LETTERS: Comet December 20

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, December 20.

STEVENAGE DAY OUT

SIR - I just had a great day in Stevenage.

Let me say that again because saying it to local traders seemed to take some of them by surprise.

I and my family just had a great day in Stevenage.


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The cold and wet was chased away on entry to the old town by cheerful Christmas elves inviting all to a carol service and winter fair in a local school. High Street had life and interest because of a farmers’ market, the side streets repaid exploration with church fairs (and hasn’t the old town got a LOT of churches!). It was what any thriving town centre should be on one of the last weekends before Christmas – full of people and local community events.

I had to look for them mind!

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There were two church fairs in the old town and the Springfield House market, and the Thomas Alleynes winter fair with its 500-year-old buildings, and the farmers’ market in Middle Row which dates as a marketplace for almost 1,000 years was uncrowded but full. Parking was a dream. The quality of the farmers’ market was excellent. The church fairs were of mixed quality with some ‘doing their bit’ for their local community interest while more were, evidently, trying to lauch a small business. No-one who wandered through should be without stocking fillers! From socks to flowers to spices to scarves and gloves.

Everywhere stall holders bemoaned the competition but next year folks please plan for it!

Let’s get everyone out on the same day and make it a feature. The council could help with advertising and printing a map. And why not encourage people to make a day of it? The walk from the bowling green to train station is only a mile and it is lined with independent traders and charity events benefiting the local community. This with planning could be the one weekend when everyone avoids shopping in the supermarkets and lets the finance stay local.

There were bargains – a tray of eight cakes for �1 in Springfield House, a hog roast burger with all the trimmings for �2 at the school, a large jar of local honey for �4 at the farmers’ market, and three of my Christmas presents in the local shops cost less than I would have paid in a department store or in London. The carols were free, but I had to make an effort to find the events.

I collected eight separate flyers while walking through. The events are spread out and you need to know where you’re going – that’s where the council could help. This shouldn’t be a trip to buy a quick present, this should be something you do for fun for a few hours. A tenth of the cash spent on Stevenage Day and a little facilitation for what people are already doing for themselves and the council could be the small traders’ darling next Christmas. This, if done right, is a chance to promote everything that is good about the community at Christmas and to benefit local people and local trade. This year was good but uncoordinated and badly advertised. Few people except the stall holders had the date in their diary for ‘shop local day in Stevenage’, but with planning now, next year could be the start of something really big. Practice with the fairs at the start of the summer, coordinate with the community groups which will soon be planning summer fetes, and work to get the mince pie-hungry public thirsting for Hertfordshire’s finest Christmas cup of mulled wine by December, 2013.

There are approximately 80,000 people in Stevenage – we all spend a little extra at Christmas, next year let’s plan to spend a pound or two of that locally.

QUASI ME

by email

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UNSAFE TICKET

SIR - The response from Stevenage Borough Council (‘Double standards’ of traffic wardens) was correct but in this case the driver clearly did not stop in a careful and safe manner.

I would like to see him referred to the police and prosecuted for the following reasons.

1. He is facing the wrong way so he must have pulled across Bedwell Crescent and driven the wrong way down the street.

2. He is blocking the vision of a car should he wish to leave the drive of number 251 Bedwell Crescent. That is a risk to motorists and children from the school.

3. He is parked opposite the school so that traffic to and from the school is impeded.

4. He is parked on the approach to a bend and traffic island.

Should someone have an accident then I assume that SBC will be happy to pay compensation to all parties concerned.

They have a duty to take action when the action of one of their employees creates a health and safety situation.

Should they ignore these failures then they as a council will be liable.

I have no objection to parking enforcement around schools or any other area for that matter but not if it created the situation that it was meant to avoid.

Ron Seymour

Vardon Road

Stevenage

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POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER

Sir - Mr Lloyd’s �75,000 yearly salary. Dr Rachel gets �20,000 per year for a two day week. The Conservative gravy train rolls on.

I sincerely hope the lady and gentleman did not miss the opportunity to work a night shift in their local shopping mall. As Mr Cameron said “We are all in this together”.

I understand the deadly duo are now planning to increase the numbers in The House of Lords substantially. Our second chamber is already larger than most of our European partners’ put together. As our only growth industry at the present time appears to be the pawnshop, maybe we could now consider opening the Lords as a house of ill repute. We the poor tax payers might begin to see a return on our money.

Peter Jackson

Fir Close

Stevenage

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SIR - In last week’s Comet the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, David Lloyd, states that he is fully committed to cracking down on dangerous driving with a new campaign to stamp out the habit of motorists using mobile phones whilst driving.

In my opinion a �60 fine and three points on your driving licence is no deterrent whatsoever, and drivers will still take flyers on using mobile phones while driving, both taking calls and phoning out.

A little tip for David Lloyd. If you forget the campaign, but push for a �500 fine, and a six months driving ban I think you would see a significant reduction in drivers using mobiles on the road. Another plus point, this deterrent would reduce carnage and save lives, and reduce people-related injuries.

David Renney

Bearton Green

Hitchin

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NOT DELIVERING

SIR - The Post Office is past master of ‘Cocking the Snook’ at Joe Public.

Hermitage Road in Hitchin has lost its dual post boxes, and the two adjacent phone booths, which were perfectly positioned and much used.

The PO’s overriding mantra is “Charge more and provide less”.

Silly me! I expect too much!

B J Smith

Whitehill Road

Hitchin

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COMMUTER PARKING

Sir - I feel Mr Waples may have misunderstood the Green Party’s position on commuter parking (‘Support for council’s town parking solution’ – Letters, December 13) and I wish to clarify some points.

We support the ‘No waiting at any time’ restrictions which apply to all junctions on Common Rise, solving the problem of poor visibility. Surely, if there are cars parked in contravention of the Highway Code, the real issue is proper enforcement. Moving the issue from one street to another is not a sustainable solution.

We are aware that most households have access to a driveway. However, I would seriously question the need for a residents’ parking scheme if all residents had access to sufficient off-road parking. This is why we state it is a charge for leaving your vehicle(s) at home.

We would like to see a pathway from Benslow Lane Bridge opened because it would allow many people to avoid walking or cycling under the awful railway bridge on Cambridge Road. While it will not provide a complete solution, it is an example of a cheap proposal that will move us closer.

With regards to my address, it is my home address, and I do not own a car as I get the train then cycle to work. I stand to make no gain from where commuters park.

When many people are struggling with rising bills and stagnant wages Mr Waples is fortunate to be able to consider �84 a nominal fee. I would like to gently remind him that not everyone would agree.

If the proposal is revenue neutral then NHDC would have quantified what proportion of residents will be charged before reaching a figure of �84. I would happily issue a retraction on that point should I see a full forecast which shows that the scheme will be cost covering only.

Gavin Nicholson

Hitchin Green Party

Walsworth Road

Hitchin

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STREET LIGHTS

Sir - Just to add to the recent dialogue regarding street lighting.

I am largely in favour of lights out after midnight (perhaps 1am on Fridays and Saturdays might be appropriate) as there appears to be little evidence of increased crime or accidents during the enforced darkness.

To burn electricity for a handful of folk ambling about at three in the morning seems unjustified to me. I occasionally walk to Hitchin station to catch a 6am train to London and am happy to walk in this darkness and if possible, take a few moments to look at the stars in the dark sky. I’m not an astronomer or keen star gazer but having been lucky enough to witness the Milky Way from desert environments.

I fully support Robert Townsend’s assertion in last week’s Comet that the night sky truly is exceedingly beautiful and should be protected from light pollution.

Now I come to my main point of this letter. As I approach the station along Nightingale Road from the darkness of the surrounding streets I arrive at a car showroom. There must be 30 to 40 large spotlights illuminating a handful of luxury German automobiles. The whole showroom is swathed in bright light. Why? I see no-one at 5.45 in the morning peering in through the windows with cheque book in hand.

If they were to reduce this light show by 75 per cent there would still be sufficient light to deter even the most relentless criminal. Audi make great claims about the fuel efficiency of their cars and might like to consider their showroom energy consumption in the same way.

Ian Smith

Heathfield Road

Hitchin

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SPORTING PLAN

SIR - It was interesting to read that Blueharts Hockey Club felt they wanted to work with local residents to address concerns over their proposed residential development on Green Belt land adjacent to Lucas Lane.

After viewing the proposed plans last weekend it seemed quite clear there was no intention to compromise at all. In fact some concerns were met with almost arrogance.

Residents’ questions included:

Question: Being positioned right at the top of the hill, would you consider that a single storey development would have less impact on the local landscape? Answer : No, it would not provide us with enough money.

Question: Would you consider moving the development back a little further from the Lucas Lane boundary, in order to lessen the impact on local residents and those using the lane? Houses in Lucas Lane have restrictions from building within 45 feet from the centre of Lucas Lane, could you apply the same rule? Answer: No. Lucas Lane buildings are restricted to stop them from building towards the Green Belt. We will already be on the Green Belt so it won’t apply to us.

Concern: We have concerns about the extra traffic along Lucas Lane and further congestion in the area. Already many local residents from the surrounding roads choose to cut through Lucas Lane instead of fighting the congested roads of Oughton Head Lane and the traffic lights. Reply: Well, I can’t do anything about that.

Concern: We are concerned about loss of free recreation space. The area is currently used by dog walkers, children’s football and general play, joggers etc. Reply: Well, they’re all actually trespassing.

We are not opposed to Blueharts improving their sports facilities but are deeply concerned about the proposed residential building development on a recreational field and the precedent set by building on Hitchin’s Green Belt.

Name and address

supplied

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SIR - Thank you to Steve Barley for his letter urging Hitchin Town Cricket Club not to sell the Green Belt land on Lucas Lane for housing development.

May I add that part of this land was given to the HTCG by Hubert and Wallace Moss some 60 years ago and part was purchased from them on advantageous terms by means of donations and interest free loans from local people. It was to provide sporting facilities for the benefit of the community and restrictive covenants state that “there should be no…building…erected on any part of the land other than a sports pavilion”.

Would it not be better to involve the town in the plan to develop the sporting facilities rather than selling off part of its heritage? The clubs say they don’t have a benefactor, as in the late 1940s, but if they were to give a strong lead, I am sure there would be many Hitchin people who would invest their time and money in such an enterprise, making the site a real benefit for the whole town.

The clubs say that this will all take too long and never raise enough but there are the examples of Hitchin Rugby Club and the British School venture to name just two, where much has been achieved over a period of time and the future of our heritage has been secured.

And if the town was able to finance the sports ground back in the post war years of real austerity, surely we should be able to do so now.

The problem about the present HTCG scheme is that it is a quick fix. It is in effect the easy option but it doesn’t secure the area for sport in the long future.

What will happen in another 60 years if the Lucas Lane land is sold and the facilities have to be upgraded again?

You can only sell the family silver once.

Ann Heymans

Lucas Lane

Hitchin

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PLAN WARY

SIR - I read with interest the letter from Mick Bee (Comet, December 13), concerning the planning application for a care home on the Lannock School site

My advice to Mr Bee, based on the recent experiences of my neighbours and myself is (1) seek clarification from North Herts District Council (NHDC) as to the type of care home envisaged – there are many different types.

(2) Whatever reply you receive from NHDC, maintain close contact with what is developing, and in particular be wary of mention of “C2 use within the Use Classes order 2006”.

In June 2009, an application was made to NHDC for a ‘55 bed care home’ in the former Rentokil offices in Baldock, approximately 40m away from our house. I immediately queried what clientele would be catered for, and was informed by NHDC that it was to be a ‘residential care home for the elderly’. Obviously this was accepted and no objections were made to the planning application.

Fast forward to the Comet April 26 2012, in which an advertisement appeared for staff for this establishment, now called ‘Baldock Manor’, seeking employees to deal with ‘individuals with learning difficulties and mental health problems’. This was the first time any local residents had any indication of this change and when I queried this, I received the reply from NHDC that ‘C2 Use’ covered any ‘Residential Institution’, therefore whatever use was originally applied for, could be changed by the owners without the need for any fresh planning permission or consultations.

So, Mr Bee, forewarned is forearmed – you and your neighbours may have no objections to a care home for the elderly, but will the establishment or owners change their minds at a later stage? Remember, any such change does not have to be publicised!

Name and address

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