LETTERS: Comet January 10

This week's Comet letters

This week's Comet letters - Credit: Archant

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, January 10.

SIMONS’ BRASS NECK

SIR - Although 2013 is only two weeks old, Simons must get the brass neck award for 2013 already for its brazen behaviour over its stalled £50 million plan to build on 7.5 acres of Hitchin town centre.

Not content with asking NHDC to extend its exclusive three year deadline by another six months from March, the Lincoln based developer is also asking the council to cough up £2 million to fund its latest plans for this enormously unpopular scheme.

It is asking for the gift because it has been forced to scale back its ambitions to concrete all over St Mary’s Square and block off views of Hitchin’s oldest building, the 1,000-year-old St Mary’s Church.


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By reducing the level of the planned four-storey car park and four storey department store, and widening the gap between the two buildings, it claims the “economic viability” of its plans have been altered and it now needs £2 million from NHDC to go ahead.

This is despite being given for free the Biggin Lane car park to build town houses on and all the income for the next 250 years from the new St Mary’s Square car park, the first such council giveaway in England.

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As I say, brass neck or what? Even their claim for just a six month extension is not accurate.

Under the revised plans displayed in Hitchin last week, Simons disclosed that a detailed planning agreement cannot now be achieved before at least the summer of 2014.

So they are in fact asking for an 18 month extension. That reality is hidden by asking initially for six months, a ploy to hide the embarrassment of council officials and councillors who signed up to this disastrous deal three long years ago.

It is not only Hitchin councillors who have been given the run around by Simons. In Dorchester, where another town centre redevelopment by Simons has run intro controversy, the Lincoln based firm has been given a £250,000 council loan to fund its planning application!

As NHDC has already spent £1 million in a decade of failing to agree with the people of Hitchin on how to develop their town centre, it must surely now be time to give Simons a one way ticket back to Lincoln?

Tom Condon

West Hill

Hitchin

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PUTT AT EASE

SIR - After playing nine holes of golf on Saturday, I suddenly realised that I couldn’t find my wallet.

After searching my golf bag and then my car, I headed home trying to think where I could have lost it. Having stopped at the BP garage in Letchworth GC to buy a paper before I went to golf, I stopped there on the off-chance that it was there. I had apparently dropped my wallet on the forecourt full of cash and credit cards and someone had had the decency to hand it in to the garage staff.

To that anonymous person I would just like to say a very big thank you, not only did you save me all the hassle of having to cancel credit cards etc, but you reminded me that there are still plenty of honest people in the world. And thanks also to the BP staff who made an effort to contact me to let me know they had my wallet in their safe. Happy New Year to all of these good people.

Roy Duckles

Address supplied

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TABLE HELP

SIR - As chairman of Letchworth Round Table I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Letchworth GC for their extremely generous support with their donations to our recent collections.

The members of Letchworth Round Table and volunteers spent most of the two weeks prior to Christmas taking Santa around the streets of Letchworth and in the town centre. It is one of the highlights of our Table year to see the joy on the faces of young and old alike when they see Santa. We often hear from residents that they know Christmas is coming when they see the sleigh.

Despite continued tough economic times we are continually amazed at the generosity of the people of Letchworth and I am pleased to say that we collected over £3,000 this Christmas. The funds raised by these collections help to make a difference to some of the less fortunate residents of our town as we delivered over 200 food hampers this Christmas.

We would like to ask your readers to contact us at info@rt81.org.uk or the address below if they know of a friend or neighbour who would benefit from one of our food hampers. Also, we are always seeking new members of Letchworth Round Table. If anyone would like to find out more please visit us at www.facebook.com/LRT81 or contact us at info@rt81.org.uk.

Dan Ince

Letchworth Road

Baldock

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HIGHWAY SLACK

Sir - I must echo Robin Parker’s comments in last week’s Comet regarding the slow response times to fixing highway faults.

I currently have 34 cases classified as “scheduled” dating between October 24 and December 27. These generally relate to unlit street lights with others concerning unlit zebra crossings, safety bollards and lights on during the day. The last case classified as “complete” is dated November 5. The service used to be very efficient with straightforward faults being fixed in less than two weeks. The response times seem to have degraded remarkably, possibly due to the contract change mentioned by Cllr Parker.

It would be interesting to know what the contract says with regards to the expected service, are we now getting what we are paying for? Maybe it’s a way to help cut the electricity bill as part of the cull of night time lighting.

Thomas Young

Address supplied

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COUNCIL CASH

SIR - Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in moving council tax benefit from central government to local government, to reduce central government spending, seems to have dropped a rather large clanger (perhaps, even a famous Bedfordshire Clanger?).

As a consequence, local government is having to raise council tax to generate the funds to provide this new local version of council tax benefit. Unfortunately, in many cases, this would result in councils having to raise council tax beyond the two per cent limit pledged by the Tories and automatically result in capping.

Now for the sleight of hand - the solution, at least in Central Bedfordshire and, no doubt, in many other areas, is that the bottom rung of local government, town and parish councils, which are not subject to capping, have been instructed that it is their element of council tax which is going to be increased, to generate funds they will not control but which will be sequestered by district councils and unitary authorities.

So, when your council tax bill lands on the door mat in a few weeks time, check it carefully. In the majority of cases, the district and unitary councils tax increases will be below two per cent but you will find significant rises in your town/parish council tax element. This is not a consequence of profligate spending by town and parish councils but the consequence of Mr Pickles moving council tax benefit to local government and trying to avoid, on a technicality, breaking the Tory party pledge to cap council tax rises to two per cent.

Dr L P Stoter

Astwick Road

Stotfold

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Gipsy proposals

SIR - What lovely New Year’s gift Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) has bestowed on us in Stotfold;

News of a proposed gypsy and traveller site on land off of Arlesey Road.

This is all due to the development of the proposed new sport facility being given the green light back in November. I knew it would happen although our town councillors said not!

It is now time for those town councillors to wake up from hibernation and smell the coffee or rather the stench of selling this town down the river!

My question is; will Central Bedfordshire Council be compensating us all for our loss value in our properties! I estimate up to minus 30 per cent.

I hope Mr Richard Carr (that CEO that costs us £180000 plus per annum) of CBC can convince us all that I am wrong or better still tender his resignation along with the equally useless councillors Barker, Dalgarno, Jamieson, Jones, Saunders (both), Spurr, Young.

Perhaps we Stotfold residents should withhold our council tax? If we all did that would that not underline our valid protest?

Thanks a bunch CBC.

Happy New Year to you too.

William Waterman

Arlesey Road

Stotfold

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FALL FAVOUR

SIR - I would like to put the following message in your paper to say a big thanks to two ladies who helped me when I slipped over coming out of the back of M&S last week.

It certainly was a good deed of the day.

I would like to say thank you very much to two ladies who were standing outside the store about 3pm on Friday December 28 for helping me up off of the ground when I slipped over.

I was in a lot of pain and I don’t think I thanked you both properly. Thank you very much.

Mrs G Taylor

Address supplied

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DOG DANGER

SIR - My husband was walking our dog in Fairlands Valley Park at about 5pm on Wednesday January 2 when he was approached by six or seven bulldog type dogs, some on leads and some not, who proceeded to jump on our dog attacking him.

My husband was then entwined in the leads of the dogs and was pulled over onto the ground. The dogs were with two women, who had absolutely no control over them whatsoever.

My dog who was on his lead managed to get away and ran off, obviously for safety. My husband managed to get up and went in search of our dog who had gone into the woods for cover but came out to my husband shaking.

My husband and our dog came home absolutely filthy and shaking at such an attack. I have seen these dogs and the women once when being out with my husband and little boy walking our dog and they have no control over the dogs at all. We phoned the police and the PCSO for our area is dealing with the matter but I wanted to warn other people to avoid these dogs at all costs.

If your dogs are that bad keep them on a lead and muzzle them.

Kirstie Hardy-Butt,

Address supplied

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LINE WORRY

SIR - A retired senior ex-BR executive has proposed a new route for the boondoggle and money-sink that is HS2. He reckons the present route through the South Chilterns is very wrong.

His alternative would link HS2 to the Channel Tunnel line at Stratford East, enabling high-speed trains to go direct between the continent and the north.

He proposes a route that would go from Stratford East, via Ware to Biggleswade. Where thereafter is not stated.

A quick glance at the map shows that the NHDC and Mid-Beds areas would be seriously blighted, both during construction and afterwards. 200 mph trains every few minutes.

Ordinarily one might say the proposal is a candidate for ‘spot the loonie’ competition but alas, politicians and senior civil servants are not known for their ability to discriminate between worthwhile and stupid ideas. Hence both HS2 and superfast broadband. Speed for a few, while disregarding the service for the majority.

The proposed route should be resisted stoutly by the local authorities.

£30 billion is estimated for HS2. If it is like other Government projects/fiascos it will cost over £100 billion before it is done and most of the work will go to foreign companies, as will the ownership and operation of the line. Not a good investment in our transport system. The money would be better spent in reopening and improving some of Beeching’s line closures.

For example: Hitchin-Bedford, enabling completion of the line from Oxford to Cambridge via Bicester, Milton Keynes and Bedford. We need to get freight back on the railways and off our over-crowded motorways. Guided bus-ways do not help in this respect.

Robert Sunderland

Oak House

Little Wymondley

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PCC CONTACT

SIR - Re: Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd’s letter.

Could the police commissioner on his inflated salary please give a postal address or telephone number for contact? Thirty per cent of the population do not have the internet and what is Twitter?

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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FOOD RELIEF

SIR - May I, on behalf of the elderly people of Hitchin who received a food parcel from the Hitchin and District Round Table thank them very much for their effort and their hard work.

They must have to give so much to raise the money for these parcels, especially in these hard times.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

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CHAIR CARE

SIR - Why are health and safety rules aimed at the weakest (ie the elderly and disabled?)

My housing company has just removed from the reception area a small chair with arms and replaced it with a folding slab of wood against the wall.

I myself, have replacement hips which are eight years old. I have a crumbling left knee which buckles under my body leaving arms and legs weak. I also have severe arthritis in my neck.

So now I have to stand up while waiting for transport as I cannot safely get off this piece of wood.

Eileen Marshall

Peter Sell House

Hitchin

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