LETTERS: Comet July 18
THE Letters in the Comet on Thursday, July 18
SCHOOL PARKING IS NOT SOLVED
SIR - I was horrified to read that due to building work being planned at Samuel Lucas School that parents would have to park for free in the Lairage multi-storey car park and then escort their children for a massive six minute walk to the school. This is without doubt nearing cruelty to children. Have the councillors no feelings? Have they not considered parents and children will have to make a return journey as well? This amounts to an outrageous 12 minutes walking everyday. I demand that the school building design is revised to include front doors wide enough to allow parents to drive their cars into the assembly hall for the drop off.
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SIR - Samuel Lucas JMI is past the stage of ‘We need more school places – so let’s expand Samuel Lucas as it is oversubscribed by local families’. But let’s not forget that the present school matches the 750 houses within walking distance. All local children would normally be admitted if siblings from families who have moved away were no longer given priority. The plan to double the school is now into the planning stage. There are laws and regulations to protect safety and amenity and Tom Condon’s simplistic and insulting letter was inaccurate. Clearly he does not understand planning issues. The planning report said there will be an additional 198 children when the school has filled, not only the 30 arriving this September. Provision will be needed for 34 to 44 additional cars to the school, not six - not allowing for bad weather when car usage goes up just when there is most danger to children walking to school on sub-standard pavements. The opposition (largely to extra traffic) from 77 out of 80 residents at the first public meeting, from 60 percent of the 216 responses to public consutation and of 23 out of 26 replies to the planning application has led the report to say: ‘The secured agreement to the NHDC Park & Stride (i.e. free parking in the Lairage) will be promoted as the only acceptable parking location’. Permission to double in size is subject to 24 conditions, including: ‘Before the development is brought into use, the park and stride facility referred to in the school travel plan shall be provided and made available during the life of the development unless otherwise agreed in writing by the county planning authority’. That condition will require NHDC to allocate a third of the 299 spaces in the Lairage public long-term car park for free parking by parents for the next 50, 100 or 500 years that the school continues on that site. Is it fair to council taxpayers to grant this one school such privilege? Should NHDC withdraw the offer now they have realised the obligation will be never-ending? Both the local county councillors wanted a drop-off within the school grounds but officers said the site was too cramped. The scheme was then imposed by eight councillors from outside the town, over-riding the local selected representatives. Perhaps the 38 spaces being provided
on site for staff should be reallocated for disabled parking and parents’ drop-off, and the teachers should park in the Lairage alongside other workers who commute to Hitchin.
EXPANSION OF SAMUAL LUCAS SCHOOL
SIR - Further to the letters in last week’s Comet, the idea that anyone is being spiteful (Guy Wiseman) is woefully inaccurate. The expansion of Samuel Lucas school has been opposed by a number of residents because the local roads (Oughton Head Way, Bedford Street) are narrow and congested and adding more traffic, which will happen regardless of the ‘park and stride’ scheme, will just make them far more dangerous. Before anyone else wishes to respond on this, please have a look at these narrow pathways during school drop-off and pick-up times. Park and stride does seem like a sensible scheme but many parents will not, and quite understandably, wish for their children to get wet and cold during winter and will want to drop them off outside the school gates. The council has failed to understand the needs of parents in this regard and congestion will thus inevitably occur. However, the biggest challenge with regard to the Samuel Lucas scheme is that it is a waste of money. It will cost over £3m expand Samuel Lucas, when Oughton Primary School could have been upgraded for far less with the residual £2m or so being spent on upgrading other schools in the town. The county council and district council have vetoed this approach for reasons of expediency and because of what I can only surmise as an expression of their own political views. Focusing funds on one school when so many others could have benefited is frankly appalling and an obscene waste of public funds. The elected officials and officers involved in this decision should be held to account for such dereliction and negligence of their responsibilities.
SIR - I am writing to say although I think it’s fantastic Stevenage have built new council homes for the first time in over 20 years, I can’t help but wonder who will be housed in these new homes. Myself, my husband and our son and daughter currently live in a one bedroom council flat, we’ve been on the housing register for nearly five years yet every time I contact Stevenage Homes we are told we are not a priority. I was told only recently that we now do not meet Stevenage Homes’ criteria for housing needs and will more than likely not be successful in the bidding process until our daughter is 10 (another five years). The whole system is a joke. I was told
by SBC that if we were not married, or my husband was not working they would help more. They also said social services can help a great deal. I hope Stevenage Homes and the councillors of this town start to help working families soon.
LIGHTS BACK ON
SIR - It’s now two years since the Conservative-run county council starting turning off most residential roads street lights at midnight. Readers will know that Liberal Democrat councillors fought against this ill-thought out policy that allowed for no local decision making or variation of policy despite the Conservatives pledge to believe in “localism”. At the last two years’ budget meetings we have proposed funding to turn lights back on and also pressed for an early review. The Conservatives promised one this summer having voted down our budget plans. Now the long awaited review will take place, first at the Highways and Waste Panel on September 12 to be followed by a formal scrutiny review in early October. This scrutiny review will allow members of the public and organisations to put their views on this part night lighting policy. Liberal Democrats urge residents to not only let their local county councillor know their views but to put any formal submissions to Tom Hawkyard, the Head of Scrutiny, Herts County Council, Pegs Lane, Hertford, SG13 8DE (firstname.lastname@example.org). Residents and groups can also ask to speak in person as part of this process and if you want to do so should request this. What is clear, especially in many urban areas, is that residents are very concerned about this night time blackout that starts at midnight and turns every light off in many residential side roads. The poor state of most footpaths and roads makes trying to walk or cycle in the dark very dangerous. Now it’s your chance to have your say and we hope the ruling Conservatives at last listen.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader,
Herts County Council
PLAYING FOR TIME
SIR - The ineptitude of NHDC over their bungled attempts at developing Churchgate is about to reach new heights at this week’s full council meeting. After the £500,000 fiasco of the unpopular Simons plan, council officials have come up with a new masterplan of do nothing for at least two years. Rather than allow a new plan by
Hammersmatch to go ahead, which will see a cinema return to the town after some 50 years, councillors are being asked instead to kick everything in the long grass until 2015 at the earliest. Norma Atlay, project leader, wants the delay so the council can come up with a new local plan for Hitchin. This is the same official who argued that Simons should be allowed to break the existing local plan which ruled out building on
either St Mary’s or Portmill Lane car parks, something she was more than willing to allow; and, therefore, completely obscure the view of the 1,000 year-old St Mary’s Church. By doing nothing, NHDC will have spent £1 million in a decade on not redeveloping Churchgate. Churchill defeated Hitler in the Second World War in half that time. It is time for councillors to put the officials in their place and tell them to get on with talks with Hammersmatch. We don’t want another 10 wasted years and another £1 million bill while bureaucrats dither and delay at our expense.
SIR - What a shame your regular correspondent, Mr Condon, fails to properly read your columns prior to issuing inaccurate retorts. I am an elected county councillor for the area immediately adjacent to Samuel Lucas School, and irrespective of political membership, I have pledged to represent the best interests of all. I have clearly stated, and you have reported, that I fully recognise and support the need to provide extra school places in Hitchin, and that Samuel Lucas can help satisfy this need. My major concern is for the safety of the children travelling to the school, and the need to keep our local roads safe to use. Irresponsible parking and drop offs already blight this area. To this end, I made a suggestion, in committee, that there should be further research undertaken in respect to the drop off and collection methods. I believe there is scope to provide a “drive in and out” drop off zone in the school entrance area, which will be a safer and usable solution. The “park and stride” proposed for the Lairage car park is very unlikely to be used by parents, and greater congestion at the school entrance will ensue. Staff parking spaces could be provided in the very car park suggested for the parents use. Safety issues are not political, as suggested by Mr Condon and I will always speak out and work on behalf of all of my constituents and for the greater good of our area.
Herts County Councillor
Hitchin Rural Division
SIR - As a West Hill resident I feel that all the roads within ‘walking’ distance to the soon to be expanded Samual Lucas - need to have parking restrictions that are monitored daily. Not only do we suffer from shoppers and workers parking making all roads single access only, but now we are to be overrun with parents who feel it is their given right to get their precious ones as close to the school whatever it takes.
If two parents do this every day now for the 10 minute ‘turnaround’ of their child to the school, (and I see it every day) then what will happen as the school gets bigger - as it is many of us cannot actually get out or back into our drives without this idiocy of parents - walk and stride will not happen - they will not manage the walk they will just park and stride from wherever they can as close as they can.
Name and address
COLOUR PURPLE HAS BIN A POOR CHOICE BY COUNCIL
SIR - I cannot ‘binleave’ the amount of fuss being made of the new kerbside recycling scheme. I write concerning Brian Morgan’s comments. This is how it works: Purple bin for any household waste (if you don’t like the clash then buy a sticker for your bin with roses on it.) Grey for plastics, cardboard and textiles in a plastic bag at the top of the bin. Brown for garden and compost bags. Blue box paper. Black box can be used for any extra recycling. How is this complicated? Stop complaining and be grateful you are not spending numerous trips to the recycling centre.
SIR - I write with reference with the eyesore that is the purple bin, introduced to North Herts at a cost of just under £1 million. May I first say that I fully understand and support the recycling plan. I have been on the NHDC website and read the FAQs and was surprised to see the comments regarding the choice of colour. Apparently the colour choice was because of other industries using specific colours, so they were limited. Well I am sure there are thousands of colours to choose from rather than the horrid purple that the committee decided on. To coin a phrase ‘they should have gone to Specsavers.’
RECYCLING IN NORTH HERTS
SIR - Recycling in North Herts is such a great idea. Now we don’t need bins in our kitchen - we simply need to trot out to our big bins every time we have a piece of rubbish. Headcolds will be a challenge, fighting winter winds to drop every tissue into the right colour bin or maybe we should have a tissue bin installed in every room. I don’t remember a consultation on this daft situation. Did we agree to clag up our gardens with more bins? Or were we asked if we would like more public bins for plastics and cardboard? Have the council agreed to refund some of our council tax now that we do our own rubbish filtering? Did I miss an important development? Is there support for the elderly and vulnerable? I am a healthy, intelligent woman and I have to check I am putting the right rubbish in the right bin but I also have to go ferreting through the bins of an elderly relative to make sure that she hasn’t put a piece of rubbish in the wrong bin. I won’t be doing that for very long. This new initiative is putting unacceptable pressure on those who are currently just maintaining their independence, often with help, this could be the tipping point into dependent care. In some counties the public have stopped this nonsense by not cooperating with such demands and the councils have had to revert to the 2 bins. Just imagine after all the work you are doing in all weathers to sort out your rubbish for the council, it all gets transported to our shores, loaded onto ships and taken to far destinations, this is not a solution to the problem - it is a waste of time and energy. Perhaps a different approach – try stopping the unacceptable packaging of goods in plastic containers (including milk), and the plastic carrier bags that are freely handed out in spite of strong evidence on the damage these practices cause.
Name and address
GARNISH PURPLE RUBBISH BINS
SIR - I cannot imagine why our obedient servants have chosen to blight our pleasant town with garish purple rubbish bins. The existing miscellany of plastic daleks and boxes present storage and handling problems for many of us householders; adding another is a most unwelcome imposition and the obtrusive colour rubs additional salt into the wound. If we were compelled to have another bin could it not have been dark green, a more environmentally friendly colour? If it’s a case of Hobson’s choice perhaps we could be provided with a large holographic picture of a bloodshot eye which we can stick on the purple bin to serve as a constant reminder that Big Brother is watching us.
Name and address
SIR - Who oversees the police commissioner? What has he done for us that the chief constable couldn’t/hasn’t already done? It would appear to be a profligate expense during this period when our local rate is being squeezed and councils have few alternative sources to make savings. At the same time the commissioner is off junketing, having ‘light buffet lunches’ at places like Auberge de Lac (who I’m sure could do without this form of publicity) and being entertained in the stands at football matches. Not bad for a part-time job that needs an assistant to cope with the excess demand on his time – and presumably a secretary and an office with its equipment of table, filing cabinet, computer, telephone et al. Perhaps he will offer me a job at this rate of £60,000 to £70,000 for an assistant. He can guarantee that, if I can’t do the job, he won’t have to put up with my incompetence for long. I am over 80 and could do with a supplement to my pension.
SIR - May I pay tribute to the work and commitment of David Billing. David served many years on both the district council and county council. His attention to detail, thorough preparation for meetings and close analysis of the issues involved was an example of unsurpassed service to his community. Whilst not agreeing with David on many issues I valued his timely additions to the debate on local Hitchin issues and his consideration of the wider work of North Herts District Council on the Scrutiny committee. David was a gentleman, gentle in debate with impeccable manners yet still managed to make his point forcefully and effectively. I am sure I speak for all Hitchin councillors and the many residents who knew him in expressing our deepest sympathy to his wife, Judi, and family. David will be remembered for his substantial contribution to the community of Hitchin and North Hertfordshire. As an example of selfless dedication to public life he will be hard to replace.
North Herts District Councillor
Walsworth Ward Hitchin
SIR - All surgeons always question the validity of figures and statistics measuring competence of a service, but surely it would be the same for all vascular units. The audit conducted was the same for all. Regarding abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) surely there is a case for the East and North Herts trust to instigate via GPs an early warning system of ultrasound tests for all patients over 60. Early warning would result in earlier treatment and improve mortality figures in what is often an emergency procedure. The classification of general surgeons with an interest in vascular surgery is surely not correct. There is a huge difference between a dedicated vascular unit who perform no other procedures but AAAs and peripheral
Vascular surgery and one that has an interest in this speciality. Patients, who have not had such a good experience at a hospital, now have the legal right via their GP, to be referred to a hospital of their choice.