A selection of readers’ letters from the February 17 issue of the Observer.

I BUY the Observer every week and was sad to read about the Fernleigh Centre being sold.

There is (or was) a plaque in the basement – it was a thank you to my son Paul Woolgar, who used to help the youth leader.

They got permission to have one of the rooms that had been shut for many years turned into a small sports room.

He spent a lot of his spare time cleaning and decorating.

For the equipment they had to find the money, so we had a jumble sale which I helped with.

The reason I have written this letter is because the plaque was to do with my young son, who was killed in a road accident on December 25, 1987.

In the new year he was hoping to find out about becoming a youth leader.

J Woolgar (Mrs), Spitalfield Lane, Chichester

NOW RIVALLING the misuse of the apostrophe is the widespread misuse of the abbreviations am (for ante meridiem) and pm (for post meridiem).

Quite recently I have spotted a cafe stating that its service of lunch started at 12pm.

To confuse the issue further, until recently a well-known grocery store declared its late-night closing time to be 12pm.

Since ante meridiem (am) means before midday (between midnight and noon) and post meridiem (pm) after midday (between noon and midnight) the times quoted have no meaning at all.

Both cafes of course meant noon or midday and the grocery store midnight.

Other examples of this strange practice are to be found all around us, many coming from some quite surprising sources.

TG May, Albion Road, Selsey

MY FAMILY regularly use the 54 bus route between Chichester and Petersfield to visit Down Place (National Garden Scheme); Uppark House and Garden (National Trust); to walk into Walderton and Stoughton for pub lunches and access to the Downs; to visit Compton’s recently opened tea room and Petersfield’s surrounding area.

This service is important to the local economy, the community, and tourism.

Cllrs Dunn and Popperwell (do they use this service?) should know that I tried to promote the use of the 54 bus by urging Countryliner to promote themselves by placing a timetable in West Street’s main bus shelter when they took over the route.

I also suggested timetables be available in public libraries, information points, and tourist information centres, and to ensure that timetable changes were clearly publicised before, and not after, they occurred!

People are also more likely to be attracted to use buses on this route, if they are comfortable, and don’t resemble dirty rubbish containers: not to be able to see out of dirt-bespattered windows (a driver once told me the bus depot was a field!) and to travel in noisy, old, sub-standard buses, is hardly an inducement to use public transport.

Bus services cannot be run like taxis.

For buses to be regularly used, and to attract greater use, they must be part of a joined-up infrastrucure, part of an integrated public transport system.

There is no alternative to a regular, reliable, efficient and well-publicised bus service serving everyone’s interests.

Do we really want more polluting cars on ever more busy and dangerous roads?

Peter Lansley, Cedar Drive, Chichester

I WAS not surprised to read in the Observer that the Chichester to Petersfield bus service 54 may be axed as a result of the spending cuts.

Few people in recent years (apart from residents of the beautiful Downland valleys through which it passes) will even be aware of its existence, and to my knowledge this is the first time it has ever received any form of publicity, albeit unwelcome publicity!

But I remember the excitement in the early 1950s when Southdown introduced a brand-new Leyland Royal Tiger bus to operate the service, and lucky passengers could sit in a front seat next to the driver and enjoy the unfolding downland scenery.

For some years previous cutbacks led to the shortening of the route so it only went as far as Compton, but fortunately the full route was later restored.

When Stagecoach superseded Southdown they provided one of their smart orange and blue timetable leaflets for the 54, but now the service is operated by a different company, Countryliner, who only provide a photocopied A4 sheet.

The service is clearly uneconomic as it is operated under contract to West Sussex CC with financial support from Hampshire CC (who do at least include its timetable in a smart booklet of all bus and train timetables in the Petersfield area, but WSCC produces no such booklets.)

The loss of this service, which at present operates every two hours Mondays-Saturdays, would deprive non-car owners of a journey through totally unspoilt wooded downland scenery and iconic flint villages. Properly publicised and marketed, it could attract numerous visitors and tourists wishing to experience the new South Downs National Park.

The route connects two thriving centres, Chichester and Petersfield with rail services from London and elsewhere; the villages of East Ashling, Funtington, Walderton, West Marden, Compton and South Harting, all with village pubs serving excellent food; well-stocked village shops in Funtington, Compton and South Harting, a farm shop in Funtington and a teashop at Compton.

The route passes the gates of Uppark (NT) and crosses three long-distance footpaths (the South Downs Way, Monarch’s Way, Hangers Way and Sussex Border Path).

The market town of Petersfield is well worth visiting, and is planning a series of events in the Square during 2011.

I feel sure that service 54 could be a success but only if all those concerned are willing to work in partnership to produce a strategy and a business plan to meet the needs both of Downland residents and of visitors to the Downs.

Some bus companies have branded and marketed their routes, such as Stagecoach’s ‘travel 60s style’ to Midhurst or Brighton & Hove’s ‘Breeze up to the Downs’ services.

Everyone will be a winner if the 54 is resuscitated rather than allowed to die.

John Templeton, Washington Street, Chichester

I THINK it’s a shame so much fuss has been made over Central School’s playing fields.

I think the children should have a dog-free zone to play in.

I do walk a dog there myself and there is ample room and he is a golden retriever!

We could have lost it all but have been left with a good size to use.

I would urge all people using the field to exercise their dogs to pick up after them.

I was sad to see that someone had picked up but put the bag on the fence.

What’s the point of that?

I removed it and put it in the waste bin with my dog’s bag.

I would like the council to think about putting a dog waste bin in that part of the field being used by dog walkers as it’s sited a long way away now, and this might discourage misguided dog owners from (a) not picking up and (b) picking up but hanging it on the fence.

Liz Jones, Northgate, Chichester

IN SEEKING views on the £35m learning village planned for Southbourne, I would first like to make it clear that, in principal, I favour the project. 

However, I also believe that a number of accompanying issues require careful examination given its massive impact upon the Southbourne community.

To begin with, it bites heavily into the strategic gap, leading to the likelihood of adjoining greenfield sites more easily lost through the precedence of this project. 

As for the learning village itself, which will bring together so many diverse services, the area set aside for parking (only 92 places) seems less than suited to the needs of the several hundred car drivers who will be regularly drawn to the site.

To all this, I could also add the need for greater community involvement and discussion, the restructuring of a building timetable that provides immediate benefit to the school with any advantages to the wider community tacked to the tale end of the project. 

Additionally, there is the conundrum of where the money will be coming from, the announcement of the scheme coinciding with a time when penny-pinching savings are the order of the day.

 Over and beyond all these issues there is one that particularly concerns me.

What will happen to all the vacated sites that the project will leave in its wake?

Land currently occupied by the Age Concern building together with the infant and junior schools would be ripe for development – but what sort of development?

Southbourne simply cannot take further housing that is unsupported by improved roads and additional amenities so important for the development of community cohesion.  Indeed, does the current project take into account the housing that it will generate and the increased demand on school places that will be the inevitable result?

Philip MacDougall (Dr), Southbourne Parish Councillor

WHY IS it that it is seldom emphasised that when students have graduated they could probably earn a minimum of £100,000 more than non-graduates in a lifetime, and that they do not have to repay their grant until they are earning a reasonable salary?

I am aware that there are other factors involved and psychologically the sudden large increase must have put people off; but if they sit down and think about it, they and their parents might consider the investment is worthwhile.

WG Calvert, Chichester

YOUR ARTICLE on debt management (Help is at hand, February 3) suggested that non-payment of the TV licence fee can result in imprisonment or visits from bailiffs.

This is not the case.

The maximum penalty for watching TV illegally is a fine of up to £1,000.

A custodial sentence can be imposed as a result of non-payment of court fines, including fines for TV Licence evasion, but that is a matter for the courts.

TV Licensing does not use bailiffs to carry out any of its work.

TV Licensing always prefers people to buy a licence rather than risk prosecution and we aim to make it as easy as possible for people to buy a licence, which is why there are a range of payment options.

Visit or call 0300 790 6112 for more information.

Pauline Gillingham, TV Licensing

SOME OF my members feel that undue prominence in your Barkes at Large column, (February 10) was given to the fact that recently-elected leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has had two children with a lady to whom he is not married.

We feel that his political policies, and the direction that he hopes to take the party that he leads, are of more importance to many people than his personal life.

We also believe that in this era; when, (according to the Office of National Statistics, in 2009, the latest year available) 46 per cent of babies were born out of wedlock; his status confirms his claim to appreciate the situation of nearly half the couples in the United Kingdom.

Ben Earnshaw-Mansell, Media Relations Officer, City Branch of Chichester Labour Party

RE POSSIBLE closure of Chichester’s Tourist Information Centre.

When I first offered my spare room as B&B accommodation in 1983, ‘tourist information’ was dispensed by a lady standing at a small desk in the foyer of the Assembly Rooms.

Subsequently the facility transferred to the end unit of the converted church (then a shopping mall) opposite the cathedral – a perfect location, managed by Gillian Asher for several years until the business outgrew the premises and it was transferred to its present location at 29A South Street.

Not the most accessible location for people arriving in town by car and seeking accommodation.

Gillian Asher was eventually succeeded by Helen Wassell, now manager for several years.

Both these ladies and their staff have been the friendly face of Chichester – not only for holidaymakers in search of a room but for day-trippers and local people seeking information.

The idea of moving the TIC to the reception area of the new district museum is not a fresh one.

I remember reading in the pages of the Observer years ago – maybe nine or ten? – the projected scheme for the new building would include a Tourist Information Centre, and thinking what a perfect location with tourists coming to see the new attraction.

How come no provision was made for this in the final plans for the building?

The internet has been a mixed blessing for local tourism, helpful to all the accommodation providers in the area and at the same time depleting the income of the TIC.

However, there is still a section of the population that do not, or do not wish to use the internet and do not have a PC.

They still prefer to rely on information from tourist publications and the telephone to make their travel and accommodation arrangements using TICs as their point of reference.

Over the past 27 years I have been grateful for the able assistance to my business received from the staff both past and present at the TIC.

Chichester yearns to be among the top UK destinations, but one without some form of Tourist Information Centre?

I don’t think so!

Provision must be made for this important section of the local tourism industry.

Sylvia Jones, Englewood B&B, Chichester

MY SON visited Chichester on January 29. Overnight, while parked in Cherry Orchard Road, his car was hit and effectively written off by another vehicle.

The impact was to the front wheel and wing and the car was dragged backwards by about six feet and up on to the pavement. The driver then scraped back through the side of the car while driving away. Was the driver drunk? Probably. Was he driving too fast? Obviously. Were the police interested? No.

This driver clearly has no conscience so hopefully the damage to their vehicle, the resultant costs and problems caused by the ‘accident’ will be truly punishing.

In particular, I hope that my letter makes the family, friends and work colleagues of the culprit aware of their selfish actions.

On a more pleasant note, I would like to thank Doug of Douglas Vehicle Transport of Worthing for his help and for recovering the wreck for us.

MA Hawken, Liskeard, Cornwall

I am doing a little research on my ancestors. My grandfather Henry William Hammond was born in Pulborough and christened on July 15, 1850. He married Emma Hoskins in 1871 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1873 on the barque “Adamant” from Plymouth. He died in Christchurch on August 10, 1938. His father was Henry Hammond who was christened in West Chiltington on April 8, 1820.

I would be interested to know if there are surviving members of the family still living in West Sussex, and would appreciate any help in this endeavour.

Roland Henry Hammond