And Hoping For Answers!

Features

16 April 2021

by David Hollister 

Well, here we still are! If you are reading this then you have survived Covid-19 so far, either by staying at home or by sheer good fortune. If you’ve stayed at home you haven’t really missed much because so far this year, everything worth doing seems to have been cancelled. 

Of course, all the small shops have been closed by the state, forcing everyone to get anything they want from the larger stores which have managed to trade as ‘essential suppliers’ (the likes of B & Q, etc) or online – because Amazon’s so quick, so cheap, and whatever you want is only a click away. 

And while anything you want is being delivered by White Van Man in all sorts of guises, what we are doing with each and every ‘click’ is making the noise of the death watch beetle for local traders. Yet for the life of me I can’t see local traders offering such a huge range of instant and Covidsecure services as Asda, Amazon, AO and the like. 

Sorry, guys, but the ‘stay at home’ culture has appealed to the ‘want it now’ generation and the “can’t be bothered to get off my backside” generation. And it’s going to be a long and hard road back. Some way, somehow, we’re going to have to make ‘personal service’ attractive again. Reintroduce the pleasure of actual ‘shopping’ which actually won’t happen until the plethora of shop door notices (two at a time in this shop, and follow the arrow please) have been taken down and until we can talk to each other without masks or plastic screens. And have our blues festivals, our jazz festivals, our village fetes, carnivals and our coffee mornings. 

Yes, Covid-19 is hugely dangerous but so is isolation and mental illness. How much longer are we going to be ordered to stay out of cinemas, live shows, restaurants and so on ‘for the good of the community’ and to ‘save the NHS’? (I can hear my critics sharpening their claws even now, but if you don’t like the stuff I write – which is my own opinion and protected by the principles of ‘freedom of speech’, then why are you already halfway through this article; move on!) 

The responsibility for ‘saving the NHS’ is not ours; it’s been the responsibility of successive governments over the past 50 years; not solely failure to fund the NHS properly but also failure to control the excesses of an NHS which is paying some GPs half a million a year, which will fork out £50 to have a light bulb changed because ‘if they caught me changing the bulb, it would be more than my job’s worth’. The Government, who in the dash to ‘get Brexit done’ has managed to alienate great swathes of Eastern European nurses and hospital workers who now won’t come to work here because they feel unwelcome. Who – like so many of us in 2016 – didn’t properly think out the ramifications of how the decision they made would affect the NHS, and who were going to recruit 40,000 nurses and 7,000 doctors out of some mythical rabbit-hole and still have got nowhere near the target. So, don’t ask me to ‘save the NHS’; physician, heal thyself. 

Anyway, good news on the Dorset Council front. I have been in further communication with Cherry Brooks (Lead Member for Highways and South East Purbeck Member, on whose desk the buck stops). As a result of her intervention I had a productive meeting with Ian Styring (Community Highways Officer) and showed him where the dangerous puddle happens at the foot of the Railway Bridge Hill on the A351. We agreed that at present the drainage needed re-examination so he’s going to get a team to inspect the drains with a rod and a camera, and let me know the results. In turn, I have agreed to photograph any puddles that materialise and send him the photos for further action. 

Not such good news on the Wareham Rail Crossing, I’m afraid. Dorset Council are ‘continuing to work with Network Rail about the crossing but Covid-19 had meant that the discussions are temporarily on hold…… watch this space….. 

The Council say that “the Harmans Cross footway proposal has been requested by local residents and the Parish Council several times over the years. The proposal was looked at by the Highways Improvements Team in 2014 and it was costed at £470K and would require third party land purchase” (this I dispute – I understand that the land belongs to the Council). 

“The scheme was ranked against all the other scheme requests across Purbeck which are prioritised on an annual basis for Local Transport Plan funding. Due to the high cost and low value for money this scheme has never been built. Whilst we do deliver a range of Local Transport Plan funded schemes every year across Dorset aimed specifically at encouraging walking and cycling, we do have a limited annual budget and the number of requests by far outnumbers the amount of money available, so we have to prioritise all schemes.”

So, how much is the human life of a Harmans Cross resident worth? And clearly the ‘cycling’ thing takes precedence (even if most cyclists don’t use the cycleways provided for them at such huge expense). Then – to close – the Unacceptable Road junction at the foot of Langton Hill where it meets the A351. They say “The Langton junction alterations were designed to slow down vehicles heading towards Langton Matravers, with the improvement having to stay within highway land. The feedback we’ve had from the parish council is positive about the improvements and the new pedestrian island is well used, especially by schoolchildren and their parents.

Our Highways officers are currently considering a reduction in the speed limit, which has been a long-standing request from the parish council. Sorry, this is rubbish. I posted a piece on Facebook asking for public comments on this one, and three quarters of the comments suggest that the current junction is difficult and dangerous. The comments are still coming in. 

At the end of March I intend to print out every one, from critics to supporters – and submit them as a file to Cllr.Brooks and to the Community Highways Officer and try to arrange a site meeting – which I will publicise on Facebook. Various HGV and coach drivers have volunteered to come along with their vehicles and illustrate the problems to the officers. And to Cllr. Brooks, who has reacted positively to all our comments so far and who, I am sure, will attend, listen to the residents and take their comments back to County Hall……. 
Watch this space!

View more articles and letters