In the right area for committees

SIR – Area Committees. Ellie Clark and Cllr Derek Sheard (letters February 15) make a number of errors when describing the potential changes to NHDC s committee system. Damion Roberts this week ( More tax but fewer services February 22) also misses the p

SIR - Area Committees. Ellie Clark and Cllr Derek Sheard (letters February 15) make a number of errors when describing the potential changes to NHDC's committee system. Damion Roberts this week ("More tax but fewer services" February 22) also misses the point of the changes.

First, no decisions have been made. However, proposals have been widely consulted on at area committees and most recently at an all party workshop held for elected councillors. This discussed a wide range of issues associated not only with area committees but also changing legislation in the form of the recent Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill.

Secondly, the claim that power is being removed from Hitchin Committee is simply not true. Existing arrangements provide for area committees to have local powers and discretion. However, councillors are elected to serve the whole of the district and, in accordance with the relevant legislation, have a leader and cabinet taking the majority of executive decisions, and why not? They represent the majority party which has been elected democratically to do just that.

Planning decisions must be taken in accordance with planning law, not necessarily in accordance with the wishes of local people, so to describe the creation of a central planning committee as removing powers from Hitchin is quite wrong.

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Having opened the doors for consultation on this important issue we now find ourselves criticised for carefully considering the options, listening to the responses and expressing opinions on them. Ellie and Derek would be the first to cry foul if we didn't.


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Portfolio Holder

Planning and Transport

SIR - I was surprised to read that Cllr Bernard Lovell was unable to decide whether Hitchin councillors should continue to meet monthly on Hitchin Area Committee in Hitchin with Hitchin people, to deal with Hitchin matters, including planning applications.

Apparently, the group of Conservative councillors throughout North Herts feel that there should be one central planning committee, most of whom would know nothing about Hitchin, meeting in Letchworth, to decide planning applications throughout the district.

All Hitchin planning applications would be decided by councillors who would come mainly from outside Hitchin. Similarly, would Hitchin councillors understand planning applications for Royston or the Garden City? The proposal is nonsense.

They also want a Hitchin Area Committee as we know it, to meet only bi-monthly.

The other six meetings would be of Hitchin councillors with all the south area village councillors, who know little about Hitchin, just as Hitchin councillors mostly know nothing about village life and values.

Hitchin councillors should support local democracy and Hitchin Area Committee. They were elected by the people of Hitchin, not by the Conservative group. Cllr Judi Billing is an excellent chairman who endeavours to keep party politics out of Hitchin Area Committee anyway.


Lindsay Avenue


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