Letters to the Editor

Business concerns

I refer to your article (The Galloway Gazette, May 3) and letter last week (May 10) regarding the main Newton Stewart car park and the complaints and concerns raised by almost half of it being unavailable during one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year.

The Newton Stewart Business Association has been raising concerns about 
this for the past two years and I have had complaint after complaint recently regarding what the 
business community 
sees as a misuse of this facility yet again by Dumfries and Galloway Council officials.

After the same debacle last year, we were promised that this would not happen again, only to find it did. We were promised that, if it was to be considered, the NSBA, Cree Valley Comunity Council and other town bodies would be advised. As I understand it, our own elected local councillors were not even told about the car park being turned into a temporary showground.

We at the NSBA are not against travelling fairs, or indeed having fun. What we do need for us to continue to trade, to continue to employ staff, to “turn a pound” – as one of our local councillors puts it – is to have the facilities to do so. Giving up around 30-40 parking spaces does not help any business to do this and we must question the logic in this move. Surely there must be other accommodation suitable for the fair without damaging the town centre’s ability to function.

Giving up these spaces meant that, from as early as 9am, the car park was full. This had an effect on our local trade as potential customers arriving in Newton Stewart had no place to park and then go and conduct their business.

When visitors arrived (and there were many that week), they were greeted by a full main street and then a full car park.

I have been in the same position when I am a tourist and, just like them last week, I simply go on to the next town and take my wallet with me.

I have also had a past president from Rotary call to discuss this with me. It seems that we have a two-tier system: if the town wishes to use the car park for an event such as The Wheelie Good Bike Show, something that does immeasurable good for Newton Stewart, something that the entire community enjoys, something that raises a lot of money for charity and something that brings a lot of money into the town, they (Rotary) feel they get little help and co-operation.

This car park is an important part of the town. It is there for the benefit of townspeople, visitors, businesses and buses. It is not for council officials to decide that it can be withdrawn from us all on a whim, to accommodate something of their choosing.

I personally have nothing against showpeople – 
and, indeed, we were 
happy to help by allowing them use of power from 
my own Belted Galloway 
facility – but, like most 
other business people in town, I must question the thought processes that 
allow the car park to be used in this manner.

Gordon Andrews,

Chairman, Newton Stewart Business Association.

Arts festival

No events in the west area

For at least two years now I have been quite a stickler with Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, formerly run by the now defunct Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association, about its programme in my region, Wigtownshire.

As a father with two young children, both with a keen interest in traditional music, I am always interested in local concerts, events, exhibitions – anything arts but, particularly, music events.

However, I had become increasingly annoyed by the lack of events happening in the Wigtownshire region despite the event being labelled “Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival”.

Again, this year, checking the programme (www.dgartsfestival.org.uk), I noticed that there didn’t appear to be any events happening in Wigtownshire so I contacted the festival to ask if there were going to be any events in Wigtownshire this year and received a reply from Peter Renwick. Peter’s email replies are from a Gmail account and don’t actually contain a signature explaining who he is or his role within the festival and/or festival committee but I’ll assume he has something to do with it.

Peter’s initial reply was: “You are referring to the fact that the D&G Arts festival has programmes in Nithsdale, Stewartry, Annandale and Eskdale, but not Wigtownshire. The festival used to cover the whole region until about six or seven years ago. When representatives of the west of the region split to form West Fest. West Fest now runs a programme throughout the year, as opposed to concentrating on a short festival period. We are talking to West Fest to see if we can work together more closely for the 2014 festival.”

Looking at the festival’s website, I can’t help but notice the impressive list of funders the festival has received backing from, such as the Scottish government, Leader, European Union, the Holywood Trust, the National Lottery, Creative Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

My concern is that funding is being provided for an event which implies coverage of the entire region yet it turns out that the festival doesn’t cover Wigtownshire. Also, from Peter’s initial reply, it would appear this has been the case for “six or seven years” now.

I replied to express my dismay that, despite the festival’s title suggesting it is a “Dumfries & Galloway” festival, there aren’t actually any events happening in the Wigtownshire part of the region and received the following: “Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival doesn’t hold a programme in Wigtownshire. This follows a split when West Fest was formed and took over programming in the west. They have an event called the Zombies at the Ryan Centre on May 16. Our main contact for West Fest is Irene Hawker, who is based in the Ryan Centre. They run a programme year round rather than over a concentrated festival period. More details on the Zombies can be found at http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10531

“Does that answer your question?”

I feel aggrieved about the situation because this event appears to receive a fair bit of financial support while bannering itself as a region-wide festival, which it clearly is not.

I have emailed Irene Hawker for information on West Fest, as Peter didn’t seem to have any, but I have yet to receive a reply. However, what West Fest provides is, as I understand it, unrelated to the activities of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival Ltd (as it is now).

I felt it should at least be questioned by those who might have better luck finding out exactly what the festivals remit is, in particular what it has explained its remit to be to its funders.

Name and address 


Return of 
the boxes

Why is Dumfries and Galloway Council now going to reintroduce recycling boxes? I was told by a local councillor a long time ago that we did not need to recycle and separate items as everything went to the recycling plant and it was all done there.

I always doubted that was the case but was proud to tell my friends outside the area that we had got it 
“sorted” and didn’t need green, brown and blue bins.

However, it seems my fears were justified and that we are going to revert back to hand separating. I just wonder how much the council has been fined for landfill over the past few years.

J Holiday,

Newton Stewart.