LETTERS: Comet January 24

Luton Airport

Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, January 24.

WILBURY HOUSE

SIR - Regarding Wilbury House.

Parents have been given many reasons why Wilbury House is being closed: neighbours’ complaints, not fulfilling the lease, the need for only one respite home, the idea that Ripon Road will have better access.

Herts County Council does not seem to appreciate that families with a severely disabled child will usually have to use a car rather than public transport to reach a respite provision (reasons eg transport not fully accessible, child likely to have a fit or show noisy “challenging” behaviour). Therefore it makes little difference in terms of access whether the respite home is on the edge of Letchworth or Stevenage. Some families have stated categorically they would rather travel the extra miles to allow their child to enjoy respite in surroundings where they feel safe and happy and have got to know the house and area, ie Wilbury House.


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Wilbury’s lease is for a residential home not short breaks. Therefore parents and carers are meeting the Letchworth Heritage Foundation soon to ask if the lease can be changed. We have set up a petition at http://www.change.org to gather support from the general public in retaining the wonderfully refurbished Wilbury as a respite home.

Herts County Council also state that parking facilities are better at Ripon Road. I have seen seven parking spaces and the roads surrounding the house lined with cars. Wilbury has six parking spaces and is situated on a wide road with plenty of space to park without causing inconvenience to anyone.

Most Read

Change can be very upsetting for children with learning difficulties. Many of the children have been moved once already. Herts County Council say that political changes have added to the need for the move. Will children have to move every time there is a change of government or policy?

Katrina Nice

Address supplied

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SIR – I write in response to your story on the closure of Wilbury House (WH) and to comments made by Richard Roberts on Three Counties Radio. I am a parent affected by this closure.

Mr Roberts mentioned that out of the 47 families using WH, only six families have complained about the move. Many of the families are exhausted by the daily stress of looking after a disabled child, not to mention the endless struggle to get help from social services. They do not have the energy to attend meetings, protest or write letters. Also, when we were first approached about this move, two meetings were set up in the daytime and in the evening. I attended the evening meeting, where I heard about problems with crime in the St Nicholas area from families who had lived there and witnessed drugs raids near the local park. Details of these concerns were not raised in the minutes sent out after the meetings, or in the “consultation” document sent to us, so it is possible that the other families are not aware of these concerns. It is interesting that the families who have complained were all at the evening meeting.

When we raised these concerns again last week at a meeting with Richard Roberts and others from HCC, Mr Roberts accused us of being prejudiced and insulting towards the people of St Nicholas. This is absolutely not the case. He has offered to arrange a meeting with the local police, so maybe we will hear that our concerns are unjustified. However, parents of children going to mainstream schools/groups are able to do research and choose to a certain extent where they send their children. I’m sure if schools admissions were to accuse them of being prejudiced for having these concerns, there would be outrage.

name and address

supplied

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TAX PLAN

sir - Stephen McPartland, the MP for Stevenage, should be congratulated for his recent stance towards those FTSE 100 companies that avoid corporation tax. His website www.taxchallenge.co.uk should in time demonstrate the public support he holds for his fairness agenda.

It has long been the ‘sport’ of business executives to maximise profits by reducing costs, which extends to finding methods to minimise tax payments, but with the world economy in such bad shape, this is not the time for companies with multi billion pound turnovers in the UK to be seen as being indifferent, paying no tax at all, towards their share of the costs of servicing the society, their customers and employees depend upon.

The response from the Labour Party is not an apology for leaving society with such huge debts and the pain to pay them down, but to try and point the finger at business owners and make it appear as though they are to blame, a pressure business leaders could well do without.

Clearly the Labour Party have demonstrated a clear lack of commercial competence in allowing such a flagrant disregard for tax law when they were in office.

Many of the companies quoted in the press recently as the main culprits of avoidance, are domiciled in the USA and are cash rich, with their products and services generating payment before delivery. They are the self same companies that compete on price and are creating unfair price competition in the high street of towns across the UK. If they do not pay their share of taxes, they have an unfair price advantage over the local competition who actively invest in people and services in the UK, returning funds to the local economy.

During the past few years HMRC has strengthened its focus on tax evasion and avoidance and many small and medium sized, local businesses have been seen as the low hanging fruit by HMRC inspectors. It has been said that SMEs account for 70 per cent of the tax revenue in the UK every year and it is about time that the spotlight was turned on those very large companies that blatantly manipulate the rules.

The UK clearly depends upon the inspiration and perspiration of our SMEs, entrepreneurs who take their role seriously and take personal exception to HMRC investigations which often defeat their spirit and their desire to run a business at all. We need these honest and hard working people to feel they are not alone when they see such obvious abuses and tax avoidance elsewhere.

It is no longer a “sport” when the species is nearing extinction.

Adrian Hawkins

Co-Founder biz4Biz

Managing Director

Weldability | Sif

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WORM PLIGHT

SIR - It would appear that slow worms have been found during the mandatory ecological survey of the council-owned allotments behind Samuel Lucas School, currently earmarked for redevelopment in the proposed expansion of the school.

Slow worms are a protected species, and so building work cannot proceed until they are safely removed or provided with a safe haven. As these reptiles hibernate, they cannot be disturbed until the spring. In addition, ecologists must be satisfied that the slow worms’ habitat is secure and will remain protected after their translocation.

Let’s now hope that many other species, including bats, dormice, moths, butterflies, and wildflowers and fungi, are also found there as they are all similarly protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Then perhaps this unnecessary building project can be legitimately halted without wasting another penny of council money.

The county council would then be able to focus on the existing essential school issues in this part of Hitchin, like supporting Wilshere Dacre on its road to recovery.

NAME AND ADDRESSS

SUPPLIED

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AIRPORT PETITION

SIR - The Comet’s initiative in launching a petition to get the planning application for the biggest ever expansion of Luton Airport ‘called in’ for a Government decision is admirable and has the full support of LADACAN.

We agree that there could be a conflict of interest if a planning decision were to be made by LBC since it is is a major financial benefactor from airport profits, but there are further reasons why this application should be decided nationally and not locally. The increase in passenger numbers and flights that are proposed categorise the project as being of national significance. As such it must be considered as part of an overall coordinated plan for aviation in the south east.

Please sign the petition but also your individual response is very important if you are concerned at a doubling of noise disturbance and traffic congestion.

Email your objection to: developmentcontrol@luton.gov.uk before February 20.

Lis Greet

Breachwood Green

Hitchin

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SIR - The news that Luton Airport, in addition to increasing the number of planes overhead by at least 60 per cent, is now planning to build a new south-east and european business jet terminal confirms what all those opposed to the expansion have been saying from the beginning; that the 60 per cent expansion is only the thin end of the wedge, that the airport intends to go on and on expanding in the future, sending more and more planes over our heads.

The personal letters I wrote to each member of Stevenage Borough Council, three times during the consultation period, 114 in all, to alert them to this danger fell on deaf ears.

They also ignored my repeated recommendation that they should actively seek the opinion of all the residents most affected, those living in Martins Wood, Manor, Chells, Bedwell and Symonds Green.

It is very encouraging therefore to learn that thanks to the Comet, all those residents now have a chance to have their say. All those who are concerned by the prospect of more and more noise pollution should take the unique opportunity to sign the Comet petition against it.

The hitherto undisclosed increase in numbers of business jets and the allegation that the airport encouraged hundreds of its workforce to support its expansion proposals, enough to tip the balance in the consultation process, is further evidence that it is not acceptable that Luton Borough Council should be allowed to rubber stamp its own planning application.

Don Courtman

Address supplied

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NO TO SIMONS

SIR - I have lived in Hitchin since 1966, I remember the market on St Mary’s car park over looking the River Hiz. The market was then moved to the area it is now, when Church Gate was built. The Old St Andrews school was demolished and Spurrs, the lovely old haberdashery shop went too. Hitchin was an old sheep market town, and let’s not forget it. People still come on market day from the villages, we get visitors enjoying our town in the summer months. Yes, I agree Churchgate needs rebuilding, a pity the developers didn’t make a better job the first time.

We do not need the market moving, we do not need the view of St Mary’s Church and the River Hiz blocking. The artists impression of the view of the river and church is very exaggerated, it may look alright on paper. Where was the artist standing when he drew up his sketch?

There are enough empty shops in the town without trying to fill a huge department store. I agree with Tom Condon, give Simons a one way ticket back to Lincoln.

Jean L Latham

Address supplied

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LETCHWORTH FILMING

SIR - I wholeheartedly support the views expressed by Paul Wallace on the subject of filming in Letchworth town centre. We felt very positive about the plan but experienced some of the arrogance highlighted by Mr Wallace in the form of strong-arm tactics by some members of the crew.

I was also bemused by the comments of Dr Felgate. Like Mr Wallace we were not adversely affected traffic-wise or financially by the invasion. So not every retailer was holding out his cloth-cap for “compo” Doctor.

The jury’s out for me on what impact the film will have on the town. I hope it is positive. If NHDC gets its act together next time we can all benefit by tailoring offers and events to blend with whatever production is coming, heads up not heads in the sand please.

Undoubtedly some businesses in Letchworth will benefit from the release of the film. Good for them. I know several personally and they will deserve the success that may follow. But please Dr Felgate don’t lecture us on how to run our businesses and I promise I won’t offer medical advice to any of your patients.

Mike Newman

Address supplied

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SIR - What is the matter with people?

Ok. Damage to block paving?

How is that worthy of a mention at all let alone a headline.

So, damage was done to block paving near the Goldsmith Centre. So? How about you tell us of the potholes the council don’t fill. And we pay for that. Filming stopped here in early December 2012 and you are just reporting it? Utterly ridiculous!

Can’t you tell people to just get over it? I’m sure the film company will pay, so stop making an issue over it.This kind of rubbish will stop any further investment in our poor, shoddy, granny town.

How about a posititive story? Are you up for it?

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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SIR - I entirely agree with the business owners who were quoted in the January 10 edition of the Comet saying that Letchworth “sold itself cheap” when North Herts District Council only received £12,500 to compensate for the disruption caused to local traders during the many weeks of filming of The Worlds End.

This film is the last in a trilogy directed by Edgar Wright and the first two films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz had a combined budget of £12m and earned revenue of about £75m. Once they had been approached by the film company it’s patently obvious that both NHDC and the Heritage Foundation failed in their duty to get the best possible deal for the town by conducting research into its previous productions and the extent to which they were a financial success.

They should also have identified other towns of a similar size that film companies had used for a comparable period of time. Council leader Lynda Needham said “We hope to use this to raise the profile of the Letchworth GC for the whole town later this year”. Given the way they have dealt with the film company I’m not very hopeful they have the marketing expertise to invest the £12,500 in a way that generates a level of film tourism that will bring any significant financial tourism to the town and in particular to the local traders who lost business. I also noticed in the same report Cllr Lynda Needham was still claiming that some traders did well out of the filming but she still fails to name them or give the amounts by which their takings improved.

Michael Watts

Wilbury Road

Letchworth

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POOR BUILD SCHOOL

SIR - Having spent £45 million on building the new school from scratch you would expect all parts of Marriotts School to be properly equipped and fitted.

The drama dept has one glaring omission, there is no stage in the new school at all. My 17-year-old daughter is doing A-level drama which involves performing works in front of an audience to be videoed and sent to the examining board for marking. The next piece is scheduled to be performed in three weeks. The school has allocated a sum of money which will either cover the hire of tiered seating for the audience or wooden blocks for a temporary stage. There are no “wings” of “backstage” areas for storing props or for performers to enter from. This can potentially damage the grades of these students. Surely when the plans were drawn up the lack of a stage should have been noticed? There are also no lockers for students to store wet coats shoes etc so they have to drag these around the school all day.

The art department also has no sinks. My children have grumbled about these flaws but say that there are many other lacking facilities in this school. As for the access. Enough said. And no parking facilities for sixth-formers who drive?

Nikki Davey

Address Supplied

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MOTTO MESS

SIR - ‘Memores acti, prudentes futuri.’

One could not conceive of a motto less appropriate for North Herts District Council than one which means ‘Remember the past and take care of the future’. “Utinam que” (As if). I was not aware of ‘our’ motto until Mr Hoskins gave me a laugh when I read it in the Comet. I assume that it is in Latin because the council hope that not many will understand it. I doubt that much Latin is studied in North Herts’ schools as when I was a pupil at Hitchin Boys’ Grammar School 60 years ago.

‘Remember the past’. A good example, but not an exclusive one, is the closing of our museums, putting everything into store until some undetermined date when we might have a new one in Hitchin Town Hall.

Or the ongoing sore which is Simons’ version of Churchgate. If it does go ahead it would certainly give us Hitchin ‘oldies’ only a memory of the past. Drop the motto nonsense, NHDC. It may make you feel good but it does not impress the residents of North Herts. Nor am I sure of the relevance of Hertfordshire’s motto: “Trust and fear not”

Robert Sunderland

Little Wymondley

Hitchin

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POT CHEER

SIR - I read with a mixture of frustration and wry amusement the article regarding the recent improvements undertaken to the walkway into the town centre (Comet, January 17).

I know that you can’t please all the people, all the time, but I do wish people would get their facts right before having a moan. Following the demise of the outdoor market, which for some months prior to its closure, had been the subject of a number of complaints, the council were keen to invest some (not all) of the money from the High Street Innovation Fund in improving the gateway for visitors coming in to the town centre.

Some of the larger retailers were consulted on how best to spend the Portas funding and the resurfacing of the ramp, introduction of plants and seating and the new signage which will shortly be erected, was seen as a positive step. The Portas funding also helped to provide a three-month free parking scheme. Yes, we want and need a redevelopment with a department store but we are in the middle of one of the most challenging economic periods experienced for many years. The property in the town centre is owned by many different organisations, and ultimately it is they who decide which retailer to let their premises to. We may yearn for more aspirational stores but give me a discount shop over an empty one any day. A high percentage of vacant units is the death of many a High Street. I know that January is a miserable month but let’s have a little appreciation for the efforts that are being made to improve the town centre.

Tracey Parry

Town centre manager

Stevenage

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