on your agenda this week.

MISSED CHANCE TO SEND OUT SUV MESSAGE

Having just received an invitation to renew my parking permit for the next year, I am disappointed that the local authority has not taken the opportunity to charge a premium for large vehicles, notably SUVs. This would surely discourage what is increasingly becoming a socially unacceptable vehicle.

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

I realise that a permit is for a household and not for a specific vehicle, but one is invited to note the registration for the vehicle usually using the permit, so this could drive the premium required for the permit.

A recent report in the press has stated that the majority of SUVs are bought by people living in cities and towns, the implication being that the vehicles are not being used for the purpose for which they are made, i.e. being driven off road.

If one is entitled to a street parking permit in Bury St Edmunds then there is surely no need for an SUV: parking space is tight so not to penalise a vehicle that uses up more space than a normal sized vehicle seems a missed opportunity and sending an albeit small signal that Bury is thinking about environmental issues when the opportunity is given.

Peter Rounce, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds

HOW MONEY IS SPENT IS MOST IMPORTANT

An open letter to Jo Churchill MP and Minister at the Department of Health.

The news on Easter weekend that 4.5 million people in England are currently waiting for hospital treatment is hardly surprising, given the catastrophic impact that Covid-19 has had on our health resources. Of those, more than 300,000 people have been waiting for ‘elective’ operations for more than a year.

Sadly, the response from the Department of Health is, as ever, fatuous and unhelpful. As usual it’s a statement of the amount of money spent on the service – impressively large numbers -– but also the meaningless assertion that ‘average waiting times for elective treatment have fallen by around 40 per cent since July’. Of course they have, if you deal with those who have been waiting longest first. All it means is that some form of treatment other than for Covid emergencies became available again since July.

The amount of money spent is important. It’s how the money is spent that matters though, and that concept seems alien to our elected representatives.

The BBC reported the previous week on a document produced by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, that illustrates what looks like the outcome of years of government neglect and mismanagement on a staggering scale. The document very clearly illustrates the impact of a determined drive towards a low tax economy.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn is in poor condition
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn is in poor condition

The hospital was built 40 years ago. It was built with a lifespan of just 25 years. Stretching the buildings’ useful life for another 15 years was the choice of more than one political party.

The roof planks are failing. The hospital’s document states that despite 131 support props holding the roof up, the ‘potential of catastrophic failure of the roof’ remains. Fifty more support props have been added since January. They hope to reopen their critical care unit soon.

The government has given them ‘over £20 million to directly address the most immediate issues’. The hospital bid (!) for £165 million over three years for repairs.

The estimate for patching the roof (it is irreparable) is £554 million over 10 years. A new building would cost £679 million. They are not one of the 40 hospitals included in the government’s £3.7 billion new building package announced in October last year.

So there are presumably hospitals currently in use with bigger issues than a roof about to collapse.

And yes, the sum is impressively large. But on these figures, that’s enough money to build only five hospitals, assuming no structural support is needed for the existing buildings.

So what is your government’s plan?

Are they intending to commission decent buildings with a sensible lifespan, even if that means adding new ones as capacity and needs change? Are they going to put off a decision and pay for structural maintenance plus, eventually, the cost of a new building – after all, that will add up to an even more impressive figure when we are told how much they are spending on our NHS?

Are they going to build even shakier buildings? Are they looking for a magical solution? Perhaps Amazon could build them and charge us all rent?

But if our experience of this government’s record of building schools, which are based upon historic pupil figures and with a short useful lifespan plus end of life maintenance paid for out of the schools teaching budget, is anything to go by, the omens are not good for the NHS. Or us.

Can we please move beyond the government stoking fires by marketing the cost of everything, while acknowledging the value of nothing?

Ian McDowell, Bury St Edmunds

ALTERNATIVE USES FOR DEBENHAMS STORE

Roderick Rees’s amusing cartoon in the current issue of the Bury Society Review presents the Debenham’s building as an electric car charging station!

It sent my mind racing.

How marvellous it would be if the building could be remodelled as a centre for the arts. Plenty of room for practice rooms and studios, but the main focus could be a gallery, part to house a permanent curated exhibition of works of art, with another area for temporary exhibitions and events.

Bury has long been an attraction as a retail shopping centre, but post-Covid the decline in retail, already under way through the attraction of shopping online, can only accelerate.

Bury needs to develop other ideas for attracting visitors: culture is already a strong suit, a dedicated arts centre and gallery would enhance this appeal.

David Payne, Chairman, The Arts Society Bury St Edmunds

STATION WAS ARRIVAL POINT FOR WRITER

On a drive through Cockfield a few years ago I came across the sad remains of the remaining buildings of Cockfield Station. I stopped, got out of the car, looked and wondered what it had been like and who had used it.

I recently also saw a photograph of the still dilapidated station building. The railway between Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds closed in 1961 and Cockfield station’s remains are a ghostly reminder of a long lost alternative means of transport.

All this happened before the deadly Dr Beeching took a sword to the network. Yes, much of it was inefficient, but we are reaping the legacy today of disconnected communities. Old routes in particular have been used for new bypass roads.

The Government makes grand announcements, but like the projected Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge, new routes will probably not be completed in my lifetime However, there is another, more interesting story connected to this remote station.

On a dark wet night, during the blackout of war, in March 1945, the train to Bury St Edmunds stopped at Cockfield. A solitary passenger disembarked, that passenger was American serviceman John T Appleby, who was to be stationed at air bases in the vicinity. His task was to train aircrews in the concepts and skills of celestial navigation, but given that the end of the war was nigh, it is doubtful whether there was much call for his services!!

He became a true friend of Suffolk, and his name is indelibly linked forever with our fine county. When on leave he spent his time cycling around the villages of West Suffolk, and sometimes went further afield. He enjoyed his experience so much in England and Suffolk in particular that he wrote his about his travels in his book, Suffolk Summer’ – our county seen through the eyes of perceptive visitor. Our county cannot boast the likes of Shakespeare or Wordsworth, but we can revere and respect a quiet man who achieved a unique literary pinnacle in his own way.

Suffolk’s own dedicated travel writer connected forever to what is now a ghost station and railway!

Real literary heritage indeed.

Graham Day, Stowmarket

SORRY AMANDA, THAT WAS A NON-BIRD...

Rest easy in your bed Amanda (Bury Free Press, April 9) . . . be comforted in the knowledge that the stand out featured bird shown is a non-bird – not here in the UK anyway, not now and as a breeding species likely never will be, about as likely as the Monty Python dead parrot. The illustration is of a white-spotted form of Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), a breeding bird of Central/Northern Europe and recorded in the UK only as a rare vagrant passage migrant moving to/from its wintering grounds in North Africa and Turkey.

Maybe seen in a dream or perhaps memories of an exotically wallpapered room in a European holiday cottage?

Brian Taylor, Sapiston

Footnote: Apologies Brian. We bow to your superior ornithological expertise. A bit more research required next time, perhaps - editor

EXTRA TRAFFIC IS DAMAGING VERGE

If any of your readers have used the Norwich Road between the ‘Boys Grave’ (B1506) and the A11 over recent months they will have noticed the destruction of the verge and parts of the highway, mainly by local heavy lorries. This has followed the weight restriction on the bridge at Kennett station.

The verge is a natural habitat for local wildlife and now severely damaged. The mud and the deep gulleys formed are a hazard to cyclists. The road surface is unable to cope despite the numerous attempts at repair, all at additional cost to the Council-Tax payer.

John Ford's picture of the damaged verge on the B1506.
John Ford's picture of the damaged verge on the B1506.

I lodged a concern on the Cambridgeshire Highways portal to be told that they did not consider it an issue and that it was ‘Network Rail’s responsibility’. No attempt was made to consider the increasing damage to both the environment and the road.

The majority of the road is within Cambridgeshire Highways, with a small stretch in Suffolk Highways. There has been plenty of time for the Highways departments to observe the damage and take some action. There is another route along local A and B roads involving only a modest increase in distance. One would have hoped that at the very least the Highways departments would have discussed a voluntary change in route by the local companies involved, in order to avoid the increasing damage. But that would mean someone showing initiative!

John Ford, Moulton

BLIND PEOPLE NEED SOME EXTRA HELP

With lockdown restrictions easing, there is an understandable buzz of excitement in the air as people head outside to see loved ones and enjoy the warmer weather. But we are hearing from many blind and partially sighted people who are anxious about public spaces becoming busier and have lost confidence in going outside after a year of Covid restrictions.

Measures to enforce social distancing often rely on the ability to see things like signs, queuing systems, or barriers. When you can’t see these changes, they can create new obstacles to navigate and further erode confidence.

We’re asking the public to help us safely social distance as the restrictions change.

By being aware of the challenges we might face, and simply asking if assistance is needed, you can help us keep our independence and stay safe.

We’re also calling for local authorities and businesses to take action, so that measures designed to protect us are inclusive to everyone, not just to those who can see them. RNIB’s website has more information about this.

Our ‘new normal’ should be as open and inclusive as possible, to help everyone get back outside – not make it more difficult.

David Clarke, Director of Services, RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)

SPEED OF DRIVERS IS FRIGHTENING

The speed of pick up and delivery food drivers in Cannon Street and Lower Baxter Street, in Bury St Edmunds, is frightening – someone will end up being killed,

Plus they park in disabled spaces and on double yellow lines.

Hopefully the police can do something about this.

Adrian Newcombe, via email

NUCLEAR WEAPONS HELPED KEEP PEACE

Re David Payne’s letter (Bury

Free Press, April 9), please remember the Cold War, especially The Bay of Pigs in 1962. It was our nuclear weapons that helped keep the USSR at bay.

Ed Walker, Woolpit

A TRIBUTE TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

Reader Beryl Dykes has penned this poetic tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh:

Here is a Prince of very high station

Beloved of all across the nation

He was the Queen’s ‘Strength and stay’

Standing beside her for many a day

Now the tears fall like rain

We shall not see his like again

But he had done his time at last

And into God’s hands he has passed

But we must not mourn for very long

We know his legacy will carry on.

Beryl Dykes, Bury St Edmunds

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