Monday, April 23, 2012
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, April 19.
SIR - There was an air of excitement amongst the parents and carers of Letchworth as the news travelled of the reopening of Howard park. The play area has been a much missed amenity during the regeneration and everybody was keen to see its return. However, I am regretful to say the general air of excitement soon turned to a general air of disappointment, as, one by one, parents and children visited the new local amenity.
Whilst there is a variety of lovely new and tasteful looking play equipment, there is a complete lack of swings. Pre-school children use this kind of facility on a regular basis and a lack of swings seems to be an unfortunate lack of forethought in my opinion. This is a desirable rather than an essential of course but the second noticeable problem was the total lack of shade, there has been no provision of shade either by the play areas or more importantly by the paddling pool. It is a large space yet has very little natural shade so this would have been of great benefit. The final yet most important note is the fencing. The fencing does not entirely enclose the play area enabling children to run straight out to the road of Rushby Mead. This also means dogs can run freely in the play area. Having two young children, I love living in Letchworth. There is lots to do and the Surestart centres are great. It is a luxury to have the space of Howard park and gardens and a benefit to have a local authority choosing to spend money on it. However, I question when planning such a development, how many parents’ ideas and opinions were actually taken into account. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I certainly hope the fencing issue can be rectified if nothing else.
SIR - There is good news for the Comet correspondents who have been expressing their concerns regarding the litter in our countryside. The bad news is for North Hertfordshire District Council and other councils in the area.
Chapter 43, and in particular part IV section 86 onwards of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act and the sister document Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse state very clearly the duties of county, district and borough councils in dealing with litter. The authority which has direct control of the land is responsible for litter removal. Litter should be cleared within a maximum of four weeks. An annual roadside cleaning schedule (Comet 29th March), as planned by the Strategic Director of Customer Services for North Herts District Council does not meet the desired standards. To donate almost £100,000 to Hertfordshire County Council for partial road closures is unacceptable, particularly as the county council may well be the authority responsible for clearance and therefore should be charged by North Herts District Council accordingly. I understand that it takes more than four weeks to obtain authority for a road closure.
Any person who is dissatisfied by the failure of the responsible authority to remove litter may apply to a magistrate’s court for action, by giving the appropriate authority seven days notice. (Section 91 ) I believe that the Environmental Protection Act is probably one of the best pieces of legislation to come from central government as it gives the general public the authority to ensure the cleanliness of our countryside. Obviously, litter should not be dropped but it is probable that litter simply attracts more litter.
We now have Parking Enforcement Officers, instead of friendly Traffic Wardens; should these officers be given additional powers as Environmental Protection Officers who could issue fines for dropping litter ?
SIR - Litter is dropped and accumulates daily and no council can employ enough paid litter collectors to clear daily.
The majority of people accept litter as part of modern life and only the minority voluntarily pick up and dispose of others litter into public or their own dustbins.Three cheers for the minority who appreciate clean surroundings. Until a future generation of children are educated of the virtues of clean surroundings the problem will continue. None of us will see the new era.
SIR - Sue Churchman’s letter on the 10/SB10 route is yet another ill-informed, politically-motivated hatchet job on Stevenage Borough Council for something that is nothing to do with them.
Most of the recent letters on this issue have been written by Conservative Councillors and their supporters in the town. To say they deserve the ‘Brass Neck award for 2012’ is something of an understatement. What appears to have escaped the various correspondents attention is that public transport in Stevenage is the responsibility of the county council. The Conservative county council, who recently cut the grant to support socially necessary services as part of the coalition cuts to local government funding.
The reality is that SBC co-funded, for a fixed period of time, out of the goodness of its heart, part of this route. But the responsibility for funding remains with county, not Stevenage. Centrebus run a commercial service for part of the day and the afternoon and Saturday service was provided on an experimental ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Centrebus has decided that the commercial service is not working out on Saturday - and Herts CC has also decided that it is not worthy of support - which I hesitate to say ‘fair enough’ but having spoken to the garage manager, he said that there were one or two passengers per trip in the afternoon during the week and on Saturdays.
It would actually have been cheaper for county to send these people to and from the Old Town by taxi. The same people who allegedly have complained to Conservative councillors about the withdrawal of the service on Saturday claim this is for pensioner hospital or doctor visits. The SB10 does not go past the Lister, and most of the doctors it passes on a Saturday are closed. As far as I am aware, SBC even offered to provide a community bus service to the affected areas, but this was turned down on the basis that the pensioners concerned wanted a ‘proper’ bus service, and not an on demand one.
Now, we could spend ages discussing the rights and wrongs of this and it would get us nowhere. But Centrebus are not a social enterprise, and run what it considers to be profitable routes, or routes that the county - not the borough - consider worthy of support. If the Tory councillors who have put so much emphasis on this in their recent, shameless campaign on this issue want to put their money where their mouth is, can I suggest they contribute money from their £10,000 per county councillor locality budget to support this if they feel so strongly about it.
My guess is that their interest in this issue will wane when the local elections are over.
SIR - I’m sure Matt Sutcliffe believes every word of his lengthy dissertation on giant windmills (Comet April 5), unfortunately for us, so does the British government.
Unfortunate, because they are spending billions of pounds of our money subsidising these Quixotic fantasies and the profits are given to the European companies that build them. The latest proposal, Navitus Bay, is for 200, 650ft windmills in an area as big as Glasgow, costing £3bn and despoiling the amenities of the south coast of England and the Isle of Wight. The profits will all go to Holland. The output of this field is supposed to power 800,000 homes but as the windmills rarely exceed 25% of their rated output the claim must be regarded as highly suspicious. That’s 800,000 homes where the lights go out every time the wind drops unless, of course, the windmills are backed up by those old ‘enemies’ gas or nuclear power.
As for saving the planet; the UK produces less then 2% of the world’s CO2, if we managed, at enormous cost to us, to cut it completely, we would make no difference at all to the global environment.
SIR – I am appealing to the public for information regarding a pothole or fault around a drain cover in Hertford Road, Stevenage next to the Roebuck Hotel.
In January I went down the hole around this drain and had to replace my tyre and wheel, missing a morning off work. I have subsequently tried to claim damages for the repair to my tyre from the council which denies responsibility.
I quote from their letter: “It is not uncommon for a pothole to appear within a short period of time, especially over the winter period with changing weather conditions. This is why in between regular inspections we rely on members of the public or the police reporting said problems to us.”
The last inspection on the heavily used road was in May, eight months prior to the incident and not during the winter when by their own admission most problems arise.
I personally did not realise it was the responsibility of the public to report potholes and other damage to the road. I really did naively believe that is what I pay car tax and council tax for.
I am therefore urging the public to report any potholes to the council highway department. To use another quote from the letter after I reported this incident it “was subsequently repaired”.
If anyone has any information regarding this fault, which has subsequently been repaired four times now, I would be grateful for the information. Many thanks.
SIR - I read with interest the two letters in your April 12 edition of The Comet, from Michael Watts and the person who declined to be named, concerning Greene King and Tesco over The Pelican Pub in Letchworth.
Both Greene King and Tesco have large and very experienced legal teams who are skilled at getting, what they consider to be, the right results for their clients. Councillors and council officers are inexperienced at dealing with them and will, almost without exception take the easy way out by granting any applications from them.
Local taxpayers can only let off steam by writing to The Comet, letters that councillors know full well will be replaced the following week by more letters complaining about dog mess, litter, parking etc. etc.
What else can you do. Well, speak with your local councillor - waste of time, he can do nothing, decisions are made by council officers. Write to your local MP - you will get a letter back from his secretary telling you that Mr Heald does not involve himself in local government issues. Write to Eric Pickles, Secretary Of State for Local Government - you may or may not get a reply. He did however step in recently over a case involving ratepayers and Mid Beds Council.
A drastic alternative is a revolution but anything to do with a guillotine would be frowned upon by planning, environment, health and safety, refuse collection, highways etc etc.
All you can really do is let off steam by writing another letter to The Comet and the bottom line is that this is what democracy in local government has come to.
SIR - I just wanted to write to say how much I enjoyed Vaisakhi in Hitchin on Saturday.
The Sikh procession itself was great - colourful, friendly and informative. And just as great was seeing people of all creeds and none turn out to enjoy the celebrations.
I also thought that the whole thing was really well organised and that the rolling road block worked well.
I do hope there will be Vaisakhi celebrations again next year!
SIR - With the local elections to be held on 3rd May, many candidates will be seeking our votes.
Perhaps a question to be put to those seeking re-election is ‘did you vote for the cuts in services to such things as CAB, litter picking, ground maintenace and grass cutting, and did you vote in favour of gifting £50,000 to Stevenage Football Club?’
It would be interesting to see the answers printed in your newspaper.
SIR - With regard to the latest plans to move the war memorial in Letchworth.
This is a subject that I have been on about to the council on a number of occasions in the past. Whilst it was always to be a very ticklish and emotive subject, there comes a time when practicalities must take precedence.
I am vey conscious of the importance of the memorial’s current position, my own father was a World War II veteran and until his death would always attend the Armistice Day Ceremony. However The memorial and its well kept surrounding garden, although in the centre of the town, sees little action the rest of the year and it’s proposed move would not impinge on its status one iota. Indeed relocation on Kennedy Gardens will ensure the memorial has a far more pleasant vista.
With appropriate hedging, paving and lawns much as it now has, it would still be a very apt spot and indeed a more serene environment for it. Any services held there would therefore be far more pleasant, there would also be more space and services would not incur the blockade of a number of roads as is the case now. I really do not think the move would incite more vandalism than we currently see in the town.
The somewhat crazy and totally dislocated bus stops we have in Letcworth bring constant confusion to residents and to concentrate them at a prescribed bus terminus in the railway station forecourt can ony be a good move for the town it will doubtless improve traffic flow. As well as helping visitors arriving by rail to persue their onward journey with far more ease.
The other criteria is of course the felling of even more trees from the town centre. This however has never bothered the LGCHF nor NHDC in the past so, they will have no qualms about removing them. Whilst I am very much against loosing more greenery, these trees are quite old and will at some stage in the near future have to come down anyway, much like those along Broadway and Kennedy Gardens, a few years ago, their replacements are already maturing into very pleasant examples. Hopefully there will be some space for some new trees to be planted in the new proposals. It is such a deplorable ashame that the authorities have un-necessarily felled other trees in the town in the past!
Barrie C. Woods
Letchworth Garden City
SIR - Free legal advice is under serious threat from Government cuts to legal aid. The House of Lords have voted to protect disabled people, children, and victims of domestic violence from the worst of these cuts, but it is vital Government don’t overrule them.
Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau provides support through legal aid and will have a substantial drop in its resources if the cuts go through, reducing the significant help we give to the disadvantaged in the community.
We would urge all residents to write to their local MP. You can do this via the Justice for All website at www.justice-for-all.org.uk Marian Hurle Bureau Director Stevenage CAB
WHAT A WASTE
SIR – Through the columns of your newspaper may I “thank” the mindless “humans” who, during the early hours of Saturday, April 7 took the trouble to deposit a vanload of rotting garden waste behind my property and that of my neighbours in Canterbury Way.
The stench is unbelievable and obviously the misery and telephone calls necessary is unbelievable.
I thought I had good fortune when I moved to Stevenage in 1961 when people pulled together to make a nice place in which to live, but I now fear for my children and grandchildren.
These people stoop so low to perform acts such as this – thanks a lot – at nearly 80 years old I am too old to move away.
ANN N SMITH
SO ANGRY AT COUNTY COUNCIL
SIR - I am proud to say that I am a teaching assistant at TRACKS autism, I have been so for two years and I can honestly say that this is the first job I have ever had that I have actually been proud of and genuinely enjoy.
I am so angry and confused about what is currently happening with Herts County Council at the moment. We offer and provide a service that is second to none and we are definitely a service that is needed not only by our children but by their families too. It is an absolute pleasure to have the honour of working with our children and their families on such a close and personal level and the children who attend TRACKS autism are truly special children and they all have their own way of making us know that what we all do for them is appreciated, it may not be a spoken word but a smile from a child who has no other way of communicating is enough to make us all realise that everything we do is worthwhile.
It is not just the children who attend TRACKS autism that make my job so special, it is also all the staff and volunteers who I have the honour of working with, we all love the work we do and the children we work with and it would devastate us all greatly if TRACKS autism had to close.
I would love to be able to say that I will work at TRACKS autism until the day I retire (and I really hope that I will be able to say this in the very near future) but the way things are going at the moment, this is something I cannot allow myself to say because of what is happening with Herts County Council.
TRACKS autism is strong because of all the dedicated staff, volunteers, people who are on the board, chairpersons, parents and all those many, many people who work to help TRACKS autism and we will remain strong and I for one will do whatever I can to ensure the future of our lovely little dedicated family that we call TRACKS autism.
We are not going anywhere, we will be there to help those children who need our help in the near future and in the far future. You never know, it may be a child you know that needs our help, and we will be there for them to provide it in the exceptional way and with the love and dedication that we have shown each and every child that has attended TRACKS autism over the last 10 years.
And can I also point out that we have eight children in a session, not in total, attending TRACKS autism. We currently have 16 children who attend and this number is on the increase.
(TA) at TRACKS autism,
SIR - I read the article ‘Sixty Police Officers to go in Cuts’ on April 12 with sadness and concern. I was then confused as it was only a couple of weeks ago I read a letter from Cllr Fraser stating that a campaign alerting people to police cuts had been caught “bang to rights”.
It appears cuts in police officers are indeed the case and with people worried about security when streetlights are being turned off in the night – this can only be a very bad decision.
Our police are one of our most important services and we should do everything to be supporting them.
SIR - We hear so many stories and comments these days about the lack of “values” and morality in modern Britain.
So may I put on record the fact that my credit card wallet, with six bank cards, cash, driving licence, bus pass, etc, was handed into Arriva Bus Company’s lost property office by an unknown finder.
My thanks to those involved, Britain, (and perhaps Stevenage) may not be “Great” anymore, but there is much to be pleased about in this level of honesty.
Thank you finders. One good turn deserves another, an appropriate donation to charity has been made on your behalf.
My thanks to those involved.
SIR - Fishers Green has mounds around it to prevent parking on the grass.
These mounds are beautiful in the spring with daffodils, but once the flowers are over they are mown as is the rest of the green. I would like to plead that they should be left unmown. There are plenty of wild flower seeds already in the soil which would, if left alone, be beautiful in the summer. If you look at the mounds at the moment you will see some of them already in flower except for where the soil has been scraped bare by the mower. The mounds are quite steep and the mower is not easy to handle without doing some damage to the mounds themselves as the rain washes soil down from the bare parches. Why not try neglect at least until late autumn?
SIR - I feel I must take issue with the Stevenage front page story the paper ran last week – it’s time to put a few issues straight.
While Mr Clark is the front person for the ‘Shephall Residents’ Group’, the chair and main figure of the group is none other than Cllr Michael Hearn, whose motivation in this issue particular is unashamedly political. Put simply, anything the council does is automatically wrong.
The genesis of this issue was born in the dying days of Stevenage Homes Limited. Because Cllr Hearn – incidentally a member of the SHL Board – and his party were against the council taking the housing back under direct council control, at the last moment, they tried to set up a Tenant Management Organisation (ironically, a Labour Party initiative) to stop the transfer back to the council. This failed, and so now to try and do the same thing, they now wheel out this rather dubious ‘initiative’. If Cllr Hearn was so keen to set up a TMO, why did he wait until until the last minute to suggest this?
As regards the ‘increased dissatisfaction with services’ I would also ask Cllr Hearn and his group to do an FoI request to the council to see if the reality of the ‘increased number of complaints made to the council’ has any basis in truth. Somehow I doubt it.
Additionally, sending round a questionnaire that asks what they want to do ‘about this unsatisfactory situation’ smacks of a predetermined outcome, to be honest.
Surely, the biggest judge of whether residents are satisfied with council services are the more or less annual elections in Shephall and Bandley Hill – elections, incidentally, that Cllr Hearn’s party have not won in decades. So, instead of an elected councillor who you can vote in and out of power, Cllr Hearn wants to replace this with a board with limited representation. Indeed, while most tenants and residents groups in the town allow and invite local councillors, this so-called ‘ Shephall Residents Group’ decided not to allow councillors – all Labour councillors, strangely enough, to attend. And then expect the same council to give them money. The residents group I attend, invites all local councillors, Labour, Liberal, Conservative, whoever wishes to attend. And guess what, one of those councillors is... Cllr Michael Hearn.
SIR - Stevenage has suffered a great loss with the death of John Harwood Austin.
His knowledge of Stevenage and especially of the old town was amazing and he could tell you all the history of the buildings in the High Street and of all the people who owned and who worked in them over the years.
At his funeral service, last Saturday, it showed how much he was thought of with the church overflowing. The tribute given at his service by the Rev Mervyn Terrett caused much laughter and tears of the different aspects of John’s life.
My family was very fortunate to be close friends of John, and our love goes to Jean, David, Claire and her family.