Isle of Man Examiner letters, December 30, 2013

0
Have your say

Bloated govt needs cuts

I refer to the recent announcement of yet another stealth tax increase - vehicle tax.

Am I the only person who has just had enough of this ?

We have a government who have spent most of the reserves and now are consistently increasing taxes in order to maintain their expenditures.

Is it not time for the government to apply reductions to their own expenditures rather than raise taxes ?

I realise that this is heresy and that I will be accused of advocating a ‘slash and burn’ fiscal policy, but this obscures a determined effort by the civil service easily able to influence succeptible polititians in order to protect their own interests.

Surely it is plain to all that we have a bloated government employing too many at salaries that cannot be justified ?

Why should tax payer always foot the bills ?

What does this say about the Isle of Man and the international reputation it so often refers to in other matters ?

Finally the vehicle tax rises are such a rip off when the roads are generally appalling.

Much of the raod system isuncomfortable and often unsafe to cycle on and induces a dreadful ride in many performance cars.

John R Orme, Ballafodda Farm, Ballabeg

--------------

No compo from airline

I would like to comment on the article in Independent of December 12 about us not being important to Flybe.

My family were booked to come to the island on December 24 for a week. Flybe has cancelled the flights and they now have to come on December 26.

They put one day on the end but the family have lost one valuable day and been inconvenienced. Flybe did the same last year, they gave the family two hours to pack and get to the airport, losing us our last day of things we had planned and lunch out.

They are happy to take our money but do not want to work on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, but also don’t offer any compensation.

Name and address supplied

--------------

Why can’t they be less greedy?

Further to the article in Manx Independent December 12 about 60 new homes in Colby, it says there is no alternative to all the new traffic going through Cronk Cullyn to enter and exit, but why can’t the builders be less greedy and use the derelict houses on main road for an entrance?

The people who live in Cronk Cullyn could have anything up to 600 to 700 extra vehicles each day using the entrance and exit, many homes have three cars plus visitors and workmen.

Let us hope the quality control on new homes will be better than ones built in Cronk Cullyn. We have found we have had to put quite a few things right that had been wrongly put in when new.

Name and address supplied.

--------------

We want hard tracks network

The organisation Green Lanes – Our Heritage was formed in 2012 to bring attention to the appalling condition that many green lanes and the grass tracks across the island have fallen into over the last 30 years.

This damage has been created principally by off-road motorbikes using tracks which are not suitable for this purpose, as well as some use by 4x4 leisure vehicles.

We would like to reply to some rather unnecessary and technically incorrect statements made by Alan Morgan-Moodie, the chairman for the Isle of Man Four Wheel Drive Club (Manx Independent, November 11).

Mr. Morgan-Moodie states that the GLOH organisation has called for all motorbikes and vehicles to be banned from using the green lanes in his statement: ‘Ban the lot of them!’ Where he is getting this information from is not clear, or else he is just trying to spread false allegations and misinterpret what our organisation has actually said.

If he had read our letter of November 21 to the paper and looked at our website he would have seen that GLOH are a long way from asking for motorbikes and leisure 4x4s to be banned from using the island’s green lanes as they have a legal right to use many of them.

(Lanes which 4x4s are not permitted to use are those lanes classed as greenway roads for which they need a permit.)

What we are asking for is the setting up of a network of ‘hard tracks’ for motorbike and 4x4 use, leaving out the softer grass lanes which have demonstrated that they are simply not capable of supporting the hard use from motorbikes and 4x4s and the numbers of people who use them every year with these vehicles.

The lanes that have suffered most in the last 30 years are the grass lanes technically classed as ‘Greenway Roads’ of which there are 13 on the island. Four have had to be regraded into brown ‘all-weather’ roads, and others such as the Slieau Dhoo Link have been left in a dangerous and seriously damaged condition, unusable by walkers, mountain bikes and horse riders.

A legal process of ‘change of use’ for lanes which have been become damaged is now taking place in the national parks of the UK where the vehicles and motorbikes are now banned on certain routes. 16 major trails have been closed within the last two years, and this is causing a displacement of off-road bikes coming to the island as we currently have an ‘open access’ policy on the Manx hills.

Mr. Morgan-Moodie states that the appropriate forum for this debate is not in the press but within the Green Lane Users’ Group, set up in 2002.

We would tend to agree with him over this except for the fact that as this group has traditionally leant towards the ‘users’ as its name implies, it has in the past become dominated by the interests of motorbike groups who see their the interests as being paramount over other people’s.

The more reasonable concerns from others within this group regarding the accumulating damage on lanes has usually been overruled as past minutes show, and lanes which were being damaged have not been closed.

This has forced past representatives for the horse riders, mountain bikers and the Island’s walking group to resign in protest over the years as their requests for lanes to be closed to motorbikes went unheeded. Hence GLOH now feel that it is important to air these concerns in the public arena.

The island has now lost three important greenways in the last eight years, the Clarum Way, the Druidale to Sartfell Greenway and Maughold Mountain Road, and it will lose others within the next 10 years as the damage accumulates, unless there is a change in government policy, the reclassification of some lanes and the demands of residents and visitors who are creating this destruction.

The DEFA photographic records, begun in 2005, show an ever increasing catalogue of damage to all the lanes being monitored.

There now has to be a reclassification of some of these to bridle-paths and footpaths to allow them to survive intact into this century.

Horse riders of the island have also lost out heavily in this spiral of ever increasing damage. The symbol for a ‘greenway road’ is a green sign displaying a horse and a motorbike.

But when was the last time you saw a horse in the hills?

Horse riders have a legal right to use these tracks and many were built with a constant gradient to enable use by pack-horses and the horse and carts of their era for transporting goods across the island.

Therefore many were built principally for use by horses. However, horse riders have now been effectively banned from using them because of the shocking and dangerous condition that many are now in.

So a network of Bridle-paths from repaired grass lanes and tracks should now be set up to enable these people to also enjoy their pastime.

Mr.Morgan-Moodie asks how he can join the Green Lanes – Our Heritage organisation as he claims: ‘It is our heritage too!’

We are not a club or a society. There is no membership or joining fee.

The only creed that binds us together is a belief that the present situation is unacceptable and that there has to be a change.

If he is prepared to accept this then he is more than welcome to contact us and work with us to this end to help bring about such a change.

One final point, Green Lanes – Our Heritage have received hundreds of emails and letters from people supporting our call for this damage to stop and a reclassification for certain lanes across the island. (See our website for comments).

We understand from the feedback we have received that a huge number of Island residents would agree that a change is long overdue, because there is nothing to be gained from allowing these ancient grass lanes and tracks to become destroyed in the way that is now happening.

GLOH also appreciate that there are people within the off-road biking and 4x4 fraternities who would like to see change with whom our organisation would like to communicate to find a way forward from this point.

Contact can be made through our website, and hundreds of pictures of damage to the lanes and tracks across the island can also be found at: www.iomgreenlanes.co.uk.

Richard Crowhurst, Spokesperson for Green Lanes – Our Heritage

--------------

Confusing fact with fiction

Once again Mr Morgan-Moodie is confusing fact with fiction. As admin of the Facebook group he refers to I must correct his claim that it is a ‘mirror image’ of the website belonging to Green Lanes-Our Heritage.

My Facebook group is called ‘Isle of Man Public Rights of Way Care’ and is unconnected to GLOH.

I started it in October last year in order to raise awareness of the extreme damage to some of our green lanes and, that done, it morphed into a general platform for people who appreciate our beautiful countryside (be they walkers, horse riders, mountain bikers, responsible trail bikers and 4x4 drivers etc) to share ideas and information on working together to protect our green lanes from the ever-increasing damage.

It now covers a wide range of other countryside issues and also contains information on all the volunteer groups who work to protect our countryside, plus contact details for reporting problems with footpaths, green lanes, green roads, forests, glens, uplands, wildlife crime and illegal activities.

I can only assume that Mr Morgan-Moodie has never even seen my Facebook group because in order to deter aggressive posters I changed it from an ‘open’ group to ‘secret’ (ie it will not appear on a search engine unless you are already a member) and I also limited the membership to those who actually care about our countryside.

I do hope that a member of GLOH will address his other inaccurate and provocative comments as they are not conducive to helping all the different users and relevant government departments come together to find satisfactory solutions to the problem.

Wendy Hurst, Port e Vullen

--------------

Protection for at-risk roads

I am writing in response to Alan Morgan Moodie’s letter in respect of the Green Lanes Our Heritage group.

Firstly, I should stress that GLOH is far from nameless or faceless – its members have engaged on frequent occasion with both government and other groups, and we don’t wear masks when we do so.

It’s true that some letters to the press from our members have been sent under the hand of the group as a whole, and/or with senders’ names and adress withhheld – but that’s hardly a novelty on a small island such as this, especially where contentious issues are concerned.

In any event, please find my own details at the end of this letter if that helps ease your concerns, Mr Morgan Moodie – and be assured, no claok and dagger was intended. We’re glad to engage with you.

Secondly, there is reference to a report co-ordinated by GLOH having been withheld from public circulation. I’m glad to confirm that this isn’t, in fact, the case at all.

A report on certain stretches of green lane was promised by us to Ministers following one of our earlier meetings with government, and it was a simple matter of courtesy that we should not circulate this to the public at large until it had been delivered first to those intended recipients. This has been done, and we had a contructive meeting on Monday, December 9, with various ministers, government officials and other interested parties to discuss it and potential solutions to the problems we see.

That being done, the report is now in the public domain (and copies can be found at various public libraries around the island, including Douglas and Ramsey). It’s a chunky item and doesn’t easily lend itself to emailing, but we can also arrange for zip file copies to be sent to interested recipients.

To clarify, it’s never been our position that all green lanes should be off-limits to motor users, whether off-roading bikes, four-wheel drivers or any other form.

And we certainly don’t want to prevent people from enjoying our amazing coutryside, or dissuade people from ‘across’ from visiting us - quite the opposite, in fact.

What we DO want is for those significant roads which are at worst risk, or which have suffered the worst damage, to be protected – if need be by closures, whether short or long term – so that where remedial work is possible it can be properly assessed and undertaken.

We have also proposed a range of other measures, including better education and signposting, the creation and enforcement of appropriate restrictions to protect those greenways (and the areas to each side of them, which in some cases are also suffering catastrophically), and control over remediation so that it doesn’t do more harm than good, for example by contaminating sites by importing rubble and soil from other areas with differing habitat characteristics.

This is all obvious stuff, and much of it is being done in the UK already – which is in part why some less-responsible users have opted to behave on the Isle of Man’s lanes.

It’s hard to see why we would regard our own amazing landscape and history as less-deserving of protection than the UK does.

We’ve also proposed that specific areas should be made available to leisure motor users, clearly designated as such, so that everyone knows what IS permissible and where.

This would avoid confusion – and whilst there may be a selfish few who would disregard any such restrictions, the supposed economic benefits they might bring hardly outweighs the damage they can cause.

These are the people whose behaviour should be regardedas unacceptable, not the green lane using community as a whole.

It is true, of course, that local and visiting motor users of the lanes can sometimes bring economic benefits to the island – and there are varying views on the measure of these. But they can, and do when they don’t use the green lanes responsibly, deter many potential local and tourists wanting to use those lanes.

We know that many forms of more envioronmentally sustainable tourism are suffering because of the state of our uplands, lanes and pathways.

These include walking groups, runners, horseriders, geocachers, and many others - you don’t have to look far to find examples of people who won’t return to these shores because of the disappointment they’ve experienced, when having to abandon excursions.

And let’s not forget that much of the areas we’re talking about are our fragile and precious upland areas. As those who’ve read the government’s draft biodiversity strategy will recall, upland heather and moorlands areas are, under the EU Habitats Directiive, classified as ‘prioity habitats’ – important for the fostering of healthy biodiversity.

Whilst the island may not itself be part of the EU, this is an important regional reference point for us in terms of assessing habitat significance.

In the year ahead we’re looking to confirm strategies which will evidence our compliance with the UN Convention on Biodiversity (to which the island is a signatory), and may well be putting in an application for the Isle of Man as a whole to be granted UN Biosphere status.

It would be counterintuitive, and rather ridiculous, if we didn’t back up these efforts to cherish our amazing natural and historical resources by making all reasonable efforts to protect these unique and important are!

As for future generations, and for their importance to our ecosystems.

I hope this clarifies some poitential areas of confusion - and that a productive debate, and practicable solutions, will emerge in 2014 to protect and enhance our natural and cultural heritage, and allow al; members of the local and visiting community to appreciate and respect that heritage.

Cat Turner, Rhencullen, Kirk Michael

--------------

Tell others about island

I recently braved the elements and walked a section of our beautiful coastal path.

The journey home was made on one of our new buses. However, with only a handful of other passengers, I calculated that the combined fares would not even cover the cost of our helpful driver for the time it took him to bring me home.

It costs virtually the same for buses, trains, ferries and planes to operate with only one passenger as it does for them to operate with every seat taken.

Lost seats cannot be replaced by filling the transport 10 times over during the TT festival, nor can empty hotel or guest house rooms.

This is why the visitor economy matters to all of us. Unlike many islands, we don’t have a fragile economy that is reliant on visitors.

Our ferries and planes offer a choice of destinations, but recent events have highlighted that commercial reality can very easily reduce that choice. Volume of passengers is what makes the services viable and that is why we need visitors!

We have 77 recognised visitor attractions. That competes with some of the most popular visitor destinations in the world.

We have outdoor activities too numerous to list. Our diverse habitats support wildlife on our doorstep. You would have to travel the length and breadth of British Isles to see so many species. We also have nearly as many shades of green as the ‘Emerald Isle’.

What is the recently proclaimed “dark skies” site in Northumberland compared to the 77 recognised sites in our island?

Visitors also provide valuable income for shops, cafes, and restaurants. Are we willing to see our favourites forced out of business because the resident population provides insufficient custom to keep them going

An editorial comment in May 2013 questioned the use of public resources to promote the visitor economy but where would we be without it?

The 2014 visitors’ guide is the best ever produced and is a great credit to Angela Byrne and her team at the DED, so we should be proud to recommend it.

What can we do to help? Social media is more powerful than ever.

Why not make a New Year resolution to tell one extra person about our beautiful island?

Why not consider meeting people and making new friends by offering TT and Classic TT Homestay accommodation? Most visitors agree that we are friendly and welcoming, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to welcome more people for more of the year so that they can also enjoy a bracing coastal walk, a fantastic meal and a warm bus ride back to base.

Sylvia Constantine, IBA Start-up Business Adviser of the year 2005, Port Erin

--------------

Giving us a rocket

Loved your front-page headline in last week’s Independent - “Cost of phoning from UK rockets”. How could anyone phone from a UK rocket?

Andrew Kerr-Phillips, Hildesley Rd, Douglas

--------------

Burning plastic is fantastic

I am sure we have all noted that shortly there is going to be a fee in the UK for having a plastic bag for your groceries etc.

I don’t know about everybody else, but plastic bags have become one of those little conveniences that might be difficult to do without.

I am not sure what the Isle of Man stance is but our incinerator loves plastic.

The high calorific value of burning plastic is very good for energy generation and from that standpoint I wonder whether we, as an island, need to roll over and follow the UK or whether we can make a case for keeping the little darlings.

I am sure that we could generate good publicity from it, especially when allied to the fact that we had the foresight to build an all-island incinerator when most of the UK is in the dark ages and still using landfill.

Michael AA Osborne, The Parade, Castletown

Back to the top of the page