LETTERS: Comet June 14
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, June 14.
SIR – I’m disappointed that the Comet does not appear to employ an investigative journalist who might examine local charities.
The Cow Commoners Trust is a pseudo charity  – difficult to locate information and, more importantly, no requirement to publish accounts. The first object of the charity is for the benefit of the community through the provision of facilities for the charitable use for cricket, football or other sports or for other general charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Hitchin.
It is mandatory that one trustee is appointed by North Herts District Council, namely Richard Thake, and another from Hitchin Youth Trust, Eileen Mathie. I rest my case.
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SIR – From the content of the recent letters pages in the Comet, it is clear to see there is not a wider understanding of my personal position with regard to the Cow Commoners and Top Field. I have advised the trustees, and those present at the last ‘Town Talk’ that I acknowledge I have a conflict here and have taken advice on the matter. I will be taking no part in any deliberations whatsoever in respect of these matters. I am an NHDC nominated representative to the Cow Commoners Trust and have been for a number of years. I recognise the potential conflict of this role and decisions that the council may be asked to make with regard to proposals for the future of the land held by the Trust. I have therefore discussed and agreed with the council’s monitoring officer that I should play no part in any decisions, or discussions, around any proposal for the future of the land. I recognise the importance to the community of proposals for the future of the land and know my fellow councillors will represent those interests.
SIR - We must all be reassured by Cllr Ray Shakespeare-Smith’s statement that local and county councillors are toiling into the night on our behalf. However, there appears to be a considerable conflict of interest on the part of certain councillors with regard to the Cow Commoners’ business. Keeping quiet and avoiding questions will fuel the antagonism, not allay it.
Some questions need to be answered:
1. Who appoints representatives to the Cow Commoners, how and to whom are they answerable?
2. Does this body have a legal constitution and does it present an annual statement of accounts?
3. If it is notionally a charitable institution why is it not registered?
4. ‘Cui Bono’ from this deal with Tesco? Certainly not the residents of Hitchin who will have a completely new view of an ugly supermarket from Butts Close. (Until that too is quietly de-registered and built on.....). Nor will the residents benefit from the additional traffic which will surely congest the junction of Fishponds and Bedford roads.
Nearby residents will doubtless be delighted to be awoken at 4am by large Tesco delivery trucks. Waitrose, a few hundred yards away advertises that its branded products are the same price as Tesco and there is already a Tesco store at the other end of town. So surely no need for one more supermarket to add to the several which adequately serve us already. Unless Tesco intends to do another ‘Bicester’ to Hitchin. (I believe there are five in that town).
5. Why is New Road Developments involved? Surely Tesco would use its own design and contracting teams.
6. To whom does the land by St Ippolyts belong where councillors/Cow Commoners are so desirous to move the football club? The owner would doubtless benefit considerably when the council re-draws the Green Belt at a stroke of a pen. The same councillors are rightly vociferous in their opposition to Luton Borough Council, the airport and Stevenage Council attempting to intrude into North Herts Green Belt, yet are strangely silent on this ‘adjustment’. Development deals in Hitchin have often been ‘opaque’ in the past, perhaps for valid reasons. These two appear to be running true to form. No information until it is all done and dusted and too late to stop.
My advice to councillors involved with Cow Commoners: Don’t try to run with the hare and hunt with hounds. You are either a Cow Commoner or a councillor. And certainly not a councillor who has any say in related planning matters. Otherwise be assured of grief and opprobrium, however thick-skinned you may be.
SIR – Since the Tesco Express opened in Hitchin, there has been parking and mayhem at the entrance and exit to Hitchin station.
Cars have parked two abreast, in the road, and on yellow lines, some facing the oncoming traffic while they park their cars and go inside to Tesco Express to do their shopping.
We ourselves have had cars lined up at the entrance to our driveway and have been trapped (no access in nor out) until the drivers return from their shopping.
One driver was aggressive and verbally abusive when we returned from a trip and wanted access to enter our driveway and refused to move his car as he was waiting for his wife to finish her shopping.
Delivery trucks stop on the road in front of Tesco and on one occassion buses could not exit, nor enter into Walsworth Road.
We have photographic evidence of many of these instances of illegal and extremely dangerous parking. We have purchased signs asking people not to park in front of the entrance to our drive but this has absolutely no effect whatsoever and the G4S (money van for the ATM at the Tesco Express) parks directly on our drive.
This has been extremely upsetting, distressing and downright dangerous. The shoppers do not want to park in Hitchin Station and would prefer to park all along the entrance, on the road itself (Station Terrace), in front of Tesco.
I ask that a member of the planning dept contact Jon on 07831 110833 to discuss a way forward that is viable and safe for all concerned in the nearest vicinity to the Tesco Express store in Hitchin. I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
Melanie and Jonathan Harwood
SIR – More shops vacant and none of the big name shops in Letchworth town centre?
It is getting ridiculous, have a look at all ‘bargain’ shops we have now and not forgetting the charity shops. I can think of four at the moment and I’m understanding there will be a YMCA where the big bookshop used to be? How many more do we need?
I know they do create jobs and all serve their purpose, but Letchworth needs a big name to attract custom, BHS, M&S someone like that.
Is the reason we haven’t got these big names in our town because the rents are too high? There isn’t a men’s clothes shop in the town, but there are two women-only shops. Something needs to be done.
SIR – “Anger”, “hatred”, “battles”, “wars”, the language of the former mayor of Letchworth (Comet letters, May 31).
His way of thinking, not HELP’s. But proof, if proof were ever needed, of how the town council that he ran was the source of unpleasantness in our very pleasant town. He would like us to believe that “the town council could have stopped NHDC selling the Pelican pub”. Just like it stopped the closure of Westbury School, secured a revised layout for the A1(M) road junction, prevented the removal of the Station Road roundabout, and got the Hitchin railway crossing construction plans changed.
Sorry, Mr Ross, it’s time to take a reality pill – the people of Letchworth just don’t buy it.
George D Ritchie
SIR – With respect to the overturned ambulance outside Thomas Alleyne School in Stevenage High Street on June 4, I am relieved the two crew members suffered only minor injuries.
This accident highlights the increasing likelihood of a serious accident in the future on this very dangerous bend. I noticed also that, some three weeks ago, the fence in front of the school was badly damaged along a large part of its length.
I can only assume, by the nature of the damage, that this too was caused by a vehicle failing to negotiate this tight bend. We hear the squealing of tyres regularly on this corner, as drivers, bearing down from the dual carriageways in Lytton Way and Hitchin Road under-estimate the acuteness of the bend immediately in front of the school.
During peak traffic periods, the schoolchildren are in groups going to and from the school where there is a drop kerb immediately in front of the gates. I fear that unless this junction is modified very soon there could be a serious accident involving pedestrians.
A crash barrier may not be enough, as any swerving vehicles would hit it at right angles. I believe the whole junction should be ‘calmed’ from the Lytton Way/Hitchin Road junction. In addition, vehicles coming down Lytton Way into Hitchin Road occasionally mount the pavement just north of Julians Road.
Again this is used by elderly people and children on their way to and from John Henry Newman School. In conclusion, this whole junction is ill-designed for the volume and speed of modern traffic and is an accident waiting to happen.
Mr Gilbert’s letter entitled ‘Plate Scam’ (Comet letters, May 31) where inaccurate claims were made about the use of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition).
Mr Gilbert refers to ANPR as a system for ‘mass surveillance’. This is not the case at all; the cameras are used as a crimefighting tool to target those with criminal intent and to remove dangerous drivers and vehicles from our roads. It has successfully identified serious offenders including burglars, drug dealers and drivers with no insurance.
ANPR scans the number plates of passing vehicles and references them with databases belonging to the DVLA and police intelligence systems. If a driver has no insurance or driving licence, or if a car has been stolen, previously used in a crime or has a stolen number plate, the vehicle will flag up to police.
Law abiding people have nothing to fear from ANPR cameras. We have no need to be economical with the truth regarding ANPR. We work closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and follow national guidance in keeping the data for a maximum of two years before deleting it. The data is held for intelligence purposes and only looked at when a suspected criminal has driven through an area on a particular time and date. The data is not passed on to third parties.
With regards to the point Mr Gilbert makes regarding ‘…the menace of number plate font crime...’ using a misrepresented number plate is an offence and can pose a threat to officers identifying vehicles that may have been used for criminal purposes. Anyone displaying a number plate which is illegal will be pulled over and could face a fine. I would therefore urge anyone using a misrepresented plate to change it as soon as possible.
I would be pleased to offer Mr Gilbert the chance to spend an afternoon with our officers to allay his concerns and to see exactly how we use ANPR as one of many policing tools to keeping our community safe.
Force ANPR Inspector
SIR – Sixty years ago, in September 1952, about 90 eager 11-year-olds, including me, started at Letchworth Grammar School and I wondered in this Diamond Jubilee year how many of us were still around the area to perhaps get together for an informal gathering.
If any of these names are familiar to you, you were in that class: David Glennister, Barbara Lane, Anna Bland, Diederik van der Werff, John and Peter Yates, Marion Rusted, Joyce Harding, Anthony Bullard and Francis Carter to name a few.
If you are interested in a get together please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a text to 07788 954374. If you are in contact with anyone outside our area, please pass this on.
SIR – An interesting leaflet from First Capital Connect came through my letter box, the intent being to encourage people to use the train services to travel to London.
Sample fares were given from several towns in our region. A ‘Super Off-Peak’ return ticket from Luton to London is given as �9 whereas the same ticket from Hitchin to London is �12. Hitchin and Luton are about the same distance from London, so why the mark-up for Hitchin travellers?
SIR – The recession is damaging the hopes of thousands of young people in Hertfordshire who are struggling to find a job. Now young people in schools could be next in line.
Prince’s Trust research shows that seven out of 10 secondary school teachers are “increasingly worried” their pupils will end up on benefits, while more than one in three (37 per cent) feel their efforts are “in vain”.
Here in Hertfordshire, an extra concern is that more than 7,600 pupils are regular absentees. These young people can fall out of the system because they struggle to keep up, feeling they will never achieve anything.
We know that teachers do all they can to help students, but many are telling us they need more support. Here at The Prince’s Trust, we run programmes with teachers to help young people who are struggling, preventing exclusions, improving grades and giving them the skills they need to find a job in the future. Government, charities and employers must work with schools now to support vulnerable young people. If we don’t, we risk seeing a generation of young adults joining the dole queue.
The Prince’s Trust in the East
SIR – Regarding your article on the Shephall Green well (Comet, May 31).
An appalling lack of judgement seems to have taken place by the borough council. As an old resident of the village in the 1930s and 40s, when I was a lad at school residing at the Old Rectory and later on the green, I daily drew water from the well as did all the other residents. It was the focal point of village life.
After work and tea everyone would meet there and discuss issues of the day. You could say it was the village parliament.
I know from experience that anyone who at any time was associated with Shephall would on visiting look for the well and cannot imagine it not being there. A rethink is necessary. Local historian Mary Spicer, who still lives in the vicinity, I am sure is of the same mind.
While on the subject of Shephall, I wonder how many know that the oak tree at the southern end of the green was planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary in 1935? This should have a plaque to say so.
I have a grainy photo which I took with my Brownie box camera when I was 12 years old.
F A Rawlinson
Brick Kiln Road
SIR – Reference the letter from ‘Craig’ (Comet, May 24) regarding streetlights being switched off at midnight, many people are very concerned about it, myself included.
I phoned Herts County Council and was just told to contact my MP. I have written to HCC and copied that letter to my MP Stephen McPartland. So anyone who is concerned about our streets being blacked out after midnight, take the time to write to HCC and copy your letter to your MP. I’m sure there will be people who think this is all a fuss about nothing, but if crime affects them and it is too dark to see what is going on, when once it would have been light enough, maybe they will be annoyed enough to complain then.
However, I think the old saying for that senario is “it’s no use shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”.
Name and address supplied