Thursday, May 31, 2012
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, May 31.
SIR - Can I make a special plea? If Top Field is allowed to be built on, can we please have homes on the site that families can live in?
No one wants to see a repetition of the Coopers Yard development in Hitchin where you have tiny flats built right on top of each other without room to swingthe proverbial cat.
The town has scores of unsold flats, starting by the station in Walsworth Road and right into the town and up to and including Coopers Yard.
The council should say ‘enough is enough’ if Top Field goes for residential development. Let us build semi and detached homes on the site where local families can move into, close to the townand local schools.
Property developers have been calling the shots for too long when it comes to cramming yet more flats into the town. Let’s build proper homes for Hitchin families.
SIR - Older Comet readers may have a feeling of deja vu when they hear Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust claim they have to sell Top Field to a property developer because they have to get “maximum value” for it as a charitable trust.
This same self-serving argument was used by the Caldicott Trust some 10 years ago when they demolished the Caldicott Centre in Walsworth Road andsold the site to a property developer for, you’ve guessed it, more blocks of flats.
That piece of vandalism, which made various groups, including Hitchin Boxing Club, homeless, was opposed by many in the town, none more so than the family of Colonel Harrison who had originally donated the centre to the youth of Hitchin some 50 years earlier.
The trustees were not made homeless. They refurbished a fine old Victorian building on the site, Lambourne House, where they continue to meet to this day under their new name, Hitchin Youth Trust.
Last year, according to their annual accounts filed with the Charity Commissioners, they spent £36,000 on refurbishing the building again. Among the groups using the building are the Cow Commoners Trust.
Like the Caldicott trustees 10 years ago, the CCT, who are not registered as a charity with the Charity Commission, are telling another group, this time the football club, that they too have to go as well so they too can make a financial killing in the name of charitable works.
It is all poppycock. The Cow Commoners were established over 100 years ago to “provide recreational facilities” for Hitchin. How does a football club sited outside the town in the parish of St Ippolyts begin to meet its duty to the residents of Hitchin?
Name and address supplied
SIR - As a Hitchin resident living near Top Field, I am appalled by the silence of the town’s councillors on the prospect of a giant Tesco replacing Hitchin Town FC on the site. Only one councillor, Judi Billing, has spoken out against the plan to move the club to St Ippolyts to probably make way for a firm which has sounded the death knell for many high streets in the UK. What about the other 12 members of the Hitchin Committee who are meant to speak up on the town’s behalf, including Ray Shakespeare-Smith, chairman, and his deputy Richard Thake? Both these councillors, and the rest of the Tory group, have long campaigned to preserve the Green Belt between Hitchin and Stevenage.
Now Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust and property developer Richard Daniels want to build a new ground smack in the middle of that Green Belt. I trust that the Tory group’s silence is not being influenced by the fact that Cllr Thake also sits on the Commoners Trust as one of its self-appointed trustees.
I for one do not want a replica of Tesco’s giant Baldock store built on my doorstep. It would not only ruin our quiet neighbourhood but mark the end of Hitchin as a market town full of independent shops. It is time for our councillors to do the job they were elected to do and speak for the people who elected them, not for “a get rich quick scheme” which will only benefit a few people at the expense of the town.
SIR - I was very interested to read the letter from John Thurston (May 10). I have lived in Hitchin for 70-odd years and have never seen such a mess as I encountered on Butts Close a few weeks ago. I took my small dog for our usual walk there to discover that I had to cope with a minefield. Sadly, I didn’t do a very good job of walking across the grass as it was very uneven with great clods of earth.
Needless to say I fell and broke my wrist in three places and dislocated my thumb. As well as suffering a lot of pain, I also spent two days in hospital as a result. My recovery will take approximately eight weeks and my life in that time is severely difficult with only one hand.
To be fair to Zippo’s Circus they did send me a very nice floral arrangement and a letter of apology, which was appreciated. However, I cannot help thinking how much more serious it could have been, especially if it had been my right hand and not my left.
SIR - Why has it become so difficult to get the police control room operators to take an interest when you report a crime?
Three months ago I reported to the police a suspicious van that was doing reconnaissance on every house on Ripon Road (Stevenage). The driver would observe houses from the front, a passenger would get out and observe from the rear of the houses. The police operator took little interest and said no car was available to send to a report of someone “looking at people’s gardens”.
The next day, a member of CID telephoned me to thank me for making the report and to say it was a shame no one had been sent to investigate, because “six other police forces in the South East and East Anglia have marked that van as a vehicle of interest”.
Last weekend (May 26) I phoned the police at 11.30pm to report that for the past two hours cars had been involved in street racing in St Nicholas, with multiple vehicles continuously racing up and down at extreme speeds.
The police operator told me I shouldn’t have dialled 999 to report ‘nuisance noise’ and refused to understand that it was the illegal and dangerous street racing I was reporting, not the noise they were making.
I do not wish to descend into making this a matter of party politics, but is this an intentional effort to trivialise reports of crimes in order to avoid having to send scarce police resources to investigate?
Name and address supplied
IN THE BAG
SIR - To the man who told me he had no bags when letting his dogs foul on Vardon Road’s pavement and to others who continue to let their pets defecate on Meredith and Vardon Road. Someone is watching and taking photos. So be aware as you know what you are doing is illegal.
Name and address supplied
SIR - Coalition MPs recently voted down an amendment to the Financial Services Bill. This would have regulated legal loans sharks and the charging of exorbitant rates of interest.
Tackling both illegal and legal loan sharks at the same time as promoting more ethical lenders such as Credit Unions like the Black Squirrel Credit Union is one way Government can do this, but sadly it seems to disagree.
An APR of interest of over 4,000% is morally wrong. The vote shows a Government out of touch, and one responding to the calls of its friends in big business in blocking this proposal. The fact that Tories such as Zac Goldsmith defied the Government Whips and voted for the amendment indicates this issue was seen as too important to simply fall into party line.
I would urge residents to challenge their MPs on how they voted on this very necessary measure and help put a stop to this shameful practice.
Cllr Clare Billing
SIR - Your article (Traffic Police focus on illegal numberplates, May 7) fails to give the whole story about the police ANPR system.
This is now perhaps the biggest system of mass surveillance of the citizens of a supposedly democratic country anywhere in the world. These cameras, now endemic in our area, continuously collect detailed data from every passing car and store it in a central police database. Not surprisingly, police websites are economical with the truth about this.
There is no statutory basis for this data retention, which is possibly illegal, and there has never been a parliamentary debate about it. Our local MPs are either ignorant of the scope of this operation, or have become so disconnected from the idea of a free society that they actually support it. We have no idea what may happen to this data, who will have access to it in the future or what sophisticated data-mining techniques might be used on it.
Policing in this country is frequently described as ‘by consent’, but no such consent exists for the collection of mass data on the movement of individuals against whom there is no reasonable suspicion. A line has been crossed here, and it seems to me that a police force which deems this to be acceptable behaviour should no longer enjoy public trust. So, Inspector Piper, no doubt you are very proud of removing the menace of number-plate font crime from our streets. Perhaps you would like to tell us exactly how much information you collected from innocent motorists?
SIR - I would like to respond to last week’s letter, Light Shock, about the scheme to convert about 70 per cent of the county’s streetlights to part-night lighting. This means lights will be turned off between midnight and 6am (plus or minus 15 minutes).
This is a policy agreed by elected members of Hertfordshire County Council to help ensure we make the very best use of council taxpayers money at a time when public finances are under significant pressure.
With ever increasing energy and carbon bills and the need to make savings of £215 million by 2015/16, we agreed changes to streetlighting to save about £1.3 million a year. At the same time we will achieve important reductions to our carbon footprint.
We recognise these changes may inconvenience a small number of people. However, we have to make difficult decisions to achieve our required savings while doing all we can to protect frontline services.
Promoting safe neighbourhoods is one of our key aims as a council so we have worked very closely with the police, district councils and road safety experts to identify where lights need to be kept on to safeguard pedestrians and motorists.
The police have reported there is no evidence of an increase in crime in areas where part-night streetlighting has been introduced. This situation will continue to be monitored.
Hertfordshire County Council remains committed to providing high quality, value for money services for local communities. We have a responsibility to all council taxpayers to make the very best use of their resources across all our services. This means ensuring money is spent where it matters most and where it has the greatest positive impact.
We have held Council Tax at 2009 levels and there has been no increase for 2012/13.
Cabinet member for highways and transport
Hertfordshire County Council
SIR - On behalf of breast cancer sufferers everywhere, I would like to say a huge thank you to all the Clinton Cards staff Stevenage.
Even though the company is in administration, and they face the prospect of losing their jobs, they have selflessly raised well over £1,000 towards the breast cancer campaign.
They have all been involved one way or another in organising fundraising events. The manager organised a ball and some of the staff did the midnight walk in London – so money is still coming in.
Of course, nobody hears about this, only the negative reports, so I hope you will print this letter as to me that makes them pretty special people.
SIR - Further to the article about Willow Lane/Charlton Road having become a major link between the A505 and A602 I would like to add a few comments.
The data regarding the excessive traffic volumes (53,347 in a week), speeding (13,315 travelling at over 35mph) and 254 overweight vehicles was collected by a police traffic survey in 2009. All this was presented to Herts Highways along with details of the crazy situation at the Charlton Road/A602 junction where more than 25,000 vehicles a week, including articulated lorries, are creating havoc as they desperately force their way across two lanes of fast moving traffic.
The solution put forward by Herts Highways to reduce traffic down Willow Lane is contained in the Hitchin Urban Transport Plan and amounts to improvements to roundabouts including traffic lights at the A505/B655 Pirton mini roundabout costing over £1m.
Apparently drivers will be so impressed they will ignore the shortcut and take the longer route. The truth is that this little windy B road has become an integral part of the road network, not least because its use has been encouraged by the introduction of the slingshot exit slip from the A602. It seems like we are stuck with the traffic volumes but at least those responsible should have the decency to take measures to protect the residence from the noise, pollution, speeding and heavy goods vehicles.