LETTERS: Comet July 25

THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, July 25

LETTERS FOR 15P IS A WASTE

SIR - Today I received a letter from housing benefit telling me I’d been overpaid by the hideous amount of 15p.

To let me know this incredible piece of information, they printed the letter on four pages of A4 paper and sent it second class. I have no objection to repaying an overpayment, but I do wonder about their method of letting me know. At best guess, it cost 40-50p to send that letter, so the council has made a loss of 25-35p.

What is amusing is that every other letter I get, be it council tax bill or something else, has, on the back of it, a statement that Stevenage Borough Council prefer email as a form of contact. That said, I have yet to receive a reply from any email I’ve sent to housing or the benefit departments over the past few years.


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Had they sent an email informing me of this, and they have my email address on record, it would’ve cost less than 1p and if I needed an official printout I could’ve requested one.

Maybe this loss to the tax payers of Stevenage should be deducted from the wage packet of the person who runs the benefits department.

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One final note. The mistake was made by the council themselves by entering my rent amount wrongly, £92.03 instead of £92.02. The last sentence of the letter, before it goes into the financial details of the claim, says: ‘If you are overpaid because you failed to report changes straightaway you will have to pay it back’. I read that to mean they shouldn’t have reclaimed the 15p as it was their mistake.

MARTIN WILLOUGHBY

Address supplied

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CAR DAMAGE

SIR - I would like to say ‘well done’ to the ‘lady’ driving her Range Rover in the car park of Hitchin Swimming Pool last Tuesday afternoon.

Well done for reversing into my car and damaging the near side front wing. Well done for speeding off when my son and his two friends ran up to the car and saw the damage. Well done for setting such a fine example to the children who were in the car with you. You have probably not sustained any damage to your vehicle. My son, however, feels so bad that he has offered to use his hard earned money that was to pay for his holiday, to repair it. He has taken any job offered in order to earn some money. He has been labouring on building sites and taking gardening jobs to earn any cash he can. So, once again, well done.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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LOCAL VIEWS

SIR - Our countryside, which has been beautifully nurtured by farmers and is second to none in the world, is increasingly at risk from inappropriate development caused by inadequate planning policies, a weakening of local democracy and a focus on short-term economic growth regardless of the environmental consequences.

The Government’s localism agenda has been seriously undermined and I am deeply concerned that local views are being ignored to the detriment of valued and irreplaceable countryside. While I recognise the need for economic prosperity for all, should this be pursued at any cost to the environment?

If we don’t stand up for the countryside we will lose it. Can I encourage your readers to sign the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s new charter? This demands better protection for the countryside, a fair say for local communities in planning for the places where they live and work, and more housing – in the right places. See www.saveourcountryside.org.uk

DR WILLIAM CHAMEN

Church Close Cottage

Maulden

Bedford

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LAZY BINS

SIR - It is disappointing that my neighbours and I constantly need to go to the bottom of our cul-de-sac and retrieve our waste bins at the end of the collection. Where some of the neighbours are elderly they should not be subjected to this.

I have often made formal complaints to Stevenage Borough Council to no avail. This is something that needs to be addressed especially as we pay part of our council tax for this sub-standard service of laziness with the operatives not returning the bins.

I can’t believe that the schools are starting their six-week summer holiday and we are expected to have the best summer for a long time, so what idiot decided to close part of Six Hills Way which includes access to the only outside water park in Stevenage for the whole of the holidays. Why couldn’t they wait until after the schools go back. I know there is another road off Colestrete but that’s just going to be congestion every day like it is on Bonfire Night and I’m sure the residents of those streets will soon get fed up of all the traffic.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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FLOWERJOY

SIR - Please can we put an end to so many letters about cars and car parking and disposal of rubbish. As a Stotfold resident I would like to point out that in Bedfordshire we have a simple collection of rubbish and recycling, little effort for us and no problems. On a second positive note, I would like to say a big thank you to the people responsible for a lovely show of natural flower planting at the UK’s first roundabout in Letchworth GC and the wonderful wild flower bed nearby. They are a joy to drive around!

JOY BURTON

Address supplied

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GREEN RAGE

SIR - Letchworth has gone green with anger.

Since the new bin system has been introduced the instructions from the council about what goes where were fine until they stopped collecting bins all over Letchworth GC it seems because of wrong types of plastic in the bin. You only have to look on Facebook and every other day friends all over town are Facebooking the same comments.

Can you speak to the council and get clarification, they treat us like we are stupid and yet we pay for it to be taken away.

JOE AMOS

Address supplied

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RECYCLING BIN COLOURS

SIR - I do agree with your first correspondent (Comet, July 18) about bins. What on earth is the fuss about? The instructions are perfectly clear. And the colour (violet, not purple), as well as being one of the colours of the NHDC logo, is very laid-back, non-intrusive and quite elegant.

Now that glass, plastic bottles, and cans are all in together, we could surely have recycling bins in parks and public places. They do this in Switzerland – known for its civic conscience.

Just get used to it, and get a life.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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DON’T DELAY

SIR - I attended the meeting last Thursday night, and was appalled at the discussion on the Churchgate item, which most agree was a shambles.

Having also been to the Hitchin Area Committee meeting I realised that the Hitchin councillors must had been sold the line that no vote would be taken on Churchgate at the full council meeting, it was just to discuss the report which they had only just received prior to their meeting.

That why the matter was not discussed on Tuesday’s Hitchin committe meeting.

When I arrived on Thursday and looked at the papers another wadge was handed out as an addendum which most councillors would not have seen.

As the evening progressed it was obvious a vote would be taken on Churchgate. When Cllr Lynda Needham stood up to open the debate immediately it became apparent that this was a personal ‘war’ against those who had scuppered the Simons scheme.

She even said: “I am not going to raise the white flag”

Then a shambles followed, those few supporting her and those who didn’t. Quite honestly it was embarrassing for the public.

Good news, I hope, Hitchin councillors supported by Claire Strong and others eventually with the help of Richard Thake got through an amendment which supported the principle of the local plan in two years, but allowed Hammersmatch to bring forward their plan earlier and if viable it could go to planning stage before two years.

This was agreed and David Scholes even said this was ok.

I hope this is not later on interpreted differently.

I cant understand the entrenched position by some in the Cabinet, all Hitchin civic groups are working as one to get an excellent solution.

KEITH BERRY

Broadmead

Hitchin

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REPORT TO NORTH HERTS COUNCIL

SIR - The officers’ report to North Herts Council on options for Churchgate was one long appalling whine that ‘We have spent 10 years and £1m and got nowhere - now we have no idea what to do, let’s do nothing and perhaps the new district plan will magically make all clear’.

What can we expect from the district plan? Tired reiteration of consultants’ advice that the district needs more large shops in Hitchin ‘to increase the District’s retail offer and stop people going to Stevenage, Welwyn and Cambridge to shop? It would take a new Hadrian’s Wall to do that.

Hitchin’s charming and successful town centre has resulted from centuries of evolution driven by local people, not by grand plans from external consultants who lack local knowledge.

Plans from Hammersmatch to improve and extend the Churchgate Centre should be judged against the current planning frame framework and the new district plan should then embrace that reality.

It would be helpful if Hammersmatch would limit the issues to the future of the centre and back off requiring the positions of the market and St Mary’s car park to be switched. That is contentious and not for Hammersmatch to decide.

ROBIN DARTINGTON

West Hill

Hitchin

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THE GREEN BELT SHOULD BE PROTECTED FOR OUR FUTURE

SIR - I write with reference to NHDC’s various proposals to develop the Green Belt around Hitchin and villages in the Chilterns Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The proposals are in direct contravention of the Government’s new national planning policy framework, which aims at protection of the Green Belt and to discourage building on Green Belt sites:

The Green Belt has five purposes, all of which apply around Hitchin:

To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas.

To prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another.

To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.

To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns.

To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

NHDC should inform residents which brownfield sites it has first considered before allocating these Green Belt and AONB sites. It is also notable that none of these sites is located in proximity to a railway station nor anywhere near to the railway line, where a new station could be developed. New residents would therefore have to rely on private cars, further adding to congestion and pollution. With local schools already at breaking point, I also wonder how NHDC plans to cater for the education needs of the additional population.

These housing options mark the commencement of a consultation to remove the Green Belt protection from the proposed sites. If people do not object, the Green Belt protection will be removed in order to pave the way for urban sprawl and pollution.

E. WALTER

Newlands Lane

Hitchin

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BBC’S BIASED PROGRAMME

SIR - The BBC broadcast an interview on its ‘Look East’ programme with the chief executive of Luton Airport last week in which he gave a completely biased account of the plans for increased passenger numbers. I wrote to complain to the BBC but as that licence-payers’‘money-tree’ usually ignores viewers’ comments, do not expect a response. Let alone a balancing interview with a spokesman from say LADACAN, NHDC or Herts County Council.

1. He stated that 65 per cent of those polled were in favour of expansion. He omitted to mention that most of them either worked at the airport or were otherwise connected to it. A survey in the Hertfordshire villages and towns surrounding the airport and adversely affected by the noise gives an overwhelming majority against expansion.

2. He was disingenuous over the planning application. Luton Borough Council owns the airport and is thus giving itself planning permission. No democracy there. Nor does it look like the Government will intervene, eg. calling in the planning consent by a minister and/or a public inquiry. Even though LAP’s development is not part of the Government’s plans for airport growth in the South East.

3. Unpublished minutes of Luton Borough Council meetings show that the real figure for passenger numbers is not 18 million a year, but rather 30 million.

Nor was any mention made of the desire of the new owners of Stansted airport to increase numbers to 150 million passengers a year. This would impact upon North Herts. A triple-whammy for residents if the proposals in the Options for Development also go ahead with house-building on the Green Belt which NHDC is duty-bound to implement by the policy to cover Britain’s agricultural land with houses and rely on imports of food from the Third World to make up the shortfall.

ROBERT SUNDERLAND

Oak House

Little Wymondley

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HOME HELP

Sir - I have read with interest a number of articles relating to housing developments in the region.

In the case of the 100 homes proposed in Henlow the reports include comment not only from residents but also from the local council opposing the proposals. This will no doubt be a source of reassurance to residents. In Arlesey there is no such support of residents who oppose the ludicrous proposal to dump a minimum of 1,000 houses in the town in the next few years, virtually doubling the population. Arlesey Town Council and its Central Bedfordshire ward councillors blindly support the scheme, despite it having no definition or bringing any significant benefits to existing residents. The only justification appears to be that it was ‘supported’ by the previous administration. Meanwhile a comprehensive survey of residents recently conducted by the Voice of Arlesey (a resident action group) recorded that over 85 per cent of the 562 residents who responded are either against the development (61 per cent) or don’t have enough information to decide. Further housing may be needed in the area, but isn’t it about time elected representatives of Arlesey paid more than just lip-service to the Localism Act and began to heed residents? concerns that this proposed development is grossly disproportionate and unsympathetic. It will be interesting to see how residents choose to respond to calls for them to support candidates intending to re-stand at the next round of elections.

ANDREW WARD

Address supplied

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CHAMBER FUN

SIR - I was very privileged to be a member of a most appreciative audience at Saturday evening’s chamber music concert at the Walsworth Baptist Church given by the Goldfields Ensemble. As the Hitchin Festival draws to a close it was a memorable occasion when the group offered us a mixture of trios and quartets that included the exquisite pastel colours of Mozart and the vibrant passionate palette of Brahms. Superb fresh interpretations of the works by such gifted musicians was a pure delight, indicated by the prolonged applause.

JOY BURTON

Address Supplied

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CLEAN IT UP

SIR - St Ippolyts Parish Council has recognised and tried to rectify a nuisance over a long period which is dog fouling on the recreation ground and other places.

The several notices posted over a very long time have had no effect on a minority of dog owners/keepers who do not pick up their dog droppings. Those at fault often have their dogs running free and who walk apart from the dogs not bothering to look and see what their dogs are up to.The increasing dog deposits verify that the problem is growing and is especially bad for the children on school holiday. The installation of CCTV cameras and an appointed local government warden to watch and issue penalty notices are the next logical steps to take. Come on guilty dog owners, clean up after your dogs.

JOHN WINDEBANK

St Ippolyts

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COST OF SIGN

SIR - At last with the impending closure of Six Hills Way the much maligned traffic signs are being used.

With the sunny summer weather I have taken to using my motorcycle for my 50 mile each way commute to work. On my journey I traverse through Herts, Beds and Bucks. Nowhere else do I see these traffic signs but what I do notice is that in Beds and Bucks the road surfaces are much better. Could there be a link? As an example I would like to see the person in charge of roads in Hertfordshire ride pillion with me up Martins Way and down Verity Way, the surfaces are not only a patchwork quilt of poorly carried out repairs but the actual road surface is full of bumps a traffic calming scheme would be proud of.

In reality they are a real danger to the two wheeled fraternity, who do pay road tax too, and the jobsworths at Herts County Council should be ashamed of themselves.

NORMAN PIPE

Address supplied

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