Letters, Monday, May 30th, 2011

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Force committed to communication

I WOULD like to respond to the letter in the Sunderland Echo on Thursday, May 26, from freelance journalist Nigel Green.

It is important to note the budget figure he quotes for corporate communications does not just cover services to the news media. The function provides a number of services including, public consultation, which covers

surveying victims of crime and local communities, crime prevention and public safety information, web-based services and social media as well as

services to news outlets.

In his letter Nigel calls for the police “to be more open”.All crimes are released to the public through our crime mapping website, which can be accessed by anyone.

I would stress we are absolutely committed to ensuring we have effective two-way communication with our communities. This includes face-to-face contact with local officers, community events, visits to schools and online

meetings – to name but a few. The news media is just one of a wide range of communication channels we use.

Mr Green assumes wrongly that, because we don’t spoon feed every crime to the media that we hold them all back from the public – we don’t.

Policing has moved on significantly in recent years and in particular through the enhancement of our local policing and engagement mechanisms to the point where our reliance on the news media as our primary form of communication has reduced.

However, we do not underestimate the important role the media can play in helping us to prevent and detect crime. Northumbria Police would always

enlist the support of the media to warn the public where the threat

assessment linked to an incident or crime suggests even the slightest need to do so.

We fully support working with the media to inform the public about criminality if there is a clear public interest to do so, but this

public interest test has to be proportionate and clearly take into account operational considerations.

It is, quite rightly, the investigating officer who makes the decision as to what is appropriate to release to the media and the timing of such a

release, taking into consideration the progress of the investigation and the victim’s wishes. In an average month Northumbria Police release approximately 800 pieces of information to the media.

I am confident that our level of service to the media is one of the best in the country and the amount of information released by Northumbria Police is consistent with other similar forces.

Our priority is always to deliver the policing service our communities tell us they need and want, identifying and addressing issues of local concern in order to keep people safe; then providing feedback on what we have done.

It is this, plus reductions in crime levels for the last 16 years and the

excellent commitment of our officers and staff, that has increased confidence levels.

Jim Campbell, Temporary Deputy Chief Constable, Northumbria Police

We need action

A HEADLINE in the Echo on, May 19 read: “Why Not Us?”.

The answer is simple enough: not enough interest in this city by the councillors of this city – apart from West Sunniside area, that is it.

In what time I have left on this earth, I won’t see any changes in Sunderland, nor will I ever see a Labour council taken over. Do people not see what is happening in Sunderland? Nothing is happening, because their forefathers voted Labour, thinking they were the bee’s knees. Their siblings think that is the right way to vote. We are being pushed aside and trodden on.

People of Sunderland, look and see what has not been done in our city. We have the nearest thing to a Greek temple this side of the Watford Gap. Why not put our torch alongside it? Believe me, it far outshines that iron monstrosity at Gateshead. That is a very poor copy of the real thing on the mountain at Rio, Brazil.

The Angel of the North is forever on Tyne Tees Television, along with the Middlesbrough transporter bridge, and now Carlisle Castle is in on the act. Have we no one in Sunderland with any pull?

The Vaux site – this council has had 10 years or more to plan what to build on that site. They knew sooner or later they would get the site, yet it is going to take at least another two years to plan what to put on the site and where to put it.

Come on, councillors, pull your fingers out and try putting your brains into gear. Let’s give the people of Sunderland what they want – a city to be proud of.

John Coates, Zeland Square, Sunderland

Special thanks

DEB and Mel would like to say a big thank-you to family, friends, bar staff and customers of Chaplins.

We raised £40 for the Race for Life and a further £614 for Ward 55 of Sunderland Royal Hospital.

We could not have done it without the overwhelming support. Thank you.

Deb (bar supervisor) and Mel (chef)

Parking blow

WELL done, Sunderland City Council. As ever, you’re planning is superb.

I went to the Aquatic Centre, as I go there every morning for a “gym and swim” to lower my weight. I go there because it’s on my way to work and it also has a bigger pool.

I have to drive to the Aquatic Centre because I can’t get a bus to where I work as the service reduces after 6pm and is so unreliable it would take over an hour to get home.

You can imagine my joy when I was told I couldn’t park there on any day during a concert.

Now, I’m not against concerts that bring revenue into the city and some publicity. However, as I spend money every day with Sunderland City Council and support a local health facility, surely my money’s as good as someone travelling hundreds of miles who will only use the burger vans before heading off home and won’t bring anything else to the city.

People will say: “It’s a one off, so what’s the problem?” Let me answer that. If a council wants to bring such events to its city or town, it should ensure other people are not inconvenienced. Most councils do this (Birmingham has a separate and excellent facility for concerts for example), and they certainly wouldn’t bar entrance to a multimillion-pound council facility that has to pay for itself.

I was told by the steward to park “off site”. I drove around for 10 minutes and discovered there wasn’t such a thing. All the nearby streets have single yellow lines and I’d have ended up with a parking ticket.

So back to planning. I know through experience Sunderland Council likes to frustrate businesses who want to set up here with their slow planning procedure. Look at the Sainsbury’s site at North Hylton Road. And I know the council doesn’t listen to the public.

For example, I suggested to their head of economic development that a conference centre should be built on the Vaux site with hotels to encourage people to stay in the city and a shipbuilding heritage centre so delegates had somewhere to visit while they were here.

But he said it wouldn’t work there. He said such a centre should go to “stadium village”, which is where the stadium is. How would that work, bearing in mind the problems I’ve had today? Would it mean the Aquatic Centre would end up being a white elephant as more restrictions were imposed?

I was at a public meeting where someone suggested that Sunniside should be signposted for pedestrians in town to encourage visits from visitors. His answer: no one uses signposts.

Well, I’ve been to cities and towns in every corner of the UK and always use them. Am I alone or is it just another arrogant approach from Sunderland City Council who believe we taxpayers are clueless?

If plans for further concerts that take over the stadium for days are agreed, then I suggest parking for the Aquatic Centre is considered. After all, why should a council decide to support one set of people’s leisure interests over another?

After years of civic vandalism, I do wonder why we continue to put up with this council.

D. Alanson, Hylton Castle

Battling elements

Pitiless sun scorches sterile soil

As heat cracked days linger

And pin drop silence abounds

While shrivelled maize cry

In sympathy with starving children.

The daily battle is on.

Seething heat tires throbbing bodies

That ache and rejoice in rest

To await lazy unpunctual monsoon

With a torrent of silver buttons.

The daily battle is on.

Gregarious clouds gather and darken

Then slip away, guiltless as a thief.

Again blistering burning sun torments

And brittle harvest is doomed.

The daily battle is on.

Warning clouds, aloof and pot bellied

Pour down in flowing torrents.

Maize rots in sodden sympathy

While stored seeds are last hope of survival.

The daily battle is on.

A. Branthwaite, Friarsfield Close, Sunderland

Charity appeal

I WOULD like to call on your readers to help save lives by signing up to one of the British Heart Foundation’s summer hikes – The National Three Peaks Challenge or the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

We want people to take their passion for walking to new heights by climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in just one weekend. The National Three Peaks Challenge takes place from Friday, une 24, to Sunday, June 26.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 25-mile hike taking place on Saturday, July 23, and in just one day participants will climb Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

Heart disease touches people of all ages. Sadly it is still the nation’s biggest killer. Lives are cut short, and for those living with heart disease, life can be frightening and hard.

We urgently need the support of people like your readers to help us continue our life-saving work in what is our 50th birthday year.

For more information, visit bhf.org.uk/n3p or bhf.org.uk/yorkshire, call 0800 169 3672 or email northwestwales@bhf.org.uk

Helen Whiteley, British Heart Foundation event organiser

Impressive park

CONGRATULATIONS to the City of Sunderland Authority, and their Parks Department in particular and all their staff who have produced a wonderful transformation of Barnes Park.

I had the good fortune to visit the park and was delighted by the transformation of the lake, bandstand, pathways, children’s play area, changing rooms and toilets for the disabled, and the coffee shop, well done. And not to forget the car park, which might be too small judging by the number of cars that were parked.

I have been visiting the park for 79 years, since I was a toddler aged three years. I have always loved the park and the amphitheatre surrounding the bandstand. I hope you use it for concerts.

The large play area adjacent to Barnes Park Road would make a great showground for an annual flower show – look what Chelsea does. Come on, Sunderland, you have the talent and the venue, what about it?

S. K. Harding, Station Road, Witton-le-Wear