Story was reported properly

CONGRATULATIONS on the Journal’s responsible reporting of sex charges against a former vicar. Your original, sober report made clear the ex-vicar denied the offences.

Your correspondents’ complaints of “covering most of the front page” and “gutter journalism of the most despicable kind” are laughable. Did they notice your restraint in not reporting the evidence?

The Journal reported the trial under the age-old right of English people to attend any court hearing so that all trials are held in the open.

This right, a bulwark against secret trials, is under threat. One reader wrote: “Your cruel ‘scoop’ may well have ruined what remains of life for (the ex-vicar).” Nonsense, if his life is ruined, it is because of his accuser, who subsequently was not believed, and the Crown Prosecution Service, which brings such trials.

The service and the police, who provide the evidence, are running scared after unwise assurances that accusers will always be heard, even though there is no supporting evidence and the accused is dead so cannot be punished.

We see this in the costly, grandstanding by Wiltshire Police attempting to pin crimes on Sir Edward Heath.

Already, the right to know has been eroded by politicians pandering to sentimental voters, moving us closer to secret trials. These same MPs eroded free speech by criminalising hurtful remarks as hate crimes.

This brings me to Annie Riddle’s misplaced plea for anonymity for defendants as well as accusers in sex cases.

On the face of it, this is attractive. But both propositions risk our freedoms.

The accuser’s anonymity is quite wrong. Surely, no one in Britain says that a rape victim is guilty of anything. The suggestion that mud clings needs to be explained. The victim is not a perpetrator and cannot in any way be blamed.

Sadly, our MPs bought this argument. Who else does? Why those abroad who kill the victim for the family’s honour or charge her with illegal sex activity.

Your correspondents, as well as Annie Riddle, must realise that our freedoms need to be protected.

The only complaint we hear is about sex cases. But why not in cases of theft, or robbery, or driving offences? An innocent person accused of these also goes through misery.

No, the Journal acted properly and the vicar has no stain on his character. The judge said so and the judge is right.

Peter Blacklock, Salisbury

Bad evidence

I WAS sorry to see Annie Riddle’s piece about the McDonald’s planning application and the letters last week supporting her.

The right of developers to be able to appeal to the Secretary of State against the decision of a local planning authority has been enshrined in planning legislation from the beginning. It is a quasi-judicial process undertaken by independent planning inspectors.

The system was established because the alternative is action through the courts. If Annie, or your correspondents, think that would offer a better procedure, and be less expensive and more accessible to local people, then I beg to differ. The judgement by the House of Lords in the Alconbury case in 2001 established that the planning decision-making process is only fair, in human rights terms, because of the existence of a right of appeal.

I am not suggesting councillors should not have decided as they did. However, as the inspector made very clear, they completely failed to present the reasons for their decision effectively. The inspector can only decide the case on the balance of the evidence presented to him.

Mike Ash, Bishopstone

Hands off hall

I WAS horrified to read your recent headline about proposed cuts to the City Hall funding.

I wonder just how much knowledge Cllr John Thomson has of running entertainment centres?

As a former vice chairman of this venue when we had a Salisbury District Council, I was very much aware of funding problems in 1995 and 1999 period which we managed to resolve.

I wonder how many people know that the hall is a memorial to the Second World War and that Salisbury people collected money from 1945 until 1960 to bring it about. Before the former cinema became the City Hall in 1963, Salisbury had no public venue.

I suggest that Councillor Thomson goes to the City Hall and reads the memorials affixed to the walls and then goes along to our reference library and asks to see the books about the hall and its history.

Perhaps then he may change his mind about removing funding from this public building.

The upstairs room, known as the Alamein Suite, commemorates The Battle of El Alamein in the Western Desert in which the Wiltshire Yeomanry took part.

It is time to think again Cllr Thomson, before you change or alter this wartime relic.

Every town and city needs a central hall of facility to conduct its business from, I believe.

Surely that point was proved when the County Hall was virtually rebuilt recently.

So it’s hands off our hall, and go looking for easier options, Cllr Thomson.

Colin Duller, Salisbury

Work as one

A SIMPLE fact – Cllr Wilmott talked of a ‘settlement’ but that is not a recognised unit of local government.

Therefore, the idea of it governing several parishes is ridiculous, null and void. The Core Strategy gives no such powers. It is as if someone stated that ‘inside the M25 is now Big-London’. Whatever Wiltshire Council may do, Salisbury has no planning jurisdiction beyond its parish boundaries.

Another simple fact – Salisbury is a parish and is a peer of Alderbury, Britford, Clarendon, Durnford and the surrounding parishes. It has no more power than any of the parishes on which its aim was set. As a parish Salisbury should not have attempted to take over and thereby to abolish another parish as this was contrary to the stated rules of Community Governance Review (para 119-121). Cllr Roberts’ report of July 2014 warned of the potential for dissent and upset. And so it happened.

And one more – the Salisbury approach was primarily in terms of ‘how will parishes cope when the county cannot deliver essential services such as street cleaning’. Long-term planning is and will be a much more crucial issue for Salisbury and the wider area yet it was not mentioned in Salisbury’s takeover plans. Salisbury parish does not have the powers of the old district nor of the Area Boards or the older Urban District which means that there is, as yet, no overall view of the area around Salisbury.

We must move on. The Laverstock-Salisbury boundary issue is now done and we should look to the future. Salisbury District does not exist and there are instead three area boards surrounding Salisbury. Without communication between them and between the constituent parishes, Salisbury Area remains a target for developers and the area is without coherent or even perhaps adequate representation.

I am glad that Laverstock has not been amalgamated with Salisbury – but the need for parishes to be good neighbours is still important to a quality future. Parishes must work together if they are to deal with the long-term intent of planners and developers to build ever more houses in unsuitable locations. The idea of the Ring of Salisbury Parishes may be a way forward for the several neighbours to communicate.

John King, Laverstock

Revive Imber

IT’S long overdue but the village of Imber should be returned to Wiltshire people and the local councils and reinstated as a proper Wiltshire village.

In times of acute housing shortage Imber would be a useful addition to the county and maybe would save some Wiltshire green belt elsewhere. I can see it happening in the 21st century or perhaps we will have to wait until the 22nd century when Imber can become a fully working integrated Wilts town with all amenities.

A new road could be built from Gore Cross to Warminster easing the congestion on other Wilts roads. Of course the ordnance and shells will have to be removed and houses built, restored and renovated, including our lovely St Giles’ Church. It’s surprising what you can do with bombed out buildings. French villages and towns decimated to rubble in WW2 are now super, you would never guess they’d been bombed or ever fought over.

In these days of drone missiles I suggest there is a lot less use for Imber, hence return it to Wiltshire and train elsewhere. We could have a ceremony where Imber is presented back to Wiltshire by an army Major to the Mayor of Salisbury or something similar. The army has actually preserved some rare bird life which likes to reside on Salisbury Plain, but let’s have Imber back now, restore St Giles’, build 350 new houses, renew and refurbish the whole of Imber.

Voysey Parker, Warminster

Apply sense

I HAD to read several times Tim Woolford’s response to the accident sustained recently by Maria Hayes in Shady Bower.

The poor woman was on holiday and fell off her bike as a result of a pothole in the road, resulting in nine days in hospital. To say Mr Woolford’s response was a prime example of gobbledygook is an understatement! We are told ‘the council’s intervention levels are based on what the council thinks are correct for the county, according to guidance and best practice’ some non-cycling jobsworth has made this decision, which I imagine is of little comfort to Mrs Hayes!

If there is a sunken trench in the road, bad enough to cause an accident it surely warrants repairing to prevent further accidents.

This is not the first and won’t be the last accident to occur because of shoddy, dangerous work surfaces – next time could be even more serious.

Someone needs to update the inspection manual and apply some common sense – paying more attention to potential suffering and less to the council’s budget.

Frances Parkinson, Salisbury

Urban sprawl

NO reasonable person can deny the need to build more homes at prices people can afford. (Local Plan Review report by Karen Bate, 18 August).

But it will involve hard choices in the sacrifice of our much treasured countryside. In the long run we must face up to the question of how many people can safely be crowded on to these islands.

The recent proposals presented by the New Forest council planning officers for 480 new homes in Fordingbridge, highlights these problems. Until the 1970s Fordingbridge was a small, quiet country town. Since then, because it is largely surrounded by comparatively flat, little used, agricultural land, it has become attractive for ‘development’. For many, the result has been the familiar urban sprawl. Scarcely, has this drastic change been uneasily accommodated, when another estate is proposed.

These latest developments should be opposed because of their scale. Opposition must be measured and thoughtful. That way development might be absorbed without damage to the countryside.

John Pimlott, Fordingbridge

Ragwort rage

A COUPLE of years ago, Wiltshire Council announced that it was illegal to allow the highly toxic plant ragwort to be grown.

Because of its toxicity, livestock owners are vigilant about removing the plant from their land before it ends up in hay where just one leaf will kill a horse or a cow.

So what an injustice to see this ragwort not only growing in abundance in our roadside verges, but now going to seed ready to contaminate everyone else’s ground.

This county is a disgrace and an embarrassment. It’s time the council were forced to carry out the services for which they take our taxes. No business in the private sector would get away with this level of neglect.

Jane Martin, Alderbury

Thank you

ON Friday, August 19 I tripped at the junction of Endless Street when I injured my shoulder.

A very nice lady helped me and kindly accompanied me to meet my wife. I should like to say a big THANK YOU as I feel I didn’t express my thanks at the time.

D Chapman, Laverstock

End to war

I WOULD like to ask Christopher Browne (Journal postbag Aug 18) one question: how old are you? Because here is a different view.

As a young boy in 1945 at the dropping of atom bomb, I and my classmates did cartwheels in the playground because we knew it would end a brutal war against a brutal enemy.

For all of us who lived in those times it is not easy to forget. However, age has diminished a lot of things, with conscience playing its part, but Mr Browne should remember conscience is a two-way thing.

If this world has any hope of becoming a better place, then everyone, and I mean everyone should have a conscience.

Jim Nicol, Salisbury