LETTERS: Comet July 19
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, July 19.
TOP FIELD CAMPAIGN
SIR - What an excellent ploy by the cow commoners to state that they cannot renew the lease to Hitchin Football club because it is owned by a commercial enterprise, albeit a loss-making one.
Presumably both Mr Daniels and his New Road Developments and Tesco are both charitable organisations and can be considered as legitimate for the cow commoners to deal with.
My grandfather worked for GW King at Top Field during WW2, servicing anti-aircraft equipment for the Army. I cannot see how that can have been a charitable operation but it didn’t bother the Cow Commoners then. However, that was at a time when the common good was at the forefront. Not profit.
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SIR - What a mystery surrounds Top Field and the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust.
We understand from last week’s Comet that Hitchin Football Club is owned by the private company Celeriter, although under the Charities Act the land was meant to be used by a not-for-profit company. Bit late now. Although the sale is constrained under the Charities Act we are told by the trust’s treasurer, Peter Cranfield, that selling the Top Field would release a huge amount of money although when the present lease ends the trust must ensure that the land is used in furtherance of the trust’s objectives, whatever they may be? After all the conjecture we’ve heard Dr Cranfield said it all comes down to what the people of Hitchin decide.
Given under the Charities Commission and Charities Act the land is meant to be used by a not-for-profit company, rather than the present private one, it is to be assumed the trust must revert to this stipulation. What are the developers New Road (Clifton) Ltd doing putting forward plans for development by a profit making concern. The people of Hitchin are entitled to a clearer picture of the situation regarding their property that has been kept in trust for them all these years. Against all this background who indicated to Daniels of New Road (Clifton) Ltd there might be good pickings from Top Field?
SIR - I find myself being very cautious about the praise Ms J Groom has for the Hitchin Football ground move especially as she claims to have 44 years of intimate knowledge of the area - yet does not know that there is a Tesco on the Shefford bypass – together with stores at Fairfield, Hitchin and under construction in Letchworth Grange.
Any one of these would cater for the average daily needs of most people, with internet access for less frequent items.
Ms Groom should also ask the Daniels family about how they spent �14m purchasing the old tannery and chemical works at the back of Bancroft in order to build the current Sainsbury. How many stores do they require to shop at, or is this latest attack on Hitchin punishment for not letting them have the proposed ‘Arndale’ and cinema complex originally asked for.
We then have the comments regarding the look of the football buildings which are difficult to see behind the tree screen, although I have little doubt that the owners have chosen long-tem greed and neglect over investment.
Like many silent Hitchin residents I am proud of Hitchin and its antiquity and have often heard people say they come to Hitchin because the shopping is ‘different’ and there are lots of small interesting shops to look around.
So I would agree with Ms McDonald in her request that outsiders stop interfering in Hitchin and that Hitchin councillors that advocate constant change should hang their heads in shame for their political in-fighting and nest feathering while Hitchin burns.
SIR - Two questions were left unanswered by dentist Peter Cranfield when the Cow Commoners Trust finally met the Hitchin public last week after 13 months of secret talks to sell Top Field to developer Richard Daniels.
Did the trust undertake due diligence on Daniels and his latest company (New Road Clifton) before signing a confidentiality agreement with him in June 2011 to swap Top Field (worth �10 million) for 12 acres of farm land in St Ippolyts (worth �150,000).
The second unanswered question is why the Cow Commoners Trust is not a registered charity? It clearly should be because its income is more than �5,000 a year with Hitchin FC paying it an annual rent of �8,000 a year.
But it chooses instead to be a self regulated charitable trust which does not have to produce annual accounts every year to the Charity Commission. No annual accounts means that the public will never be able to see the detail of the deal between Daniels and the trust.
Mr Cranfield claims it is now up to the people of Hitchin to decide if this project should go ahead. If he gave us the full financial facts it would be far easier for us to do just that,
SIR - The Save Top Field Campaign Committee would like to say a massive thank you to the editorial team of the Comet newspaper for the excellent coverage that you have provided over the past month on our campaign and the issues surrounding the future development of Top Field.
Save Top Field Campaign back the Comet’s campaign “Hands off Top Field” in conjunction with our own. We have been delighted with the phenomenal response so far from Comet readers, particularly through the letters pages, at your overwhelming support for both campaigns.
Anyone wishing to contact us or to find out further details about Save Top Field campaign can contact us at either Facebook at: Save Top Field Campaign - Hitchin or you can follow us on Twitter @saveTopField or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Save Top Field Campaign
SIR - I completely support the Comet’s ‘Hands Off Top Field’ campaign.
The position of the cow commoners seems dubious to say the least. As far as I can see from the information available on the web their stated purpose is is to look after the land they own to the benefit of the people of Hitchin. Since they are unelected and cannot claim that they therefore have an electoral mandate to make major changes in the use and ownership of the land it is incumbent upon them to demonstrate that the significant changes they are proposing are to the benefit of the people of Hitchin. Since the response of pretty much everyone affected ? club supporters and officials, town tradespeople and their representatives and local residents has, as far as I can see, been almost uniformly negative, it is hard to say how the proposed development plans can be said to be to the benefit of the people of Hitchin. I would be interested to know how the Cow Commoners square their proposed actions with what I understand to be the objective of this body
Furthermore I find their claim that the continued use of Top Field by the HTFC may be problematic because the club is a profit-making organization confusing. Not only has this never been a problem in the past but it is hard to see how it would not continue to be a problem under the Cow Commoners? proposed plans where a new stadium will be built on a new site but one which, as I understand it, will still be on land owned by the Cow Commoners, with whatever constraints this places on use of their land by profit making bodies.
I would be grateful if you could publish contact details for the ‘Save Top Field Group’ the Comet has mentioned this group a couple of times, but I cannot find any way of contacting them
SIR - Thank you for shedding some light on who the cow commoners are and what the exist to do (Comet July 12). I find that there are no details of the commoners on the Charity Commissioners website as they are not a registered charity. However Comet readers can find the “Scheme” that details their objects and administration via a link at the Hitchin Forum website.
The commoners state that they cannot continue to lease Top Field to a private company. It appears therefore that one option for Hitchin Town Football Club to remain at Top Field would be for it to change its status to a not for profit/charitable company. If the club can’t or won’t do this, and can therefore no longer remain at Top Field, this does not seem to mean that the commoners are required to sell the site for development.
Why can’t the cow commoners just leave Top Field fallow? Why can’t Top Field just be like Butts Close, an informal green space for informal sports? Maybe even cows could graze there again maybe as part of an urban farm for the benefit of local children. All these would seem to fit with the objects as listed in the scheme governing the commoners.
SIR - Hitchin Historical Society are preparing “A Royal Day to Remember” a comprehensive film of The Queen’s visit to Hitchin last month. It will be very much a “people’s film” that includes photographs and film kindly donated by both amateur and professional photographers and movie-makers who were in Hitchin Market Place that historic day.
We already have a wonderful collection of images but are keen to include more, particularly of the moments when Her Majesty arrived at Hitchin Rail Station and later, when she met some of the town’s shop proprietors in the Market Place.
Following the popularity of our first DVD “A Century of Old Hitchin on Film - Volume One,” we are planning to include “A Royal Day to Remember” in Volume Two which is currently being prepared for release in 2013.
If any of your readers have film or photographs of The Queen’s visit to donate for possible inclusion we would be delighted to hear from them. They can contact the society via the Secretary, Dr Leslie Mustoe on Hitchin (01462) 423209 or e-mail email@example.com
Hitchin Historical Society
SIR- Hitchin is....
Rhythms of the world, in the town or the Priory park?
Drama at The Queen Mother Theatre nights after dark The dancing cyclist and the Hawkins town crier and wishing the fair came to town when it was drier
The ‘get fit’ young mothers with pushchairs on Butts Close, The Vakarashi parade in wonderful orange robes, Sledging down Windmill Hill in the snow, Benslow Music Trust and the HSO.
Laying on the grass on a sunny day,
By the open air pool that opens in May, St Marys Church by the Hiz, flood lit up at night Torque Tambor drumming with all their might.
Around the town Derek Wheeler’s ghost walks and listening to many other festival talks. Muddy cyclists outside Starbucks after their ride, Paul B Edwards’ comedy nights at the Woodside. Allinghams butchers, turkey queuing at Christmas time and The Radcliffe Arms’ very fine wines. The Folk club with Maureen Ryan since 1963, St Saviours yearly festival of magical Christmas trees.
The smell of old books at the shop of Eric Moore and entering the Bridge Street Bistro by the side door. Oughtonhead Common with many dogs pacing, Walsworth festival with old cars and ferret racing
British schools museum, 200 years in the making The Hitchin vibe, the culture there for the taking The Museum Perks? chemist shop and the Lavender fields And the rugby club’s Hedgehogs never yield. The Old German hospital is now Pinehill and The Girls’ School on top of Windmill Hill, Blueharts famous bonfire nights and the rockets never fail to delight.Calm it down with an ale at The Sun Runner and Half Moon and the night will be coming soon. Corn Exchange under another new name, nothing in town ever stays the same.
Market Theatre’s weekenders soap and adult panto, offers somewhere else special to go. Top Field chant as the Canaries score ‘One-nil’ over Stevenage once more. I listen to the Market Place chatter, about things that don’t matter,
As I walk over the cobbled stones, I am never alone, in a town that I love to call my home.
SIR - I find it is almost beyond belief that Herts police and its chairman, Cllr Lloyd, are still determined (see Comet web July 13) to hand over its support services and staff to G4S who failed spectacularly in their contract to deliver Olympic services.
There is no competitive tender, the police has no experience of a major procurement for privatisation and there is paucity of experience of the massive shared services reconfiguration between the three police authorities involved.
The 10-year contract will be placed on the same basis of the controversial and untested Lincolnshire police deal with G4S in April. This large global corporation will have the well meaning local shire plods for breakfast.
What is also disappointing is the silence from Labour whose candidate for the police commissioner elections, Sherma Batson, has made no impact on this important issue. As with all privatisations there is no guarantee of large savings even with the almost ineveitable service reductions and Herts police should pull out and find its own ways of balancing the books.
SIR - The Government promised that there would be no cuts in “front-line” policing, in spite of imposing a 20 per cent cut in funding. You cannot get more front-line than police dogs, but you report a proposal to reduce the number from 74 to 24 in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire (“Fears over plans to merge police dog units”, Comet, July 12).
We are also losing 300 police officers in Hertfordshire and the loss of back-office staff means that the remaining police officers will have to spend more time in the office because there will be fewer support staff to handle the paperwork.
Yet, in November we shall have an election, probably costing upwards of �1m in Hertfordshire alone, for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who will replace the Hertfordshire Police Authority. With all these cuts, it is a strange time to spend extra money on these elections in the 41 police areas in England and Wales.
Meanwhile, the Hertfordshire Police Authority, chaired by Cllr David Lloyd – who will be the Tory candidate for PCC – has decided that it wants to privatise the back-office functions along with Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, affecting 1,122 staff.
They propose to give the work to G4S. Yes, that G4S – the company which has just failed to deliver on its contract for security for the Olympic Games and has had to be bailed out by the public sector, namely the armed forces.
Who will bail them out if they fail to run the police back-office functions efficiently? Presumably police officers, taken off the front line.
North East Herts Labour Party
SIR - So called “free” parking is of course welcome but it has to be paid for sometime by the town’s council taxpayers. The lost revenue will mean extra added to next year’s council tax bill, and/or something else cut to accommodate this.
As I said when the “free” parking scheme was introduced, it was just temporary for the period of the local elections, and so it has proved.
Also, no costings were submitted to council for the scheme, and it was pushed through the budget full council on February 29 2012, with no notice or discussion or report or information or costings about it and no vote taken on it (other than on the composite budget resolution).
One wonders why Stevenage Labour group run the council in this disorganised way? Why could they not plan in advance and provide costings and discuss it fully?
CLLR ROBIN PARKER
Stevenage Borough Council
SIR - Isn’t it right that NHDC calls time on what has become the silent farce surrounding the so called redevelopment of the Churchgate Centre in Hitchin?
The council has now taken six times as long as New York City took to plan and build the Empire State Building (two years) and we are, after 12 years, no nearer to a seeing a single brick laid than we were back in 2000.
So far it has spent �1m of our money and achieved very little, apart from signing up to a deal with Simons of Lincoln that no one wants; a jumble of flats, shops and multi-storey car park which would enclose St Mary’s Church.
Such is the unpopularity of this proposed eyesore that the public Hitchin Liason Forum has not met for over a year. And yet NHDC and Simons continue to meet secretly and still claim they “are moving forward”(Comet July 12).
The fact is Simons has not got �50m to fund the scheme and probably would be hard pressed to even find �500,000 to make a formal planning application, the deadline for which expires in December this year. By then, they will have had nearly three years to come up with a workable scheme. They have failed along with NHDC but neither side will publicly admit it. Let’s end this now and send Simons packing back to Lincoln.
SIR - “Leisure centre work set to start” reports The Comet on July 12 2012.
The first public meeting about moving the football ground and building a multi-purpose leisure centre was back in 2002, with an estimated completion date in 2008.
Now in 2012 we see that the first phase will be some junior football pitches and a toilet block sometime later this year. Phase two, moving Stotfold FC, its clubhouse and floodlighting, becomes dependant on the sale of the current Roker Park ground (for housing). So it would appear that the rest of the community needs are well behind schedule, or worse, may have been dropped. When will the rest of the residents of Stotfold get the facilities for badminton, squash, yoga and exercise gym (etc) we were promised back in 2002?
SIR - It is interesting that in the recent report on the ballot regarding Letchworth Town Council that the members of “HELP” claimed that overall the residents had shown that they did not need the Town Council.
With a turnout of 5,000 from 28,000 (approx 17 per cent) 78 per cent of the 5,000 (3,700 or 13 per cent) voted for the abolition of the said town council. So not such a victory as claimed as as they have been so negative how can the town council be judged ? The figures just go to show that it is easy to manipulate to get the results you want and its not finished yet just dragging out what was a good idea originally.