Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Racing towards the grim reaper

YOU’VE all heard of the expression about someone having a ‘death wish’, but you don’t expect almost to shake hands with them at 100mph.

The Ridgeway between Weymouth and Dorchester is notorious for having its own micro-climate and conditions were pretty bad as I returned from Dorset County Hospital.

As I began to climb the hill to the Ridgeway itself I found fog or mist just getting denser and denser with visibility down first to 200m and then, swiftly, to barely 100m.

My lights were on and I’d reduced speed to about 45mph, but it just got gloomier so, when visibility dropped to 75m and then 50m, I reduced speed again until I crested the Ridgeway doing about 30mph.

As vehicles began to drop down into Weymouth conditions were so dense it was impossible to see oncoming traffic until their lights were almost right on you and that’s when a string of maniacs made their appearance.

Foot to the floor, they flashed up the overtaking lane doing at least 60-70mph with complete disregard for the conditions.

Now the Highway Code says that a typical stopping distance at 70mph involves 21m of thinking distance and 75m of braking distance for an overall figure of 96m, yet every driver there couldn’t see further than 40-50m if that.

Even if they were only doing 60mph then the overall stopping distance of 73m was still nearly twice as far as these lunatics could see.

They seemed to be putting their trust in nothing happening. After all, “everyone knows I’m a safe driver”.

Maybe, but what if an accident had happened ahead of them that they couldn’t see? They’d have just ploughed straight into it. It could have been absolute carnage.

I know other motorists were shocked by these death wish speedsters because later that day I met a couple of them who couldn’t believe how fast some drivers had been going in the fog. 

So slow down, if not for your nerves then for ours.

Giving gulls the bird

I’VE lost count of the number of complaints people have made about seagulls in Weymouth and Portland, so I was quite amused to hear of a complaint made by seagulls against people.

Apparently those bolshy birds frequenting the rooftops at the King’s Statue end of St Mary Street were well hacked off by the recent antics of a man seated outside a café and they lost no time in making a raucous and prolonged objection.

Was it the fact that the man was eating all his chips and not leaving any for them? Perhaps the seagulls were complaining that he was too hard a target to hit with their droppings but, no, it was neither of those reasons.

The furious seagulls were up in arms not so much at the behaviour of the man but at his companion... a rather splendid looking kestrel.

The seagulls didn’t care a tinker’s damn about how striking the kestrel’s plumage looked.

All they cared about was that here was a bird of prey right on their doorstep and they were very unhappy indeed about that.

It turned out the man regularly brings a bird of prey with him when he drops in for coffee so, if the seagulls don’t calm down until he’s gone, then that’s tough. I know which of the two – seagull or kestrel – I’d rather have around me.

Developers nipping in quickly

MORE than 1,000 new homes are currently being applied for, or are on the building books in Weymouth.

There will be those who say new homes are needed and there will be those who say that ripping up the ground is a desecration of this beautiful part of the country.

Then there are the views of cynics such as myself who take a more jaundiced view of the whole development picture.

That view centres on the Local Plan or the little pile of torn up pieces of paper which is all that’s left of it.

Local government can’t just switch from one Local Plan to a new one at the press of a button. There has to be a massive amount of consultation first.

Part of that consultation led to a planning inquiry inspector giving a strong hint that what was being proposed for the new Local Plan might hit problems if it was put forward with what was then the suggested housing provision.

So local councils took the hint, delayed it for six months and are now hoping that increased housing provision will overcome any inquiry hurdles.

But developers don’t get to make millions of pounds by being stupid and they recognised a golden opportunity when they saw one.

With an out of date old Local Plan and a new Local Plan that was having to drag its heels there was really nothing there with teeth in it to stop them unleashing a veritable frenzy of housing development applications, some of them for hundreds of homes at a time.

Attempts to stem the tide suffered a bloody nose and I don’t believe the floodgates can be closed until the new Local Plan is on the books and open for business.

By that time we’ll probably have a new town – Weychester sounds like a good name – paving over all the green gap between Weymouth and Dorchester!

It may not be that bad but people had better get used to the constant sound of building for a good while yet.

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