LETTERS: Comet July 4

THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, July 4.

USELESS SIGNS

SIR - After spending vast amounts of taxpayers’ money on the traffic message sign’s across the county, the purpose of this investment (waste of money) we are continually told is to inform road users of disruption and congestion on the road network. So why on Friday was there no mention of the major traffic incidents on the A1(M) and the closure of the A1(M) / M25 junction which caused considerable distruption to the road network. On this occasion I am sure the signs could have displayed a more useful message other than don’t drink and drive.

Russell Andrews

Address supplied


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Sir - It has been well documented that the traffic information signs around Stevenage are a total waste of money.

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I could not believe my eyes when I passed one during the week illuminating the don’t drink and drive message.

£200,000 out of council taxpayers’ hard earned money for this nonsense.

Whoever thought that Stevenage needed traffic information signs in the first place? I’m sorry but words fail me.

Paul Heatley

Address withheld

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FOOD SUPPORT

SIR - We would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the people of Stevenage and Knebworth in their continuing support of the Stevenage Community Food Bank. The food bank started in December and since then we have been able to help people who have found themselves in sudden financial crisis who otherwise would have gone hungry.

We also thank our town councillors who have supported the venture and our many volunteers without whom we would not be able to operate.

With people facing sudden changes in their circumstances, often beyond their control we aim to support people in their time of need. Thank you to everyone who has put a donation, however big or small, into our donation bins. You are making the difference and with continued support we aim to provide this service for as long as possible.

John Mead

Chairman of Stevenage Community Food Bank

Daneshill House

Stevenage

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FLYING START

Sir - Great news to learn that the Hitchin flyover has been constructed ahead of schedule but will it really take until December for training around 300 drivers to use the new route?

Colin Evans

Trent Close

Stevenage

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LAND PRESSURE

SIR - The key to what is anticipated for the North Herts development is based on the forecast of population growth, not just of local residents, but those moving into the area by those having had enough of living in many overcrowded parts of London where the indigenous population is being squeezed by the many that have entered the county over the years since Labour allowed an open doors policy.

Land in and around the North Herts area that is deemed suitable for more than 37,000 new homes is almost certainly well in excess for the needs of local residents up to 2031. Further unacceptable numbers are still being allowed to settle in a country becoming grossly overpopulated with a predicted increase to 70million by 2018. Along with these announcements we hear of many parts, particularly in the south east and east, where infrastructure is at breaking point providing for so many immigrants, with the government having to make additional payments to local authorities to allow them to cope.

Cameron is a long way off reducing the incoming numbers to the tens of thousands yearly he claims as his target. Many more restrictions of numbers settling here are required given the explosion that has been allowed, and added to by the high level of births amongst young immigrants. The landowners and developers are only too pleased to turn land into massive areas of evermore housing development to help accommodate this unsupportable immigration progression with no regard for the future of our already overcrowded country. It’s not so much how much countryside there is overall, it’s all to do with heavily populated areas and the infrastructure that is unable to support evermore crowding.

I Martin,

The Limes,

Hitchin

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BIO BID

SIR - In reply to last week’s letter from N Mayo, I felt able to reply to the question about what steps NHDC is taking to actively safeguard biodiversity and promote new wildlife sites in North Herts.

I agree that this is an extremely important issue, and the council continues to invest in projects in partnership with Hertfordshire’s Countryside Management Service. I think it is useful to highlight three such recently completed projects which, in addition to our strategy of wildflower planting and ongoing maintenance of existing areas throughout North Hertfordshire, will promote and encourage a range of natural wildlife.

Last spring saw the completion of the Wetland Biodiversity Project at Ivel Springs Local Nature Reserve, Baldock. New ponds will benefit wildlife and invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies, while the reptile hibernacula will make good homes for grass snakes and lizards. Newly planted and laid hedges along with the seeded wildflower areas will also add to the diversity of the reserve.

Weston Hills in Baldock was officially declared a local nature reserve last summer following the completion of another joint venture. It is one of nine local nature reserves we maintain in North Herts, and in addition to new and improved access for the public, areas of rare and valuable chalk grassland have been restored to protect and enhance the habitat for wildlife.

Most recently, in April this year, work was completed on the banks of the River Oughton. This is one of only 200 chalk streams in the world supporting a wide range of native wildlife which will benefit from the restoration and replanting of the river bank.

Further details and actions of our work in safeguarding biodiversity are contained in our Biodiversity Reference Document. Looking ahead, a draft Green Space Management Strategy was presented to Cabinet last month and contains an action plan with proposals to continue investing in a number of important biodiversity enhancing projects.

If any of your readers wish to find out more, I would encourage them to look at these documents, and contact us if they would like further information.

Cllr Peter Burt

Portfolio Holder for Waste, Recycling and Environment

North Herts District Council

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BIN CHANGES

SIR - I feel I must write about my disappointment and frustration over the way the new recycling procedures have been handled in Letchworth Garden City.

I thought the article in Outlook recently with the Q&A section was very useful, however, when contacting NHDC to request the larger purple bin on offer for families with young children and babies I was flatly refused a large bin. I was advised that I could not request one (despite what the Outlook article advises) and would have to “wait and see if we need one and then I could call back”.

As a family of four (soon to be five) I feel that the larger bin should be on offer regardless. However, I have since found out that my mother-in-law who lives on Haymoor has been given a large purple bin without even requesting it. Her entire road has been provided with the large bins even though the road is predominantly occupied by the elderly/single occupants . When driving down Spring Road on collection day I noticed the road had been provided with small purple bins - Spring Road houses are significantly larger than Haymoor houses!

What criteria do we have to meet? Clearly, the Outlook article is incorrect or the call centre at NHDC is advising the incorrect info.

Mrs Laura Chambers

Address supplied

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EU VOTE

SIR - Councillor Young hails the EU referendum bill as “historic” (Letters, June 27).

According to David Cameron, an in/out referendum today would be premature because voters would not know the terms of any renegotiation; the bill therefore promises a referendum by the end of 2017.

However, substantive negotiation will not start until after the European election next year, and the Lisbon Treaty (aka constitution) took eight years to thrash out. So there will be no more on the table then than there is today, even if the Conservatives were re-elected.

And the last straw is that Cameron has made it clear that he would not feel bound by a majority vote in favour of leaving the EU. Historic? It’s just another Tory charade, to paper over the fault lines in the party.

Contrast that with the referendum on Scottish independence, which is being rushed through even though voters will have even less idea what they are voting for or against: in or out of the EU, and on what terms?; Pound sterling or euro (with fiscal policy imposed by England or by the EU), or its own currency, underpinned by the ever-reliable Scottish banks?

We do need to free ourselves from the EU hegemony, but be under no illusion, the only party that would make it happen is UKIP.

Roger Smith

High Street

Meppershall

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NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

SIR - As a member of Neighbourhood Watch I recently received an invitation form the Herts Police Commissioner for a suggestion which could make my local area safer. He has a budget for such improvements.

My response was to suggest the ‘traffic-calming’ pinches in our village be removed and replaced with modern average-speed radar cameras. When traffic is light, vehicles ignore the speed limit by a considerable margin and the pinches are no deterrent.

The reply was to the effect that a new scheme is proposed. To be called, I believe, ‘Drive Safe’, whereby we in the community would educate speeding drivers so they will see the error of their ways. Not sure how this will be performed in real life as I doubt any speeding motorist, or more likely on a Sunday afternoon, speeding motorcyclist, is going to stop and pass the time with me.

Still the idea is cheap, albeit likely to be totally ineffective.

The money saved by not providing something which does work will probably be used as a contribution to the £500,000 we in Hertfordshire will have to pay for providing police security at the recent Bilderberg meeting at The Grove, Watford.

For which no minutes are published and its secret deliberations are unlikely to be of benefit to the residents of the county. Nor the country. Her Majesty’s Government was represented by two ministers, possibly in breach of Parliamentary Rules, but has declined to foot the bill for providing security.

Robert Sunderland

Oak House

Little Wymondley

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TOUGH TAX

SIR - In response to Mr Deck’s letter last week regarding the council’s decision to increase council tax this year, I would like to explain our thinking behind this difficult decision.

Over the last eight years, the council has had to make over £9.3 million of efficiencies and is making a further £850,000 in 2013/14. These unprecedented year on year savings mean that when we come to set our budget each year, we have found it increasingly difficult to balance our books while trying to protect our much valued front-line services.

Mr Deck is correct that the Government did offer a one-off grant to help freeze council tax this year. However after careful consideration we chose not to accept the offer. Instead, in order to protect services which the public tell us are important, we reluctantly agreed to increase council tax by 1.9 per cent, or the equivalent of one penny a day. This means the level of ongoing savings we need to make for 2014/15 will be around £400,000 per annum less than if we had accepted the council tax freeze.

With further significant cuts to local government funding announced just last week, which could mean us having to find a further £2 to £3 million in efficiencies over the next five years, there will be challenging decisions ahead on how we spend your council tax, but I would like to reassure people that our focus will remain on delivering valued services which meet the public need.

Cllr Terry Hone

NHDC Deputy Leader and Finance Portfolio Holder

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DIRE PROCESS

SIR - The HCC Development Control meeting that gave Samuel Lucas planning permission was dire.

All seven pages of evidence from Keep Hitchin Special had been added verbatim to the committee report and I presented a summary in person but there was no interest in any of the local views that have been expressed and no questions. Cllr Derrick Ashley advised the committee that the school should provide for its parking on site and an amendment to consider this was passed despite officers saying the site was too cramped. Cllr David Barnard, representing Hitchin Rural which includes Oughton Head Way, alone referred to the volume of local objections, said the proposed park and stride was too inconvenient and would not work and voted against enlarging Samuel Lucas. The other councillors from all over the county gave permission without debate.

It seemed clear that councillors had decided the vote before the meeting, contrary to HCC Code of Practice. Formal Complaints will be lodged.

Officials and councillors acknowledge that increased traffic and parking in residential streets near the school cannot be allowed. A planning condition means that free spaces must be allocated on the top floor of the Lairage multi-storey for all parents bringing children to school from this September, for as long as the new school buildings will be used, say 50 years. Each parent will therefore be subsidised by £2 a day, a total annual hit on council tax of £40,000, £2m over 50 years, adding almost 50 per cent to the £4.4m to be spent on new classrooms. At the same time, commuters are to be forced out of the nearby residential streets into the Lairage. The potential lost income to NHDC over 50 years if all spaces become needed for commuter parking as Hitchin fills up would be £4m. Whether compensating the lost income falls on NHDC or HCC is immaterial - it’s extra council tax either way.

The needed extra school places could be provided by refurbishing existing rooms at Oughton Primary for less than £100,000 in total - with no need for extra land or parking problems. Is it financially responsible to build new classrooms at Samuel Lucas JMI plus subsidise parents’ parking when public spending generally has to be reduced?

Robin Dartington

West Hill

Hitchin

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CAR FIASCO

SIR - I wonder if all current parents at Samuel Lucas realise that, due to the plan to use a new temporary classroom from this September, every time they want to drop off a child by car,they will have to park at the top of the Lairage multi-storey and face a six minute walk into school whatever the weather? Did new parents allocated a place for September know this before the deadline of June 28 to respond to the offer of a place?

The councillors who chose to allow the plan were told the children now at the school will suffer disruption for between 2 and a half and 3 and a half years due to building and landscaping work. Do parents know this?

Name supplied

West Hill

Hitchin

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WRONG ROLE

SIR - The Comet letters page is always interesting with its spread of diverse views, however is a pity that occasionally, either accidently or not a letter is factually incorrect. This was the case with last week’s letter from a Jean Carter.

To correct the first error I am not a county councillor, the only payments I receive are as a Stevenage borough councillor. Like many others in the country my political and community responsibilities including chairman of the Herts County Labour Party, vice chairman of the Herts Nature Partnership and chairman of a children’s centre and primary schools governing bodies are voluntary and unpaid.

Should Jean Carter have any on-going environmental concerns within the remit of the borough council I would be delighted to receive a letter detailing her issues. Or she may prefer to approach her local ward councillors who I am sure would be pleased to help her.

Exactly what was the connection between the damage being caused to our education system by the policies of Mr Gove and Jean Carter’s letter we must wonder.

John Gardner

Deputy Leader

Stevenage Borough Council

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