Letters, Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

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Finding cash to restore play area

I WAS very interested to read the article in Tuesday’s Echo: “Is Sunderland City Council playing fair with park cash?”

I noted that it mentioned Kirklea Field, which is in my ward, and I would like to give my involvement and observations on this long-neglected play area.

When I was first elected in 2008 the play area was already abandoned and neglected with no plans to restore it. I put this high on my list of priorities and also on my agenda at my regular community meetings.

I arranged meetings at the play area with council officers so they could see the eyesore for themselves. They said they would need at least £120,000 to restore the play area. I disputed this figure and asked for a breakdown of how they arrived at this amount. They could not tell me.

Undaunted, I looked at other sources to fund the work and one was the “106” money. This is money from local house building – in this case money from the adjacent gentoo Hutton Rise housing development.

The money is intended to be used to fund social amenities such as Kirklea Field. I was determined that this money would be spent in full on this amenity.

I located £54,000 of this money which suddenly, at one meeting, became £17,000 and asked for an explanation where the rest of the money had gone. After deriding the rubbish excuse I was given, some time later the money became £54,000 again, but by then I had located some more “106” money from the development and the true figure is now £87,000.

At a recent area meeting I argued the case for more money and was successful in getting another £13,000, giving us a total of £100,000. I do not believe that the work should cost anything like that and my aim is to see that it does not and the money saved is spent on other play areas in my ward such as Eppleton and Durham Road play areas.

I was in discussion last year with the new council officer looking after this work and offered her any help and support and gave her my views, and at the moment I feel confident that we should make some progress on the ground in the next few months. I also intend to make sure that when the job is completed that the play area gets properly maintained and we never again let it lapse into the disgrace that we see today.

My advice to my fellow councillors is to keep an eye on the “106” money. It’s not there for council officers to bail themselves out of a hole, pay for schemes elsewhere or fill black holes in their budgets – it’s there for the community, so ask the right questions and never give up.

Coun Derrick Smith, Houghton Independent

Grammar schools

THE reports on education today spotlight the fact that children from poor areas have little or no chance of being well taught.

The majority of people realise that the 11-plus, which gave potential academics from poor areas the chance of a good education, is the only hope for them.

Lots of MPs would like to see grammar schools brought back. The grammars still in existence are all doing extremely well, proving the point.

At present many children are leaving school without a good grasp of the three Rs, and not because they have been incapable of gaining them.

Bring back the grammar, our only hope of the UK getting back to its previous excellent record in education.

Marjorie Matthews, Aiskell Street, Sunderland

Thanks for help

I WOULD like to thank everyone who came to my aid after a distressing incident in Herrington Country Park on January 2.

I was walking my mum’s dog, Rosie, when she tragically died.

To all the people who helped me, especially the lady in the red Jeep-type car who offered to take me home and gave me a blanket to wrap Rosie in, I wish to express my sincere thanks.

My mum would like to thank the lady personally if she could get in touch via the Echo.

Sarah Ross

Tragedy of suicide

I HAVE waited until the great and justified concern over Gary Speed’s suicide subsided.

Friends of his asked why he didn’t he call them and talk about how he felt? Well, you cannot. You don’t believe anyone can help.

Let me explain. Winston Churchill called this depression “black dog”. I understand as I suffer from it too. You can be laughing at something funny; seconds later you cry uncontrollably.

You sink down, you feel intolerable pain that is so intense you will do anything for it to stop – including killing yourself. You cannot see any future. All you imagine is doom and gloom. You believe your family and friends would be better off without you.

I don’t know what triggered Gary Speed, but anything can trigger it. My last episode was losing someone’s friendship. A friend I valued highly. I thought, what’s the point? Down I went and I overdosed, but I was saved.

I guess I was lucky. Poor Gary Speed was not.

Ken Turton, Houghtonside, Houghton

Real ‘green’ age

ANYONE over the age of 35 should read this, as I copied this from a friend. Checking out at the grocery store recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The cashier responded: “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

So what did we have back then? Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a car every time we had to go two blocks. But we didn’t have the green thing in our day.

We washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine.

We had one TV, or radio, in the house, not a TV in every room. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

People took the bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mams into a 24-hour taxi service.

Isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folk were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

I hope this letter is published so another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smarty-pants young person can add to this.

George Davies

Pet advice

ANIMAL Krackers rescue charity is now well established in Sunderland and just entering its 10th year.

We have all encountered a lot of problems where the public and agencies call upon our services to re-home their pets for such reasons as deaths, the elderly going into residential homes, new babies, health problems such as asthma, and a simple lack of knowledge in how to look after their pets.

The most common problem we have to deal with is unwanted litters. If pets are neutered, both male and female, the problem of unwanted litters is avoided but also they are less likely to stray and have helth problems.

If you love your pets, have them neutered. Do not buy from puppy farms and do not give puppies to pet shops that have no regard for where the animal is going.

Pets At Home are not one of these and we are proud that this year they have agreed to work in partnership with us and have helped us raise funds which go towards the vet bills and other costs.

Asda, HJ Stories, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have continued to support us by allowing us to have pet food donation bins in their stores which is invaluable as we spend around £500 a month on cat and puppy food even with their support. The food is distributed to our fosterers, West Hall Kennels, StrayAid, and Greyhound Rescue.

The past year has only been a success because of the continuing support of our customers and those who donate to the shop and to the hard work of our fabulous teams of unpaid volunteers in our two shops. Not least, a big thank-you to the Echo itself for bringing our activities to the attention of its readers.

Finally, if anyone is interested in adopting a cat or a dog, contact Carole 079777 69109 (cats) or Andrea 07588 903233 (dogs). For general inquiries call Ian on 514 2204.

Sue Hardy and Ian Williams

Healing help

THE cost of Botox injections for migraine suffers is not necessary. It takes five seconds of prayer to stop a migraine and an hour to get back to normal. I have done this many times.

All you have to do is ask for help, and God will help. There are many people like me who do healing in Sunderland who can help migraine sufferers and do not charge.

The churches in Sunderland have healing groups. It is possible to stop a migraine before it starts. I do not belong to a group and act as an individual. I know of many groups and they would be made welcome.

The migraine sufferers would need contact with a group once the migraine has started to get relief. This is all possible and does work at little or no cost. If you do not like healing, you do not want to get better. Give it a try. God will help if you ask for it.

R.J. Richardson, Roker

Theatre prices

LEGALLY Blonde was a great show – non-stop, buzzing, but £38 a ticket for a Tuesday night was way too much.

On the way in the lone ticket girl was searching handbags for booze. I wondered why. Two minutes later I knew why. The same two drinks that cost £5,60 at the pub on the corner were now a whopping £9.80 at the theatre bar.

I had a bit of a whinge to the barman about the ticket prices and the cost of two drinks. “Five hundred and forty punters in tonight” was his retort. Nowt to brag about – that is only a quarter full and they were not spending at the bar either. At 7.15 it was almost empty.

If the Empire charged pub prices then punters would drink in the theatre instead of piling in at the last minute from adjacent pubs. If I was one of those asked to be searched I would refuse. It is degrading.

If that means no admission, just give me the ticket cost back and I will go elsewhere. £110 for a night out to see a show in midweek is just too much to pay.

The theatre management should realise money is really tight for most people, reduce prices all round and maybe they will fill the theatre every night.

Colin Campbell, Cleadon Meadows

Justice for Nikki

AS most people reading this will know, Nikki Allan’s killer is still walking the streets a free man.

I dont know Nikki’s mam Sharon personally, but after seeing about her campaign “Justice for Nikki Allan” on Facebook I immediately signed her petition on the Go-petition website and started researching what’s been done in the 19 years since Nikki’s death.

I was shocked and upset to realise justice still hasn’t been done and support seems to have dwindled so much. As a young girl myself at the time, I remember Nikki’s murder very clearly as it was such a horrendous killing of a seven-year-old child. It’s been etched on my mind ever since.

What shocks me most is how long its taking to get the 5,000 signatures of support wanted. Why isn’t everyone in Sunderland not crying out for the reopening of this case?

It needs re-investigating using today’s advances in technology to catch the evil killer and allow little Nikki to finally RIP.

It worked in the Stephen Lawrence case so why can’t it work for one of Sunderland’s own?

Please sign and support Justice for Nikki Allan.

Shame on you to the people who choose not to. I hope nothing like this ever happens to any of your family.

Rachel Smith, Hazel Avenue, Houghton

Foul play in back lane

IF you’re a responsible dog-owner in the ABC streets, you need read no further. But if you’re the individual who exercises your dog in the back lane shared by Farnham Terrace and Eastfield Street, read on.

Residents are taking action. We’ve notified the Enforcement Team and, in partnership with us, this area will be closely monitored.

You will be identified and prosecuted. So why not be a responsible dog-owner, carry the necessary equipment and clean up the mess? Or pay a fine of £1,000.

Play fair, not foul.

A concerned resident (Name and address supplied)