I WENT along to the Highway and Transport Liaison Committee which sees Bideford town councillors joining with county councillors and officers to thrash out various road problems in the town.
We were slightly hamstrung by the absence of both our county councillors, but this didn't stop us accepting the new Traffic Order which is tidying up a lot of loose ends and anomalies with our roads.
Contrary to many rumours around town there are to be no changes in Bridgeland Street.
One thing that does look likely to go ahead is the designation of the parking area in front of Cafe Life on the quay as a dedicated taxi rank between the hours of 4pm and 9am.
The reasoning behind this apparently is that at the moment 16 taxis are queuing up to use the seven current spaces on the quay – and by siting them here the demand from customers of Weatherspoons should be met more easily.
Mention of the latter reminds me that we were also told that the police are well aware of the fairly chaotic parking occurring on both sides of Bridgeland Street in the evening.
Two other things were discussed. One was the possible permanent pedestrianisation of Allhalland Street – though when I highlighted the potential problems of waste collection to people living there this was quickly dropped.
The second is an invitation to the leader of the county council and the councillor in charge of roads to visit Mill Street in Bideford to hear what I have characterised as the "piano" sound effect as vehicles pass over the loose paviors there.
I was amused to hear that the roads councillor is Stuart Hughes – I stood against him in the 1989 European Parliament election in Devon when he was a member of the Monster Raving Loony Party – he is now a Tory.
I see our MP has posed a written question to the Secretary of State for Health asking about the closure of in-patient beds at Torrington Community Hospital.
The answer reiterates the usual stuff that any such closure must be based on some fairly vague "tests" but what did interest me is that if, after hearing the arguments for such changes, the Scrutiny Committee of Torridge "is not satisfied with the consultation process or believes that the proposed changes are not in the interests of local health services, it may refer the scheme to the Secretary of State." As a member of the scrutiny committee I was intrigued to read this – though given that the Secretary of State is a member of the Government advocating these changes one wonders how independent their review might be? Still it is nice to know this if similar changes are suggested here in Bideford.
A few weeks ago I did my annual talk to the Appledore Book Festival. This year's was based on my new book on letters to the Journal in the 19th century which seemed to go down well. What struck me most about the letters when I was writing the book was the marvellous language the correspondents utilised.
One good example of this was written from Bideford in 1831 and described a fund-raising bazaar staged in the town to raise money for the "Shipwrecks Society".
It reads: "Upon this occasion the beauty and fashion of Bideford and its vicinity shone with greater lustre than was ever known upon any former occasion.
"Above three hundred of the neighbouring nobility and gentry graced the room in which the bazaar was held, where was to be seen every countenance beaming with smiles inconceivably pleasing, each busily engaged in promoting the success of this charitable project, and a more gratifying sight for the philanthropist was never presented to his view."
If only modern letter writers could emulate this style.
The town council's Finance and General Purposes Committee deals, as its name suggests, with spending money and it recently had an update about various on-going projects.
Work in Cooper Street is nearly finished but the planned archway at the junction with Jubilee Square is on hold as objections have been raised as to its height. Also, the police feel it might interfere with CCTV coverage.
Nothing daunted councillors. Led by Steve Clarke, they have decided to query both these points – and to support a plan to fully pedestrianise Cooper Street so long as the traders there agree. It would certainly make the thoroughfare a lot more pleasant and shouldn't raise too many problems. Another project is the cleaning of the ornamental finger posts along the quay. These have lost some of their attractiveness owing to rust but the council has now set a budget to get its handyman to spruce them up.