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From the Editors
Please note that all views expressed in letters are the views of their authors and not those of the magazine and website editors. Unlike many media print and digital publications, we aim to publish all correspondence submitted, unless it is directly defamatory, abusive, dangerous, aimed at the promotion of specific businesses or political parties.
Whilst we reserve the right to edit all contributions to the magazine, we do not exercise this prerogative just because we would dispute the view expressed by an author; nor indeed do we promote material with which we concur. We adopt this policy to reflect the wonderful diversity of views within the Community of the Strettons. The Focus team tries to open up public discussion to improve and enliven the engagement with and amongst the Community. This might cover both the big issues and local concerns of our times.
If you disagree with an opinion, in the letters or elsewhere, as many of you will, please do make your own contribution to our Letters in response, and we'll aim to publish it as promptly as we can, space permitting. This can sometimes mean that there is a delay before your response is published in the magazine but you can respond to anything we publish by sending your response to our web editors (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it will be published straight away on our website. You can also comment, share and post directly or through Social Media onto our online Letters and Talking Points pages.
Open to Debate
Focus is a journal I value, and I am pleased that it is now including pieces on matters of political substance such as Chris Moore’s article in the February edition. But after reading the responses to his piece, and other items in the March issue, I seriously wondered about cancelling my subscription. This is not about my personal agreement or disagreement with the Moore piece, but about the norms of debate set by the journal.
One point is the way in which ‘liberal’ is used as a term of abuse in the letter from Greg Foster. I may have misread his point, but there is an implication that where questions of the sexual morality of political or business leaders are raised by the ‘liberal press’ this “deprives people of their livelihood and threatens conscientious freedom”. It’s not clear who he is referring to, but his point raises a general question about the groundswell of current resistance to the widespread sexual abuse of women or children. Of course there is a debate to be had about how to balance justice for individuals accused of ‘immorality’ against the need to redress the longstanding tacit acceptance of sexual abuse (including by the church). But this was a throwaway reference not a substantive point, and the tone of the letter was to close down rather than open up such debate. And I don’t think that we can any longer accept that such matters can be solely for individual conscience.
Several of the other letters, and the otherwise excellent article Dream Big by Charlie Carter, refer back to Chris Moore’s February article; but all do so in a very snide, dismissive, almost personally abusive, tone. I hope that Focus does not avoid ‘difficult’ issues in future editions: there are lots of serious matters that need to be publicly discussed. In the process, I also hope that the rather clubbish, all-boys-together atmosphere might be challenged.
Parking in Church Stretton
The Chamber of Trade represents businesses in Church Stretton and district, and is therefore proud to note that Church Stretton must be one of the few towns in the country to have no empty shops. This hasn’t happened by chance: study after study has shown that if car access to a town centre becomes more difficult the businesses there suffer.
Shropshire Council did not in fact “abruptly sabotage” the Town Council’s plan to which Wally Blake referred in the January Focus. Rather it took note of a 2010 petition attracting 1,160 signatures objecting to the threatened withdrawal of parking and of responses to its own consultation for the 2012 South Planning Committee meeting (27 of which were in favour of the Town Council’s proposed parking ban, and 1,120 in favour of “No Change”).
A significant proportion of those opting for “No Change” were elderly, disabled or Blue Badge holders, while many respondents felt businesses and the market would close, removing the charm of a vibrant town centre and that, as a result, they would themselves cease to patronise Church Stretton.
On behalf of Church Stretton and District Chamber of Trade
Ponies on the Long Mynd
A letter in last month’s Focus commented that “there are now too many ponies on the Long Mynd simply because people have dumped ponies when they cannot afford to keep them”. There are a huge number of unwanted ponies in Britain of which four are known to have been abandoned on the Long Mynd in the last year or so. Nobody disputes that there are too many ponies there but the reasons for this are complex; at the last count there were about 52.
The Long Mynd is common land on which farmers with land adjacent to the hill have historic rights to graze their animals. The Church Stretton Commoners’ Association was formed in 1868 with the aim of enforcing long-standing rules. Successive agreements with the Commoners’ Association culminated in 2000, under the Government’s Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme, to limit the number of sheep and ponies grazing on the hill. As far as ponies are concerned, the limit agreed is 20 ponies. The numbers are restricted and monitored under the current Higher Level Stewardship agreement, which includes a couple of stallions, and their foals up to two years old. These are all owned by one of the graziers.
The ponies on the hill are one of its main attractions and are the most talked-about feature on Trip Advisor. The ponies are not just part of the scenery, they are very useful in trampling the bracken which helps to keep it in check and to open up and improve the quality of the grassy areas.
Ideally, the ponies should be rounded up each year and the surplus sold. This is a skilled and far from easy task which has to be carried out by several people on horseback scouring all corners of the hill. They can then only be transported to market if they are microchipped, registered and have a passport. This all costs about £50 yet the sale price of a pony at market may only be around £10. You begin see the problems building up in having a manageable number of ponies on the hill!
The National Trust as owner of the Long Mynd is in discussion with the pony owners and horse riders in the local Long Mynd and District bridleways group to establish a management programme to cover this and related areas. The importance of upland common land to the nation has been recognised in the creation of the Foundation for Common Land under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. The object is to enhance the centuries-old heritage of upland commons in four of England’s most significant landscapes, namely Dartmoor, the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and the Shropshire Hills. It aims to safeguard the heritage of commons, build skills in management of conflicts of interest, improve practical conservation and enhance the public benefits of commons.