LETTERS: Comet December 31

The snow has affected bin collections

The snow has affected bin collections - Credit: Archant

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, January 31.


SIR - I’m writing to complain about the council’s policy on waste collection since we had snow. I understand that snowfall causes problems but their policy as stated on their website is an absolute disgrace.

We now have full black bins and are told that there will be no catch-up collections. We are being asked to wait another fortnight in order for our bins to be emptied, that in itself is not on.

However, what if in two weeks time the snow returns; are we then to wait another two weeks. This situation is highly unsatisfactory and clearly an awful decision. I wonder if there is any chance of getting a name of the person or persons who made this decision. I’m sorry but such bad decisions like these shouldn’t be allowed to be made facelessly.

Chris Walton

Edmonds Drive

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SIR - I live in Benstede, Stevenage, and on Wednesday last week our bins and six others were not emptied.

The council has said this was a health and safety issue because of ice. They emptied all the other bins in our road and they had to step on ice to do so. Near our bin we clear a path where there was no ice or snow, and others would have walked on soft snow. I phoned the council and informed them and they said they would come out Friday. They phoned on Thursday and said they will come in a fortnight’s time and take extra bags. No way will they take a fortnight’s worth of bags. Also this year a lot of us got together and cleared the top of the road where it slopes. I believe the bin men thought they could not get down this road and when they saw it clear they had to make up time, hence the bottom did not get done. Also health and safety is a joke – the pavements and cyclepaths are so dangerous with ice. They don’t clear it but don’t want their men on it!!!!!

My wife and I will be dumping the rubbish outside the council offices in Stevenage. They can’t come to us but we can go to them.

Geoffrey Millman

Address supplied

Parking cost



SIR - I was delighted to see in your recent report that Sharon Taylor and fellow members of the Stevenage Labour Party were challenging the 4.2 per cent average fare increases that Stevenage commuters were hit with by First Capital Connect this January. She felt they were already being squeezed by low, or no, wage increases and stated that this was not fair on hardworking local families and individuals.

I was less delighted when I discovered that station car park charges, controlled by Stevenage Borough Council, have risen by 8.3 per cent in the week and 12.5 per cent at weekends. In fairness, there had not been an increase last year, but to put this into context, since January 2006 the price of an annual car parking season ticket has more than doubled, rising 116 per cent, compared to an annual rail season ticket which has risen in the region of 40 per cent.

It would be gratifying, if perhaps unlikely, that a politician would for once pursue a course of action that was consistent with what they were telling others to do.

David Yates-Mercer

Foster Close




SIR - As a Westmill resident for many years I welcome the recent announcement that proposals are being recommended to NHDC along with North Hertfordshire Homes to the sum of £6.4 million – according to last week’s Comet – to substantially redevelop the community and local shops on Westmill along with the provision for more affordable homes.

However, before we all get carried away with this proposal, marvellous as it would be should it come to fruition, let’s not forget that a similar plan, previously agreed in recent years, was later abandoned in 2009. From what I recall, to the best of my knowledge, the previous plan to build a new community centre combined with a launderette and community cafeteria was virtually set in stone and yet eventually scrapped. So, if this new plan is given the green light for planning consent I hope that it is carried through, fully completed and that we are not given false hope for a second time.

Such an economic investment would really lift the morale of everyone living on the estate. This is a terrific community to be a part of but is sadly blighted by the visually obvious current run down state of the empty shops that could be transformed for the benefit and use of everyone who works and resides here.

Jackie McDonald

Moss Way




SIR - I would like to express my thanks to the team of gritters and council workers who managed to keep Stevenage moving during the recent snow and icy conditions. These guys and girls, have been out in the worst of the weather and in all hours, making sure our major road infrastructure is kept snow and ice free, and safe for all.

Thank you all, our deep freeze heroes.

Matt Young

Leaves Spring



Sir - Could someone at Herts Highways please explain the logic of clearing Hitchin town centre of snow but not the pavements to be able to get to the town itself. Shoppers are having to walk on the main roads to get to the town and, of course, this is against the law and shoppers doing this are being stopped by the police and advised accordingly.

I lived in Scandinavia where pavements are cleared by miniature snowploughs, which also grit. So the technology is available, but there appears to be a blind spot with regard to Herts Highways’ thinking.

I would imagine there could be a backlog of legal claims against the council for injuries sustained by slipping on untreated pavements,which of course could increase council tax.

Robert West

Hollow Lane




SIR - Cllr Cowley told the Comet that the council had “offered the bridge club other alternate venues in Hitchin including four community centres”.

Hitchin Bridge Club has received suggestions for alternative accommodation from North Herts District Council but no offers, as Cllr Cowley claimed.

Firstly how can slots in community centres already hired by other organisations be offered for use by the bridge club when they are unavailable?

Secondly, Cllr Cowley has never visited the club, is unaware of the basic requirements flourishing clubs need to operate and clearly doesn’t care that current users of Bancroft Hall will be homeless if the hall is not replaced. So much for ‘community engagement’.

The council keeps asserting incorrectly that there is plenty of alternative accommodation, failing to acknowledge that the bridge club needs a sizeable space to provide its active, growing public benefit.

Other suggestions included disused public toilets, a small (far too small to be of any use) commercial first floor premises with no disabled access, a commercial building about to be demolished and a county council property which wasn’t even available to hire.

Research has shown that regular mental activitiy such as bridge can significantly lower the risk of developing forms of dementia and social interaction can stave off cognitive decline.

In April, the Government is passing the responsibility for public health to local authorities. Does the council deny there is a problem with the health care for the elderly locally? Isn’t it about time it recognises that by supporting the club’s activities, and other groups who use Bancroft Hall, allowing them to flourish in centrally located premises, can bring win-win community benefits.

Christine Gray

West Hill




SIR - Adrian Hawkins’ rather thinly disguised party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party last week recycles all the same usual ridiculous clichés and half-truths about “Labour Party hostility to business”, and the brave new world and welcoming environment that the present administration brings to North Herts. Try telling that to the owners of numerous small businesses who have fallen by the wayside, not due to red tape but a recession triggered by deep cuts to the economy wrought by the Government.

Let us remind ourselves of the facts. We are in the midst of a ‘triple’ dip recession that has nothing to do with the “toxic legacy of the previous administation” and everything to do with cuts to a wide area of the economy – vital infrastructure projects have been cancelled or put on hold, housebuilding is at an all time low, and lending to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) has all but ground to a halt.

The Government has released money to banks to lend to SMEs, but the banks have either spirited the money to (cough) “more tax efficient locations” or just simply held onto it. It is to the banks we should look for the blame for their irresponsible behaviour and poor business decisions. When did the Conservative Party criticise the previous administration for letting the banks off the hook from 1997-2010? Never.

Can I suggest Mr Hawkins takes his rather dubious offerings back to the opinion pages of the Daily Telegraph where they belong.

Ric Euteneuer

Address supplied



SIR - Hitchin Churchgate proposed development.

“There are none so blind as those who cannot see”.

Last week I attended a meeting held by Churchgate Liaison Forum, to allow developers Simons to host a question and answer session regarding their extensive plans for the redevelopment of Churchgate and Hitchin market.

Attending were around 100 people among whom were various vociferous and apparently angry individuals and groups from what appeared to be ‘The Ostrich Society’, ‘We were better off when the Romans were here Society’ and ‘The Let’s Not Change Hitchin for another 100 years Society’.

I am not exactly a youngster myself, but it seems to me that among these groups were people with an average age well in excess of 70 and a good number well into their 80s. It seems they wish to oppose the redevelopment for no logical reason other than they ‘don’t want change’.

Simon, the proposed developers, were hit by a bombardment of objectors, who could only pick on the very few negatives of this proposed development, with hardly a person standing up to be counted as seeing that this is something fabulous for the town.

Hitchin is a lovely market town with a lovely mix of streets. However, at this moment in time Hitchin has several serious flaws in its presentation and those are the ‘eyesores’ of Churchgate and the market and the periphery car parking that surrounds the east side of the town.

I do hear some of the septuagenarians and octogenarians crying “What about the view of The Biggin and the views of St Mary’s?” Well, I do believe that these can only be enhanced by new buildings complimenting the old. Perhaps some of these people don’t travel down to London and see how well some of the fabulous new buildings being constructed sit against ancient monuments. Perhaps they prefer the existing views of cars strewn around the streets, especially on market days, parked on double yellow lines.

And what about the plans for the market itself? Plenty of well planned, well laid out spaces for the traders to market their wares.

The various short-sighted societies previously mentioned are grumbling about their parking spaces being eroded. Not true. The development offers more spaces than we currently have and better presented so that we don’t have to look at so many cars, but instead have them parked in a semi underground lot, which will be “disguised to look like a small office building with ‘windows’.”

To top it all at this meeting, the plans called for an ‘anchor’ store, a prime high street business that would then encourage an array of new businesses to the town to fill these spaces. One disillusioned chap stood up and said, and I quote, “but we already have an anchor store, it’s called John Lewis”… at Welwyn.

In my humble opinion, Hitchin needs this development to secure its future for the next 50 years and on.

Unfortunately, I will be away on January 31 when a vote by NHDC councillors will take place on whether to extend the developers contract, otherwise I would be pleased to attend this meeting at the council chambers and speak in favour of the development.

I am fearful, however that because a larger negative element will attend this meeting the wrong decision will be made unless the youngsters and young thinking positive element in the town attend to support the scheme.

For clarity, my wife is Cllr Tricia Cowley, however, these are my own specific views and not necessarily endorsed by her.

Laurence Cowley

Address supplied


SIR - I am writing to ask Cllr Needham that she does not perpetuate the mistake of her predeccesor by agreeing to the request from Simons to extend their three year contact at tonight’s (January 31) council meeting.

Cllr F John Smith bought a pig in a poke when he agreed the deal three years ago. You do not have to repeat that mistake tonight.

How Norma Atlay (project leader) justifies such a contract will remain one of life’s abiding mysteries. Consider the facts.

1. Simons will only be charged 10 per cent ground rent while Hammersmatch now pays 40 per cent.

2. They are given for free the Biggin Lane car park and keep all the subsequent profit from building and selling town houses on the site.

3. They keep the entire income for the next 250 years from a multi-storey car park, a deal unheard of in any other local authority in England.

4. Their proposed car park and department store will block off views of St Mary’s Church, the jewel in Hitchin’s crown.

5. St Mary’s square is an area designated for “enhancement” on the town plan, not for building on.

6. English Heritage has dismissed Simons’ plans as “totally alien” to an historic market town.

7. There was no public consultation with the people of Hitchin before the council signed off on the deal in March 2010.

8. Simons has not met any of the supposed deadlines for submitting detailed plans. Indeed, it has ignored local people for 22 months by not holding any public meetings.

9. The council has already spent £1m over the past decade on failing to agree a sensible plan for Churchgate. It cannot seriously now propose to give Simons a further £2.1m for a plan which the vast majority of Hitchin people want nothing to do with.

10. Private Eye has called the contract “a sweetheart deal”. Editor Ian Hislop is absolutely right.

Given the above, the council must vote ‘no’ tonight.

Tom Condon

West Hill




SIR - Re the letter from Cllr Roberts in regard to the county council’s decision to close the respite provision at Wilbury House.

As a parent of one of the young people who will be impacted by this decision, I feel Cllr Roberts continues to peddle the view that the families who currently use Wilbury House will be better off elsewhere. The parents and carers have asked repeatedly in what way, given Wilbury House is a state-of-the-art facility to which all the children enjoy going. Ripon Road represents an improvement? Specifically, how can county justify the closure of a provision only refurbished three years ago; how does the alternative, which is not wheelchair friendly to the upper floor, provide better accommodation; what new services is it proposed be offered at Ripon Road that cannot be offered at Wilbury House?

The list goes on and on however we have not been afforded answers.

Cllr Roberts states that he and his council colleagues have been in contact with those impacted. The truth is we were told that Wilbury House was closing after the decision was made and that ‘contact’ has in no way constituted a dialogue or consultation with us.

The situation is being forced upon us.

Clare Botterman

Address supplied



Sir - I would like to propose a competition for all those involved in the design, construction, and modification of road junctions. The prize will be a school geometry set for every entrant.

Hopefully, this might ensure that, in future, all such roadworks will consist of safe, easy to use road features and never again will we hear the over worked phrase “Lessons will be learned”.

Brian Roberts


Letchworth Garden City