No apology

I WAS very surprised to read last week’s letter from Chris Gillham in Winchester about my views on the A36. As someone who didn’t own a car until I was 32, I am a very unlikely candidate for “boyish petrolhead enthusiasm”. Frankly, many people living in Salisbury will not take kindly to someone from Winchester – bypassed by both a three-lane motorway and major dual carriageway – telling us what we should and shouldn’t do with the roads here in our city.

Throughout my time as MP for Salisbury I have championed green causes in the constituency. But we need to recognise that there are other objectives that are also important for local people. Salisbury would never have even been built in the first place if our ancestors had held some of the more extreme views seemingly opposed to all new development.

Of course we need to be very careful where we build, expand and improve existing infrastructure, and we must continue enhancing public transport. But to do nothing and expect local residents to sit stationary in their cars on an increasingly congested inner ring road is not an option, especially with the associated risks from air pollution.

I met with Roads Minister Jesse Norman MP last week to once again raise the problem of congestion on the A36 through Salisbury. I will continue to seek long-term solutions for the people I represent and will make no apology for doing so.

John Glen, Salisbury MP


Responding to Chris Gillham’s unhelpful letter in the Journal last week I would comment inasmuch that many would appreciate the last thing Salisbury residents would want is to ruin the beauty of landscapes in both Hampshire and Wiltshire but the important factor to us Salisbury residents is the easing of the disastrous traffic nightmare we have to contend with every day.

Winchester has its own bypass in the form of the M3 thus keeping all the major traffic flow away from its medieval streets. Salisbury has a very badly designed inner ring road which is a disaster and now developers are given free rein to add more retail outlets to burden the already over stretched roads.

They are wanting to build another 840 homes on the Netherhampton Road, a road that cannot cope with what is there already and the Bristol traffic continues to pour into the City. The Southampton traffic continues to jam the Alderbury by-pass therefore the Tesco users, and other retail unit patrons cannot escape from the car parks.

I welcome any effort by our MP to alleviate this extreme problem and suggest Mr Gillham concentrates on his own local issues.

Robert Hayes, Salisbury


I was disturbed by your headline story that a community athletics club which includes young and disabled members had been locked out of track training facilities by South Wilts Grammar School. But some elements of your coverage caused me misgivings of a different nature.

Perceived injustices will rightly attract vigorous protest. But if a particular school is to be demonised then some other basic questions ought surely to be addressed at the same time.

A sports facility presumably requires more maintenance than ‘ unlocking the gate’. Wiltshire Council, as previous owner, will have met such costs through Council Tax. In transferring responsibility to the school which the facility adjoins, then clearly new ways must be found to meet expense.

As you report, the facility is used by several schools as well as non-academic organisations. So the issue is who should now pay and how much.

It is public knowledge that South Wilts, like other schools in our region, has undergone budget costs imposed by central government on the grounds that deprived inner city locations have greater needs. A further round of such cuts has recently been proposed and these are currently subject to public consultation. Should therefore one school be expected to finance or subsidise community athletics facilities from its existing education budget? If not, should it not reasonably seek to share costs with other users?

According to your report the headmistress has said she seeks only to break even and had offered the community club terms lower than those applied to other users. I have great sympathy with the athletics club and in particular its young and disabled users. Such organisations are a huge community asset. But different sources of financial support for their needs seem appropriate. Schools are funded to educate students. Money for schools in Salisbury is currently hard to come by, and may be harder still soon.

Dermod Hill, Salisbury


Having joined the staff of South Wilts Grammar School a good many years ago, I might be able to offer my own perspective on the current controversy.

For a long time the site in question was the traditional “school field,” where games and athletics were taught, hockey and (for a time) lacrosse were played, and where the annual Sports Day was held. The development of the site in tandem with Wiltshire Council was the initiative of a newly-appointed head, who in addition brought about a raft of internal changes which were imperfectly (if at all) communicated to the staff.

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that teachers woke up one morning to find that work on the field was already under way.

This head’s tenure of office was brief. Successors have simply “inherited”the situation, and it is likely that a number of legal tangles were left behind for posterity to unravel, and which might not have been anticipated at the time. What indeed does happen in law when a self-funded clubhouse is erected on land which overnight becomes the property of someone else?

Unfortunately, the Council has (for all we know, with relief) taken a back seat at just the point at which all state schools are strapped for cash, and the letting-out of facilities is frequent. To its credit, SWGS has not gone down the dubious path of parental contributions. We can only hope that both sides involved can arrive at an amicable solution, as the field and track are clearly a vital asset to the community.

Richard Merwood, Salisbury


It’s not often that the Odeon posts a notice at the cinema, announcing that a performance has been sold out. This film is the remarkable story of how the men and women of Salisbury assembled Spitfires in and around the town in the most unlikely of places, following the bombing of the Supermarine works in Southampton, by the Luftwaffe. It’s a poignant and inspiring tale, which should be better known. More than 75 years on, many of these ordinary townspeople are still alive, to recount their involvement. Is it too late for Salisbury to remember and honour their contribution formally ? Perhaps Mr Glen (who appears in the film) or the Mayor, might organise a modest gathering to acknowledge the debt that we owe them.

Name and address supplied

Hate mail

As a longstanding subscriber I would appreciate clarification why you give incredible prominence to Mr Gillham’s piece of hate mail. It signals economic illiteracy and is full of emotional drivel. Are you soon to treat us to a flat earth supplement?

H D Scholz, Salisbury


It is all very well for Chris of Winchester to lecture us on traffic matters when surrounded by bypasses and a motorway but does he or she give any thought to the daily doses of pollution and long delays on an everyday basis suffered by Salisburians? A lesson in history is needed. Against the wishes of Salisbury Council, an inspector in London, at the stroke of a pen, condemned Salisbury to eternal traffic misery by permitting a large retail supermarket to be established on the A36 Southampton Road. We were given a stop gap inner ring road and the promise of a bypass later on. If John Glen asks for a dual carriageway but only gets a relief road then good on him, he is doing what we all need. The snipe against Robert Key is uncalled for as he did try to get a bypass at a time when, yet again, there was no money.

In a former occupation I became well aware of the considerable number of drivers from the Bath and Somerset area going to work on a daily basis, in the Southampton area and vice versa. No doubt this, in recent years, is exacerbated by the giant cruise ships now docking in Southampton.

Andrew Poole, Alderbury


As a former SWGS girl, I have to say I’m very disappointed at the stance the school are taking. I remember watching the track being built. It was seen as a massive achievement for Salisbury and was to be seen as a facility for the whole of Salisbury to use. I remember the days when the household names from Team Solent would come and use the track to help promote its use. To see that the people it was built for are now locked out of it makes me sad. I have a couple of questions I would like to see SWGS answer.

1) Over the last 25 years, the school has had unlimited use of the track and field from WCC, over that time how much has it paid for that use?

2) If the athletics club are being asked for monthly fees at the level being quoted, which the school says is to allow it to break even on maintaining the track, what is the overall annual cost of its maintenance and how much of this are SWGS putting in for their continued unlimited use of the facility? If there’s a reasonable split, then fair enough, but please let’s be transparent about how this figure has been calculated.

3) If the cost of maintaining the track is so high, why did SWGS agree to the transfer of responsibility without first ensuring they had the revenue streams in place to ensure it was financially viable for the school to take responsibility for the track? What plans do they have in place to ensure they have the funds to maintain it going forward?

Jess Dowding, Redlynch

Thank you

Thank you so much for coming to last week’s Area Board discussion on Rough Sleepers. It was great to see so many people gathered together to explore ways to tackle this issue. The consensus was that the problems faced by people should be given equal weight to the problems posed by them. We have not solved the problems; we never thought we would in one evening. However, some excellent ideas were put forward and the Area Board, together with our many partners, is now considering whether and how we can implement these.

Mary Douglas, Chairman of Salisbury Area Board