Isle of Man Examiner letters, May 24, 2016

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Concern over animal testing

The government announced a few months ago its hopes to attract the biomedical sector to the island.

Having some concerns at the time about the island’s legislation regarding animal testing I emailed my MHK.

The welcome reply from Alf Cannan included a quote from John Shimmin MHK, the person with responsibility for this area at the time: ‘This sector, if it is to become successful, must aim to be of the highest reputation and for as long as I have any involvement I would never sanction animal testing.’

Since then, John Shimmin has disclosed that he will not be standing for re-election in September.

The report on the Manx Radio website on May 18 states that a move to ban testing on animals was thwarted by an amendment from Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly.

This leads me to believe that there may have been approaches by, or consultation with, companies that might wish to carry out animal testing on the Isle of Man.

I do see there is a need for rigorous testing, as least as far as the drugs industry is concerned, however modern technology offers many high-tech options for these highly profitable organisations as an alternative to testing on live animals.

Sadly, live animals are by far the cheapest option available. As this is very much a ‘behind-closed doors’ industry I imagine it becomes difficult to regulate effectively and that both regulators and laboratory personnel become desensitised to the suffering caused.

Bringing in legislation to allow animal testing (or allowing it as there is no legislation) would be a very emotive issue to many residents of the island and one where a public consultation should be deemed a necessity.

Allan Bell is always keen, rightly, that the island is seen as clean, transparent and above board in our financial dealings. Surely our ethical values are just as important.

There are so many wonderful things to attract tourists and new residents to the Isle of Man. Vivisection and the negative coverage engendered by it (there would certainly be some) would not be one of them.

I have emailed my MHK for details of Mr Skelly’s amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, but have had no response to date.

I would be grateful if Laurence Skelly would kindly make it known, through this newspaper if this letter is published, or at a Tynwald sitting, any plans that may be under way to facilitate the use of animal testing on the island.

Jan Kneen, Cleiy Rhennee, Kirk Michael.

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Need to be sure over ‘bullying’

We are told John Houghton Douglas North MHK is a bully (Manx Independent, May 19).

We are led to believe Lord Lisvane, the former House of Commons Clerk (who is heading an independent review of the branches of parliament) might be shocked as he listened from the public gallery.

Really: with the things he must have seen and heard in the UK? Mr Gawne said that ‘the days of having to bite your tongue and accepting bullying or intimidating behaviour from politicians is over’.

If that really is the case, great.

But then concentrate on taking the words ‘from politicians’ out of that sentence and we might be getting somewhere.

The government is a much bigger place than just Tynwald guys.

However, it is never all it seems and good intentions and moral fibre are not enough I’m afraid.

I have been bullied a few times in my career, sometimes the ‘in your face’ type, and sometimes more subtle, but insidious none the less.

Both are very damaging, soul destroying, and strip all morale and loyalty one might have had. I had one manager nicknamed the ‘smiling assassin’ who seemed to enjoy wielding their power with a smile.

As for John, as always I would say innocent until proven guilty and he appears to be denying any wrong doing so far.

I don’t condone bullying in any form including the bully becoming the bullied; but as assertiveness is described online as ‘showing a confident and forceful personality’, and bullying as ‘using force and intimidation’ which are very similar definitions, perhaps we need to look at intent on occasions such as these. That, is the difference.

Name and address supplied

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Attractions should combine

The dispute over the horse trams rambles on. I believe they should be kept but the cost should not be borne by the ratepayers of Douglas.

Rail holidays in Britain are becoming more popular as people begin looking at nostalgic holidays.

There are old buses and coaches combined with our rail system, and they can be combined with trips to destinations such as Cregneash, Peel’s museums, Jurby’s motor museum and Groudle Glen and Laxey Mines tramway. If the various entities involved could combine to offer discounts they could offer an ‘all inclusive’ tariff.

They could also look into the cost of miniature replicas or having calendars, etc. It would probably take time to become established, so perhaps a corporate sponsor could be found to fund the first brochure to be distributed from the tourist board or travel agents in the UK which specialise in rail journeys.

Mr I N Wrigley, Barrule Drive, Onchan.

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Let’s hang on to island’s assets

Regarding Mr G Drake letter, Examiner, May 17, headlined: Horse trams are not at top of list. Well they should be. We have lost far too much of the island’s heritage. If we carry on with this view though there will soon be nothing left.

The horse trams are a traffic calming measure.

If they’re removed, the prom will be a F1 race track, then health and safety will rear its head and introduce speed bumps every 50 metres or introduce more pot holes which is no big deal as its part and parcel of life.

You have to get on with it. Rebuilding the prom will not bring any more tourists.

Recently in the local paper there was a drawing of a refurbished Sea Terminal and harbour to assist cruise liners, and Douglas bus station. Wonderful.

Well, if the government cannot find anyone to finance it for them on a long term lease, they should offer up finance to making it more appetising.

There are millions of people in the UK that would not dream of getting on an aeroplane but they would travel by boat, someone is failing to reach out to them.

Good luck to the volunteers of Ramsey Pier, it will bring a lot of happiness to local people. Manx Heritage could do more – they should follow English Heritage, the Castle Mona refurbished to period style and open to the public. The Victorian prison should not have been demolished. I tried to make an offer of purchase but hit a brick wall.

Mick Reubens, Colby.

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Noisy manhole cover ‘torture’

Regarding noisy metal manhole covers in Castletown Road, Port Erin, this problem became apparent following the re-surfacing of this road several years ago.

I first complained about the noisy covers, one in particular, to highway services in September 2014, almost two years ago. I was led to believe by the secretary that my complaint had been forwarded to the relevant personnel.

To describe this constant annoyance of ‘clang-clang’ from each passing vehicle is to liken it to some form of torture more akin to Guantanamo Bay than the outskirts of Port Erin.

One afternoon recently, between the hours of 4.45pm-5pm, ie 15 minutes, I recorded 150 resounding clatters, ie 600 per hour. It makes relaxing in the front garden impossible. My son in Canada (5,000 miles away) happened to phone while I was outside my front door. During our conversation he remarked: ‘Hasn’t that iron manhole cover been repaired yet?’ having heard the noise over the phone.

I left it for 12 months, in which time nothing was done, so I followed up on my letter to highway services to enquire as to what was happening – was my original letter at the bottom of someone’s in-tray?

This letter was dated October 2015. A reply came to say my complaint had been referred to (a) Water and Sewage and (b) Manx Gas.

Both parties advised the secretary that they would be attending to these repairs.

On investigation I discovered that the offending iron cover was the responsibility of Manx Gas.

I contacted Manx Gas in November 2015 and was assured that the matter would be attended to in the near future. They admitted that they were aware of the problem and that there were two nuisance iron covers and they would be attended to at the same time.

Christmas and New Year came and went, and we were still suffering this constant annoyance 24/7.

The work began on the offending iron cover several hundred yards down the road. This work was completed but there was no sign of any action on the problem cover opposite our bungalow. By now the noise was increasing.

On March 15, I phoned Manx Gas and was eventually put through to a man who was charming and apparently very sympathetic. He assured me that he would personally see this problem would be attended to in a ‘week or two’.

After patiently waiting a further five weeks, on April 20 I again phoned Manx Gas to remind them of the problem.

The man I had spoken to was unavailable at the time (no surprise). I spoke to a colleague who was again very sympathetic and he would get someone down as a matter of urgency. Another two weeks went by so I phoned again.

To date ,May 18, no action, only false promises.

When I recently received my gas bill I was stunned to see my standing charge’ had been increased sixfold to over £60.

I was given to understand that this money was to maintain the infrastructure. What a joke!

I sincerely hope this letter is enough to shame Manx Gas and to expedite corrective action.

Mr D Hindley, Port Erin.

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Toilet tax needs to be more fair

I am writing further to the recent letters re water rates. (Chrissie Parkes’ letter to Examiner last week),

I am a widow and live on my own.

I accept that every household should pay a standard charge for sewerage and water treatment, but why should I pay the same amount of water rates as a neighbour who is maybe in a household with two adults and two children?

I run my washing machine usually twice a week, whereas a family of four will do a wash every day. I have one toilet in my house, and logic tells me I flush the toilet a quarter as much as a family of four, not to speak of baths and showers and dishwashers.

I would welcome the introduction of a water meter for every household.

This would be fairer for people like myself living alone, and would probably encourage everyone to think more about how much water they use.

Ann Henrard, Friary Park, Ballabeg.

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Keys misled over removal of ‘silt’?

Without any prior consultation whatsoever with Peel Town Commissioners or residents on the haul route out of Peel, the director of ports, Mrs Ann Reynolds, sent an email to the commissioners at 1936 hrs on May 12 in which she announced that ‘Dredging works will start in Peel next week, on Monday 16 May. JCK Ltd will be excavating “river stone” (by long reach excavator) alongside the boat park, removing between 2,000 – 3,000 tonnes.’

The Department of Infrastructure issued a press release the following day in which it announced that they would be excavating, ie not dredging, ‘around’ 2,000 tonnes of what they described as ‘stone’ from Peel harbour.

They said also that: ‘This work will remove the material brought down by last winter’s heavy rainfall and will facilitate ongoing maintenance.’

What maintenance are they referring to here which has been ongoing?

As for the extraction of ‘stone’, or ‘river stone’, it will be apparent from the attached photographs that what they are ‘extracting’ is very similar to the silt which they ‘dredged’ last year. Indeed, it looks like silt, it smells like silt, it is silt; highly contaminated silt – with some stone mixed into it.

For reasons which hopefully will be obvious, Bernard Moffatt has described the stone as ‘floating stone’ in one of his articles on the Celtic League website.

I mean, how do you extract stone which is embedded in silt without extracting the silt?

Readers will recall that last year they pretended to use emergency powers under the Public Health Act to get around the requirement for planning approval to dump the silt in a field at Poortown, but were caught with their trousers down when I revealed that they hadn’t actually used emergency powers, and despite Phil Gawne’s assertion that planning permission wasn’t required, his own planning staff agreed that planning permission was required.

This was an attempt to get around the fact that there wasn’t any dump site in the island which was licensed to accept the silt.

I think we can assume that as there’s been no announcement this time about the use of emergency powers that there wasn’t an emergency situation last year, when they claimed that once the silt was removed from the harbour it created a public health hazard; so why is it any different this year?

Last year the wagons transporting the contaminated silt were supposed to be sealed, but they leaked contaminants on to the public highway throughout the haul route out of Peel which necessitated hiring road sweepers to follow the waggons and clean the contaminants. This year as is evidenced by the photographs, the wagons are clearly not sealed, they are leaking contaminants all over the harbourside to which the public have access and they are leaking contaminants on the haul route once again.

My understanding, which no doubt Phil Gawne will correct me if I’m wrong, is that tender documents for the dredging works weren’t sent out until sometime during the last week of April and had to be returned by May 3.

If that’s the case then it may well be that Phil Gawne misled the Keys on April 12, when in answer to a question put to him by Peter Karran MHK as to when he intended to start dredging, he said ‘subject to contractor agreement on the timetable, we are expecting “dredging” works (the removal of stone and silt) to start before the end of this month and continue into May’.

Notice the words ‘dredging and silt’ in his answer.

I leave it to Members of the Keys to make their own enquiries to establish whether Gawne misled them.

Mr Alfred Cannan, MHK, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, might wish to enquire as to why contractors have had to be brought in to undertake the dredging works, when in January 2016, the director of ports, Mrs Ann Reynolds, informed me that they were waiting for a part for the May Queen (the DoI Dredger), which had been working in Douglas, but hoped to start before the end of January. A clear indication that at that time they were going to dredge the silt from the harbour. What’s happened since January?

I finish with two questions:

1. Why are they dredging the area outside of the marina which is not used by yachtsmen or visiting yachtsmen, which is a “dead boat” area and not, therefore, a priority, when the marina area itself has once again become silted up?

2. Does JCK Limited have a licence to dump the silt at its premises in Balthane?

Trevor Cowin, Poortown Road, Peel.

Editor’s note: We asked the Department of Infrastructure to respond to Mr Cowin’s letter. What follows is their response.

There are two types of dredging work in Peel – to remove stone and silt respectively. The disposal routes for these are different in that there are differing levels of potential contamination.

The work being carried out prior to the TT is not the same as the work done in April/May 2015 and is the removal of stone that has washed down over the winter period. The removal of the stone, alongside the boat park, leaves an area within the channel that acts as a sump such that further silt/stone will fall into it rather than spreading out further into the impounded area. This helps the overall depths and prevents the stone spreading across the impounded area, which would make the removal of silts more difficult.

Once the stone is taken from the river channel it is taken to the contractor’s recycling plant where it is washed and graded. The pebbles and stones are recycled for use in construction products, whereas the sands and other fines are collected and they are taken to a licensed site for segregated and secure temporary storage. Of the stone removal works currently taking place at Peel, the department estimates about 10 per cent of the dredged material will be resultant sands, so around 250-300 tonnes will then be kept in temporary storage. This technique has been used before but this method of storage was not suitable for the large amounts of silt removed last year.

With regards to the dredging of the silts in Peel, everyone is aware of the environmental issues raised last year when it was determined that such a large quantity of silt should not be disposed of at sea.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture has asked that the department again finds a land-based solution for storing the dredged silts and does not dispose of the silt to sea.

Therefore, the department is making its final consideration regarding the silt dredging, which could take place after TT prior to the end of June as DEFA has extended its usual deadline for dredging work in Peel to the end of June.

The department is finalising its plans for these works. Information on the decision regarding further works will be provided shortly.

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