Sunday, 28 February 2010

More on Babbacombe Downs

The veiw the diners will have.

There have been a few posts here and items in newspapers about the proposed Fish Restaurant to be built in Babbacombe Downs. A few weeks ago a Facebook site started called "Keep your fishy fingers OFF Babbacombe downs" It has 1245 members and a week ago staged a minor protest on the Downs to demonstrate their opposition to the plan. Part of the development involved the land being given to the developer either for free or a very low price (£1) with little or no rent being charged as an inducement.

During the protest, which I videoed and is on YouTube, I asked Arthur Christian who is one of the leading members of the protest group if there was a similar group on Facebook who were in favour of the restaurant. He stated that "If any one wanted to start such a group then they should go ahead. That's what democracy is all about.”

Such a group, I have to report, now exists, it's called THE NEW RESTAURANT PLANNED FOR BABBACOMBE DOWNS IS AN AWESOME IDEA!! and has 362 members. As it hasn't been going for as long as the protest group that isn't bad. Anyway in the interests of even handed fair play I have included here links to both the groups. Both are open to public view, you don't have to be a member to read their posts. If you are unfamiliar with Facebook, don't be scared just click on either link and you will end up at the "Wall" where members can write anything they like there. Other members can add comments but non members can't. If you want to write something you can join very easily; and leave should you wish, just as easily.

The final decision to build or not to build is of course in the hands of the Council, the listening, caring Council and the developer who might on reflection decide against spending his money here in Torbay. Time as always will tell.

Link to For page.

Link to Against page.

PS Bill Shakespeare, who was the greatest writer of all time never used two exclamation marks at the end of a sentence. One is enough.

I give up, Fly Posting is a Crime No Matter How Well Motivated You Are

And it's and eyesore and anti social. Which makes this piece of fly posting all the more unpleasant when you realize it's been put up by a Christian.

If you want to advertise then buy some space somewhere in a shop window or on the back of a bus, not wrapped round a palm tree in Princess Gardens.
I was tempted to take it down but I had no wish to be struck by lightening out of a clear blue sky.
Please give up fly posting for Lent.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Before and After: Oddicombe Beach



A couple of before and after photos here showing Oddicombe Beach up at Babbacombe (catch the 32 or 32T from the Strand, every 15 mins, 30 on Sunday).
The first was taken in April 2009 and the second was taken today. They show the extent of the rock fall that occurred a few days ago. Council officials put the total amount at 5000 tonnes. The council also said the cliff will continue to crumble away in it's own good time and there were no plans to do anything to try and stop it. The far end of the beach will remain cordoned off for the foreseeable future.
The cliff behind the buildings at the South end of the beach has been netted and is not expected to collapse at any moment. A decision will be taken next week as to when the South end of the beach can be opened. This is a popular beach in the summer, if you go there do the walk up to Babacombe Beach and back. Buy a return ticket on the cliff railway, only £1.75 a single is £1.50.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Trial & tribulation

An example of "Spam Comment"

In case you desire to play Madden, NCAA Football, FIFA, NHL2K or Fight Night tournaments on your Ps3 or Xbox 360 online for prize - we recruit for testers now. Join us on Facebook before March 31 and you can receive $2,000 in cash:

In the last few months I have been getting a lot of spam comments which is why I have Comment Moderation switched on. Bit of a pain for me as I have to go through all the comments and publish those that are " Not Spam" and reject the others. And a bit of a pain for the people who kindly make comments as they have to wait up to a day before their comments appear.

Many of then are similar to the comment I have copied above and some are in Russian or other foreign languages. Now I could understand if these spam comment appeared in my most recent post but some are on posts years old. The one at the top of the page was added to an item I wrote in September last year. It is highly unlikely that anyone would go back and read posts that old so why bother?

Drove a coach yesterday for the first time in 6 weeks. It had broken down and been taken to MAN Exeter to be fixed. When I got on the coach in the yard to bring it back to the hotel here in Torquay it wouldn’t start. In to the office and explained they hadn’t got rid of me yet. Eventually a fitter arrived with a battery pack but the engine continued making a klucking sound every time I tried to start it which was exactly what it was doing before it got taken to MAN Exeter. Then a electrician came and jump started it. Must have had bigger batteries than the first guy. We tried a few times and it started no problem. So I drove it down to Torquay and parked up for the night. The plan today was to drive up to Bristol and pick some holiday makers up for a long weekend in Beautiful Torquay. But, and there is almost always a but in situations like this. When I got to the hotel this morning it absolutely refused to start even though a local coach fitter connected a battery pack to the coach. “Enough power in there to fry a whale” he said. So instead of hurtling up the M5 I am sitting in front of my computer writing this and some poor coach driver is having to come all the way down to Torquay instead of giving me his passengers in Bristol and going back to the West Midlands. I hope he doesn’t think it was my fault the coach wouldn’t start.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Oddicombe Beach Closed By Rock fall

An item of news from the BBC. Oddicombe Beach which is below Babbacombe Downs was yesterday closed as 5000 tonnes of rock fell from the sandstone cliffs onto the beach. The place where the new rock fall took place has been closed since 2006 and is overlooked from the site of the the proposed cliff top fish restaurant that has been in the news recently. Actually the rock fall was about half a mile or more to the north but the cliffs in this area are mostly red Devonian Sandstone which is not noted for it's stability. I have sinking feeling about this.
The above photo was taken some time ago from the lookout point on top of the toilets on the Downs. The area where the rocks are falling is at the far end of the beach which as I memtioned has been closed for some years.

Princess Gardens and Rising Costs of Repairs

Well I did my civic duty this evening and went along the a public meeting at the Rivera Centre. It's a good 20 min walk away so I got two thirds of my daily exercise in at the same time. The meeting was about the repairs to and development of the Princess Gardens down on the Sea Front. Learnt some interesting facts at the meeting. One was the fact that most of the Gardens are situated on land reclaimed from the sea back at the end of the 19th century and the sea wants it back. Part of the area has been fenced off for several years as it is falling apart and in danger of ending up in the Bay. Next, the repairs to the sea front, the gardens and the Pavilion will cost, and this is a rough estimate, £10million. Torquay has other outstanding fairly urgent repairs in the pipe line of £30million and just doesn't have that kind of money. So the choice is do we, the council tax payers face an increase of 1.5% per year for the next 20 years which for me would work out at £15 per year or do we go begging to Central Government ( not much point, we have a Lib Dem MP down here) or do we sell of what assets we have (not enough assets left) or do we form a partnership with a developer. The developer would provide some of the money for the repairs and in return he/they would build a hotel and other attractions on the site. The developers that are interested, Nicolas James Group, sent a Mr Nick Roche to explain the outline of what they would like to do. First he stated that the Princess Gardens would remain untouched and the pavilion would be repaired as would the crumbling pier. All good news. Even the fact that the Theatre might not make it through the exercise wasn't greeted with too much dismay.

The mood of the meeting was leaning towards optimistic. Then the "Ah yes but......" moment. It turned out that they, the developers would be quite happy to rip the car park out, many cheers there, and build the proposed hotel. But they would have to have a bit more before they were prepared to pump millions into the Bay. Some development would take place on the strip of land between the gardens and the sea front. This would effectively block the view from the gardens of the sea. The gardens on their own without their sea view become a bit mundane and not worth the effort of getting there.

After that the mood switched to forgetting the developer and either putting up council tax by 1.5% or buying Euro lottery tickets and hoping to win millions.

Democracy is wonderful.

An other meeting expected in 8 weeks time. Hopefully the sea front will still be there then.

The Princess Garden on Remembrance Sunday. The fountain, which was paid for by a resident is in the centre with the war memorial behind and the Princess Theatre in the distance. The sea is to the left and Rock Walk to the right.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Some Thing Less Controversial

Definitely a try.

Last week Torquay U12s played Paignton away and though it was a fairly close game possession wise Paignton did score several times and Torquay didn't score at all. This week end we played Paignton at home and this time the lads remembered that the idea was to get the ball over the try line and bang it down on the ground. Here you can see them doing it in the corner. They managed to do it 4 times today but Paignton also managed to do the same at the other end. Several players played in new positions today and it did make a big difference. The biggest change was moving the left winger to scrum half and he showed what I have been saying for a couple of years, he has a rugby brain. He knows what he is doing and it showed in the improvement the whole team showed today. Well done lads, shame you didn't win though.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

To Day at Babbacombe Downs

Fifty people turned up on the downs today to show their support to the Facebook group Keep your fishy fingers off Babbacombe Downs even though the event was only mentioned on the Facebook site on Thursday evening. The event went quietly with no sign of Nick Bye, but I expect he has better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

The site compared to the whole of the Downs is small but will intrude and there are plenty of places in and a round Torquay that are standing empty and could be made into a posh fish restaurant. I leave you with a picture of 3 blocks of flats that were built in the wrong place and are still here, immovable 45 years later. a little warning from history

Babbacombe Downs and the Fish & Chip Shop

Some rich restaurateur has come up with a plan to turn some old toilets on Babbacombe Downs in to a Fish Restaurant. The toilets are a single story building and are set on a ledge 10 feet below the top of the cliff and so do not distract from the splendid view of Portland Bay that we (at present) get from the Downs. The Downs are 250 feet above the sea so the view is extensive and so far no one has come up with the daft idea of building anything to obstruct this view. Until the above mentioned rich restaurateur. He saw the view and decided it was the best view in the South West. So what did he want to do with this outstanding view? I'll tell you; he wanted to build an outstanding dump, sorry that should read fish restaurant. It might end up being outstanding for the quality of fish it serves but most people are concerned it will be outstanding for a different reason. He, the rich restaurateur, wants to knock the toilets down and replace them with a two story building which will be outstanding because it will extend 10 feet or more above the top of the cliff and spoil the view for everyone except those eating in this expensive fish restaurant. They will have wonderful views while they eat fish and chips, not out of newspaper, that's not allowed anymore.

The outstanding nature of the building isn't the only problem. There are several good pubs and hotels set back from the Downs that serve excellent food and at least 4 common or garden fish and chip shops that have been there since the days fish and chips were eaten from newspaper. All have won awards over the years for the quality of their product. There are enough places in the area selling food. What there isn't in the area, which is an other problem is parking places. The sort of clientele out rich restaurateur is hoping to attract are not likely to make their way to Babbacombe on a 32 bus, excellent thought the 32 bus service is. They will all want some where to park their big cars and there simple will not be anywhere. So they will drive round the block and go somewhere else and the rich restaurateur will end up being not quiet so rich, even go bust. If he does will he knock his now empty fish restaurant down or will he walk away and leave it to become the haunt of undesirables, like seagulls and druggies?

Anyway there is a protest group on Facebook with over 900 members and the slightly long winded title of Keep your fishy fingers of Babbacombe Downs. Tomorrow Saturday the 20th, probably today by the time you are reading this, a member of the group is planning to go down to the Downs armed with posts and tape to mark out how big this dump is going to be, should be fun. He has invited the Herald Express along plus anyone who feels strongly enough to be there to let Mayor Nick Bye know we are not going to let this happen without a fight. Though no fighting tomorrow please, this is a peaceful protest. Kicks off at 2pm and I will be there with camera to record the event.

All these people, some of them Morris Dancers, are standing on top of the toilet block. But they aren't blocking the view alone the coast, unlike the posh fish restaurant would if it gets built.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Holiday Snaps Manchester 2010,

This is just a link to some photos I took while up in Manchester in January this year. I got there on a Monday afternoon and the was a little snow on the ground which had been there a week or so. Then late Monday evening it started to snow, 20cms of the stuff. Manchester more or less came to a dead stop. And the weather forecast had been for sunny and dry all week.

Click here to view, but you don't have to if you don't want to.

A free sample.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tourism Is Vital to Torbay; So We Take Good Care Of It.

LEADING Torbay tourism chief Carolyn Custerson who has been asked by Torbay Council to draw up a tourism strategy which includes the setting up of a private-public partnership body to run the industry recently addressed the Torbay Hospitality Association.

The meeting apparently was not without a little bit of unpleasantness according to a report in the local paper.

Later she spoke to the Herald Express and said.

"It's very important that Torbay has a hospitality association, but an association which has got an open mind and is all-inclusive.
"Associations are important for a feeling of belonging and communication, but they need to be associations people respect.
"We should all be trying to work more closely for the greater good of the Bay."

I would say that Mrs Custerson is a very tactful lady.

There has been some conflicting views within the THA for some time and a new organisation called the Torbay Accommodation Providers which appears to have been set up by people who have left the THA.

That was from one "news" story ( well it is quiet at the moment) in today's Herald Express. Also in the same paper was a story which told how the police had been called in a to sort out a row involving alleged harassment by email of one member of the THA. No action was taken but "suitable advice" was given to the sender of the emails.

I ask you, is a script writer from Eastenders making this stuff up or is it a group of people who are supposed to be encouraging holiday makers to come to Torbay and spend loads of money trying to commit financial suicide. The sooner we have a professional body, properly funded by the Council, with some private money maybe, to act to encourage people to come to Torbay the better. At the moment it looks like Basil and Sybil Fawlty are back running the place.

The Torbay Hospitality Association web page can be found here.
The Torbay Accommadation Providers web page here.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


The boys played Paignton last Saturday and unfortunately lost by a few tries to nil. But it was good game to watch. The next 5 games are at home which means I will be able to catch up for all the games I missed at the start of the season.

Here Torquay take the ball from a line out, having a player who is 6 or 7 cms taller then anyone on the other side is and advantage.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Keeping the Passengers in the Picture.

A post about transport for a change; Eurostar in essence but mostly about information. One of the comments made by the team investigating the recent breakdown of trains in the tunnel concerned the lack of information passed on to passengers waiting at stations for trains that weren't going to arrive but more importantly to those poor sods on the trains. Fancy sitting, stuck on a train in a tunnel with the temperature rising, the loos getting blocked,no water or food other than what you brought with you and absolutely no idea of why (terrorist attack? tunnel flooded or leaves on the track) or how long the train would remain there for. Stories of train personnel hiding because they had no idea what was going on either.

I always tried to keep my passengers up to date, even if it was something simple like arriving at a timing point fairly early. Cary Parade as an example. At quiet periods it was possible to arrive here up to 5 minutes early. Many passengers would be getting of at the next stop in Fleet St which is only a hundred and fifty metres round the corner. In these instances I would stick my head out of the cab and shout, “The bus will be here for 5 minutes.” Passengers could then make an informed choice. Get off and walk or wait. I have been passenger on buses in this situation and the driver has said nothing then moaned when he set off and the bell would ring. “Why didn’t they get of and walk?” The reason was the didn’t know how long the wait would be because no one had told them. Other times Were when the bus was on a diversion. I would always tell passengers as they got on the bus would be diverted for part of the route, then at the last stop before the diversion I would explain where we were going and where we would get back onto the normal route. One time there were road works on Lymington Rd, a water main had burst and the bus would be missing out 3 stops. I'd finished work and was going home but knew about the problem. The driver never said anything and went on the alternative route and would have carried passengers a long way away from their stop if I hadn’t told them. Now I never learnt this art of communication from Stagecoach. It was never mentioned in training, I just worked it out for myself.

Hopefully in view of the Eurostar report transport operators will have a look at their own procedures and training with a view to seeing how/if they can be improved and not just think, “There but for the grace of god go I.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Last Post (for a while) on Mps Expense Claims.

In the post dated 4 Feb which I headed "Fiddling the Expenses" which I have now changed to "Fiddling the Expenses?" I mentioned that some of the amounts were almost unbelievable. Then I mentioned three of those amounts, one being our very own local MP, Mr Adrian Sanders. I pointed out that he had been asked to pay back a little over £690. In the context of the post it could possibly have looked like I was suggesting that there could have been wrong doing on the part of Mr Sanders, though that wasn't my intention. He hadn't switched his second home to get the government to pay his personal mortgage or claimed £500 for a laptop computer bag. He had merely claimed for rent on his flat in London, which he is entitled to. Then 4 years ago Parliament had been dissolved. This period of 21 days after Parliament has been dissolved MPs can not apparently claim rent for London flats but no one told the MPs and until Sir Thomas Legg mentioned it a couple of months ago Mr Sanders had no idea he had inadvertently over claimed. So the overpayment was to do with mistakes made by the admin department that are supposed to control MPs expense claims. Which was in fact the purpose of the post. In all this sorry mess no one appears to be commenting on that department's shortcomings. The changes in the rules that have been brought in plus the slowness of the admin department are in fact making many MPs look like guilty men and women when they aren't. As Mr Sanders says in a comment on a recent post an independent audit of expenses should be carried out every year.

Mr Sanders, as soon as he was informed of the fact that he had received too much repaid the total amount immediately.

So far, while living in Torbay I have voted for the same person in two general elections. I do not expect to change this habit in the next general election.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Fiddling the Expences, More Thoughts

So out of 337 MPs only 3 are to face charges regarding the matter. What about the couple who claimed expenses for both the houses they were living in, what about the man who claimed for a duck house or the nearby MP who spent loads of your money and mine doing up his garden?

It was bad enough the MPs had been found(allegedly) to have their fingers in the till but the farce the enquiry has turned into is only making the matter worse. For instance of the MPs who appealed against having to pay back money over 60% have been successful. I bet those who didn't claim are kicking themselves now. And the changing of some of the rules so that MPs who had claimed expenses according to the rules suddenly found the goal posts had been moved and not only that, the new rules had been backdated. So if the football rule makers decide that the goal posts should be wider and the rules backdated to 1950 then all the players the hit the post with a shot in the last 60 years can claim a goal. That would make a mess of the record books.

And finally as someone has commented here, the cost of this has been more than will be recovered which make this farce a fairly expensive one.

OK I know I said finally but one more comment. The 3 MPs who are trying to use Parliamentary Privilege to get out of going to court should remember this privilege  only covers them for what they say in the House. So be brave lads and stand up in the House of Commons and say out loud, "I did fiddle my expenses." Then you can not end up in court as freedom of speech is sacred and what you say cannot be used against you. Good luck to you.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fiddling the Expences?

Many years ago I had a job in the retail trade that involved travelling to different outlets each day.

I was told that as well as my wages I would receive so much a mile petrol allowance. I can't remember the exact amount now so lets say it was 20p a mile. I didn't have a car but rode a small motorbike and 20p a mile represented a fairly large profit compared to a car owner. I pointed this out to the boss as I didn't want him coming back to me months later and saying I owed the company a huge amount of petrol money because my bike was using less petrol than a car. He told me that there was one worker who cycled everywhere and he still got the petrol allowance. It was built into the pay structure. After I had been working for a few weeks I was told by a fellow worker to always add a few miles a day onto my claim. There were about 12 people doing a similar job to me, travelling and claiming petrol money and the company didn't check the exact mileage travelled.

Now I felt I was already getting far more petrol money than I was actually spending and didn't feel the need to fiddle the claim to get more. But, and it was a small but; a moral dilemma. Should I be a whistle blower and tell the boss some of his workers were fiddling the accounts. I didn't due to the fact I didn't want to be that unpopular with my fellow workers, the amount really wasn't that big, not likely to break the company bank and if the boss was too lazy to check the mileage then that was his problem.

The reason I tell this story is because today a report has been released concerning the MP expenses. Just over half the honourable members have to pay back some of the expenses they have claimed. Some of these claims or so outrageous as to be almost unbelievable. To mention but 3,Barbara Follett (Lab) Stevenage £42,458, was the largest amount to be repaid, the smallest amount was for £104.48 while our very own local MP Adrian Sanders has paid back £691.

The average amount the 300 or so MPs have to pay back comes to over £3500 so Adrian could hardly be said to be on a gravy train. [In fact the money he had to pay back dated from 4 years ago and it wasn't his fault he had incorrectly claimed it. See comment below]. Now there have been many comments about the MPs who have made exaggerated claims but very few if any have asked the question I asked myself, briefly, when I heard that some of my fellow workers were fiddling. Did any of those MPs who haven't got to repay anything and were therefore not fiddling the taxpayer stand up in Parliament and Blow the Whistle? If not, why not? And the other question that seems to be ignored is why wasn't there tighter controls on all these expenses by the department responsible for actually paying them. Those people, civil servants I assume, did they just say as they rubber stamped the claim forms, "Oh, it's taxpayers money. Why should we care?" If they did why are they still in a job?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Redevelopment of Princess Gardens and The Pavilion

I received an email from the local residents association containing the agenda set out below. The pier in front of Princess Gardens is falling down and the only way it can be repaired is if the whole area is redeveloped using mostly private money. Princess Gardens is an open space in a town that is short of open spaces and needs to be preserved. So if you live in Torquay and give a damn then give some though to attending the meeting on Monday 22 Feb.

Agenda for the Tormohun Community Partnership
February 22nd 2010
7.00 pm – 9.00 pm
Rosetor Room courtesy of Barry Cole
The Future of Princess Gardens and the Pavilion

1. Apologies & Housekeeping 2 mins

History of Princess Gardens
- Dr Michael Rhodes, Ian Williams and Tony Garratt 15 mins

Condition of Princess Gardens and the Pavilion

By Gordon Ross and Dave Stewart 15 mins

Options Appraisal and importance to our economy
By Steve Parrock (TDA) 15 mins

Discussion with the developer 25 mins

Questions and Answers 45 mins

If you can't make it then see this site for a report, full or otherwise on 23 Feb.

Note; Tormohun is the name of part of Torquay. It is only used in local government circles.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Government Have Come Up With The Cash

It has been announced that Torbay will receive and extra £580,000 towards the cost of Concessionary Bus Passes. This is not enough to cover the expected £800,000 shortfall that the Bay would have been facing had this extra grant not been paid. I will feel slightly less embarrassed now when I get on a number 12 bus in Fleet Street and go down to the Harbour.

This does raise the question of previous years when the council had to subsidise the scheme by over half a million pounds each year. Not what Gordon Brown promised (no winners, no losers) when he set the scheme up but then he is a politician.

Here is a short quote from the Herald Express.

The £600,000 grant goes a long way to alleviating the burden on Bay taxpayers, but mayor Nick Bye said there will still be funds to be found. He added: "Torbay Council has lobbied very hard and very effectively because, of all the councils, we are aware we seem to have experienced the greatest shortfall.
"This does not quite plug the gap and does nothing for this financial year, or last year. It does make life quite a bit easier for the budget in 2010/11.
"We support the scheme and think it's really good and improving the quality of life of older people and disabled people in the Bay."