LETTERS: Comet August 8
THE letters in the Comet on Thursday August 8
CONCERNS OVER DEVELOPMENT SITE
SIR - With reference to the recent North Herts District Council consultations on land allocations in the district, we have particular concerns over one proposal and have made the following representation to them accordingly.
SITE 200: LAND NORTH OF BALDOCK
The Baldock Society wishes to object to this site for the following reasons:
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1) This scale of development would be grossly disproportionate in relation to the size and needs of the town. In its previous representations the society acknowledged the need for some development in Baldock, but a scheme on this scale would be overwhelming and destroy its special character as an historic market town.
2) It would be poorly related to the pattern of economic and social needs across North Hertfordshire and neighbouring districts. Putting such a large proportion of the district’s development in this location would not be an effective means of addressing the needs of Hitchin, Letchworth GC or Royston, nor indeed any needs arising from major centres just outside the district, some of whose needs may have to be met within North Hertfordshire (notably Stevenage, but also Luton).
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3) It would represent an unnecessarily large loss of Green Belt land around Baldock, when there are other options that do not involve Green Belt land elsewhere in the district. The council’s own site assessment acknowledges that the Green Belt in this location plays an important strategic role, by preventing unrestricted urban growth (although the society notes with concern that Green Belt impacts appear not to have been taken into account in the appraisal of additional Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment sites).
4) There would be a significant adverse impact upon the landscape and areas of archaeological importance. The Landscape Sensitivity Study prepared by Land Use Consultants draws the clear conclusion that the land north of Bygrave Road is of moderate to high landscape sensitivity, which would make residential development visually intrusive. In addition there are known areas of archaeological importance in the vicinity of the site that could be adversely affected.
5) The site would involve a significant loss of high grade agricultural land, in grades two and three, whereas other sites in the district may not have such an impact on this important agricultural resource.
6) There would be very considerable adverse transport impacts. It is difficult to see how development on such a scale could possibly be made to work, given the significant existing pinch points and congestion at the Baldock railway bridge and the A507/Royston Road/Whitehorse Street crossroads. Even if new connections were to be made with the A507 heading north and the A505/Royston Road junction to the east, neither would serve those wishing to travel through Baldock to Letchworth, Hitchin or Buntingford (experience has shown that despite the bypass Baldock continues to experience very significant flows of through traffic). It is clear that these potential impacts have not been assessed by the council: they are not addressed in the site assessment, nor in the appraisal of additional Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment sites, nor the highways modelling undertaken by Aecom (which makes clear that it has not attempted to assess the impact on the immediate road network surrounding the sites).
7) There are no obvious limits to the further outward growth from this site, if the principle of development here were to be established. There would undoubtedly be pressure to extend building northwards towards the A1(M) junction, especially for commercial development, which would entail a further significant loss of Green Belt land and further damage to the character of Baldock and its setting.
THE EFFECTS OVER RENT INCREASE
SIR - I am the manager at the Letchworth branch of Respond Services and following your article in the Comet regarding the proposed increase in ground rent at Woodside Industrial Park I wanted to express my concerns on behalf of my staff here at Respond Services regarding any likely increase in our operating costs and the effect it may have on our future in Letchworth GC. As you are probably aware we have been operating from the Works Road site for the past 20 years and as with all businesses we have seen our profit margins reduced drastically in what is now a very competitive and price sensitive market. Because of these small margins and the ease with which our company could rationalise their operation the proposed large increase in ground rent by the Letchworth Heritage Foundation puts our future and jobs at risk here, not to mention the cost to other local businesses we use should that rationalisation occur. Looking at the amount of for sale and to let boards on shops and premises around the town I wonder whether the Foundation has considered the implications of these cost increases on the town, local people and businesses.
PAYBACK TIME FOR OUR EFFORTS
SIR - For several years, Joe Public has expended countless hours of unpaid work, sorting rubbish for North Herts District Council. This onerous task has been forced upon us, and like lambs to the slaughter, we uncomplainingly comply. What a happy thought it would be if, (as a tangible display of their undying gratitude), We each received a free couple of bags of the recycled compost, for our gardens. I suggest Hitchin cobbled square as the collection point.
Mr B J SMITH
SIR - A fortnight ago my recycling bin wasn’t collected as it was “contaminated” (North Herts District Council’s words) with a cardboard like bag (Primark) but they do take cardboard.
This week they wouldn’t take my bagged textiles, as they were in a black bag. They refused to collect them. They want them in a see-through like Sainsbury’s bag, which I don’t have as I’m encouraged to use a bag-for-life.
1) Do I use a bin-bag for shopping?
2) Use a shopping bag for rubbish?
SIR - After my bin with the food and garden waste in had been left out in this very hot sun for two weeks it was not collected because someone had put some brussel sprouts in their original packaging.
I had to empty the contents into some plastic sheet and take it to the dump. By now it was rotten. Full of maggots and decomposing juices, stunk to high hell. The outcome of this is that I won’t be recycling at all in the future.
NAME and ADDRESS
SIR - Having read various letters regarding our new recycling arrangements it was an interesting minor point in Cllr Peter Burt’s letter last week that drew my attention, namely plastic bags. Isn’t it about time these pollutants were outlawed from all our shops and market stalls or at the very least replaced with bags that can be recycled? As a regular town centre shopper I am so frequently proffered a plastic bag whether needed or not; to which I always refuse. If shoppers realised that many of these bags often end up polluting seas and oceans and endangering marine life they might be a little more thoughtful and refuse the plastic bag or use an old fashioned reusable shopping bag. Some forward thinking authorities have taken steps to ban the one trip plastic bags in their high streets... Food for thought?
IMAGINATIVE PLANNING ON BROWNFIELD SITES
SIR - I should like to reply to Cllr Tom Brindley’s letter on North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) Local Plan Consultation. I agree that growth has to be sustainable, but I would submit that passively responding to growth forecasts of net migration, which result in take-up of the Green Belt, is unsustainable. Rather, the duty of local government is to establish a planning framework which defines that sustainability and does not passively respond to requests to water it down. Indeed, I confidently predict that, within a few years, NHDC will again be arguing in favour of yet more Green Belt take-up to meet the needs of upwardly revised estimates of net migration. This is not NIMBYism; I accept there is an accommodation crisis for young people. But let us plan development on brownfield sites imaginatively to meet the needs of the people of North Herts while avoiding, at all costs, urban sprawl as a solution. If people want to come to live in the area they are welcome to do so, but not at any price and certainly not at the cost of spoiling the environment which we, the people of North Herts, so treasure. My concern is that recent developments, such as these plans for expansion and the fiasco of the proposed redevelopment of Hitchin town centre, suggest that the council is hopelessly out of touch with the depth of feeling and interests of the community – sadly, bending to the will of Herts County Council. As a result, local authority consultation has become a futile box-ticking process and merely a statement of intent, regardless of local views. This is not a healthy situation and I would therefore urge Cllr Brindley and NHDC to think again.
COSTL FASICO NOT NEEDED
SIR - Can I thank Norma Atlay for replying to my letter in the previous week’s Comet. I thought it was a very defensive reply, probably because officers and her recommendation to delay Churchgate until the Local Plan was not accepted by councillors. I am well aware of the encouraging meaning of the councillors’ decision, it is whether a positive or negative approach is forthcoming within other areas of North Herts District Council. What is not required is another costly half a million pound and more Simons fiasco, born by ratepayers, which was doomed from the start. It wasn’t ‘best value’. All we ask is that the current excellent cooperation between Hammersmatch, market traders, Hitchin civic groups, Hitchin Initiative and many others trying to produce a successful plan is not hindered by negativity and stalling, but by positive help.
NEW PUB WILL BRING JOBS
SIR - Peter Herbert is correct when he says it is sad news that Thorntons in Hitchin will be closing – it has been a source of superb chocolates and a great cuppa for many years now. Let’s hope Hotel Chocolat pick up on this and move in there! However, I must disagree with him when he says about Hitchin not needing Wetherspoon. We had this rather snobbish attitude two years ago when Poundland and Peacocks were moving into the old Woolworths premises. Unfortunately Peacocks were not to be but Poundland has been accepted and we couldn’t do without it. So what will Wetherspoon bring to Hitchin? How about work, business and employment? Isn’t that enough?
CREDIBLE NHS POLICY NEEDED
SIR - Can the Patrick Newman who writes such perceptive and knowledgeable letters about problems with the National Health Service really be the same person who is so obsessed with Cllr Sharon Taylor’s workload? I am sure I am not alone in thinking that an experienced multi-tasker would bring an excellent range of experience and skill to the job of being Stevenage’s MP. If Patrick Newman really wants a Labour victory next time he could devote his time to helping develop a credible policy for the NHS.
IN THE DARK OVER SHADES
SIR - A big thank you to the person who did not return my prescription sunglasses. I have worked as a postman for 19 years and have served the areas of Walsworth and Grovelands for the last 12 months. During the morning of Saturday, August 3, while delivering to the garden centre on Cambridge Road, I used the facilities and left my glasses in there. When I popped back five minutes later they had gone and not been handed in. I was unable to then drive back to Stevenage and would like to say sorry to local residents if you received the wrong post.
NAME and ADDRESS
THANKS FOR FILM TITLES
SIR - I would like to write to express my thanks to Letchworth Broadway Cinema for showing their first ever subtitled screening for the deaf and hard of hearing on Monday, August 5. My daughter, Naomi, suddenly lost her hearing last year, aged 11. Naturally this was a huge and devastating shock for her and for us as a family. We were thrilled that Fearnhill School were still prepared to admit her as she had already been offered a place there. Thanks to their incredible support over the year she has finished Year 7 with flying colours. However, up until now, she has been unable to visit Letchworth cinema with her friends as they did not put on any subtitled films. The combination of a film she wanted to see, a few phonecalls to the cinema management and a quick Facebook campaign led to 80 people attending the first subtitled screening at the Broadway this morning. Thank you so much to Fearnhill for supporting her education so well; to the cinema for listening to us and acting upon it; but most of all to this wonderful community in which we live for getting behind us and making this happen. Thank you all.
SAD TO SEE LAUNDRY CLOSE
SIR - It is with great sadness that I have collected the last laundry done for us by Letchworth Hill Laundry, in Hitchin. After celebrating 75 years in business they have closed down. They have always been a reliable, caring and professional team of people, always with a cheery smile. We all will miss them and their much appreciated laundry service. May we, through your paper, wish each member of the team all the best for the future, not least Andrew for the valued service he and his family have given to the community for the past 75 years.
LYN and ROBIN NORTON