LETTERS: Comet June 21

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, June 21.

Town says no to Top Field

SIR - It is crystal clear from the letters to this newspaper in recent weeks that residents of Hitchin do not want and are not prepared to stand for a Tesco supermarket being built on the Top Field currently occupied by Hitchin Town Football Club.

Neither Ray Shakespeare-Smith, Richard Thake nor any other NHDC Councillors were ever given a mandate by the electorate of this town in support of such a catastrophic proposal.

A football club is the sporting lifeblood of any local community and any provisional plans in the pipeline to evict Hitchin Town Football Club from the Top Field should be scrapped.


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Tesco, along with property developer Richard Daniels, must be prevented from wielding an axe through a town and neighbourhood that is proud of its established independent traders and businesses.

If Tesco and Richard Daniels get their way it will be the beginning of the end for Hitchin as we know it. Firstly, the volume of traffic stretching from the bottom of Fishponds Road up to the site will increase 10-fold. Traffic congestion is bad enough at the moment in Hitchin. Secondly, the smaller supermarkets in areas like Redhill Road, John Barker Place and Bearton Road that are the nearest geographically to the site, whose livelihoods depend on the support of local communities, will almost certainly see a decline in their business and may face the terrible prospect of going under. Let me put it to Richard Thake and Ray Shakespeare-Smith and others – is this what you are prepared to do to the businesses of Hitchin? Because if you are, Hitchin Town residents will never ever forgive you.

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I pledge that as someone who works in the private sector in support of and for independent and small businesses I will campaign for NHDC to prevent this crazy and completely unacceptable proposal. It’s catastrophic madness.

Jackie McDonald

Moss Way

Hitchin

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SIR - The Green Party is concerned to hear of the Cow Commoners’ plan to sell off Top Field for future development. We are especially worried that they appear to have been in contact with a number of major supermarkets, who will bring congestion to the area and have a detrimental effect upon our town centre and market.

When they had Top Field de-registered as common land they told the council that they had no plans to develop the site. Instead they have swapped land with a developer who has already tried to build on Green Belt land.

We fully support the Save Top Field campaign launched by local businesses, residents and town centre groups.

The Green Party condemns the plan to move the football ground to a position that is out of town, has fewer public transport links, and would lead to a loss in green field space in Hitchin.

Gavin Nicholson

North Hertfordshire

& Stevenage

Green Party Press Officer

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Sir - A number of recent Comet letter writers have wondered why more Hitchin councillors have remained silent or apologetic about lack of comment on the prospects now being discussed by the Cow Commoners for Top Field.

I am a member of the Council’s Planning Control Committee. I will expect to take a full part in the debate and decisions on any planning application for that site. and for what we hear is likely to be a second part of the scheme to move the football ground to another site, possibly in the Green Belt near Hitchin.

I do believe my position still allows me to speak and write in overall terms, before any actual schemes are presented by developers, without pre-determining my responses to the details of such plans when we have them. So, I write to express my great concerns at this stage on the nature of any development at Top Field which could be intrusive to neighbours, may cause highways problems, and may reduce the open visual aspects and character of this corner of Hitchin.

I would have strong concerns too about a Green Belt site for the football ground, especially as it could destroy the sustainable nature of the football ground, which is easily accessible to many local Hitchin residents on foot at its present location.

If planning applications are received, it will be for the developer to convince me, and other committee members, through the plans’ character, effects, detailed designs, traffic assessments etc that such concerns can be ameliorated and are outweighed by the benefits at both sites. As for possible Green Belt use, that would require a case for exceptional circumstances to be made, and that it would be sustainable development.

Throughout this process, I look forward to hearing, and will try to respond to residents’ views.

David Billing

NHDC Councillor

Oughton Ward

Hitchin

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Airport fight

SIR - I am writing to say how much I support your view about the Luton Airport 30 million new proposal, and to congratulate you on the recent campaign and your decision to oppose the recent outrage all the way.

It is very important to keep this matter in the public mind, when in reality, we should be talking about controlling the current numbers, especially at night, which have slowly risen over the years without most people noticing. The environmental nuisance is already unacceptable.

To submit formal proposals over the summer holiday period would add deviousness to the charge of greed and conform with the typical developers’ charter.

I have been trying to alert everybody to the dangers and have special sympathy for those living underneath the main flightpaths. In this respect, I have been working on the councillors of Stevenage Borough Council whose former benign and acceptant attitude towards the airport has contributed to the problem. Their current two responses (I have copies) are more questioning.

Could I suggest that a council-centred petition with the results to go to the local MP Stephen McPartland might be worth considering? Keep up the good work.

Don Courtman

Morgan Close

Stevenage

Green Deal

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SIR - The Town Meeting in the cinema was worthwhile. We heard that the Heritage Foundation’s design standards – which aim to retain, preserve and grade the architectural amenity of Letchworth – have already been reviewed. But there were concerns that these have been preventing energy efficiency improvements.

Surely, as these are fixed standards specifying how residents can and cannot change the external appearance of their properties, the Foundation is obliged to consider changing circumstances. We’re all aware of slow progress under UK emissions policies; maybe less aware that the global economy is being affected by high oil prices due to resource depletion; or that many experts see an energy crunch around 2015. How do we sympathetically conserve the built environment, improve efficiency, and do this in a prolonged period of low economic growth because of those high energy costs ?

The Green Deal does have flaws, but it recognizes the speed and scale of improvements needed for the UK’s housing stock. It’s a big cultural shift and the Foundation will need a strategy - not to centrally plan or dictate changes to residents, but simply to understand the scale of demand in Letchworth. The energy and economic challenges surely mean that it will not be possible to retain everything just as it is, so there will need to be priorities. If we had detailed mission statements for each era of the Garden City, they could explain what exactly was being conserved and how it was expected to adapt in future; the design standards could advance, benchmarks could be set to encourage sympathetic external wall insulation and solar. It would be great if we saw these ingredients in the new Design Standards. Conserving Letchworth’s built environment, ensuring that it doesn’t deteriorate under economic and energy stress, means it has to be fit for the future – and 2015 is not far away.

Chris Jones

Letchworth Garden City

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Danger road

SIR - At present, to get to the Old Town from Chequers Bridge Road, pedestrians have to cross the road twice, once across Chequers Bridge Road at the end of the footpath alongside the railway, and across Trinity Road to the Esso garage.

That crossing is dangerous. A pedestrian has to look behind him for traffic from Chequers Bridge Road, ahead from Woolners Way or from the garage, and to the Lytton Way roundabout. The road is wide at this point and the driver of a car coming from the roundabout at 40 miles/hour is looking for traffic to his left and right - can he whizz round the corner without stopping? A pedestrian – what’s that?

Several years ago, I asked Herts Highways to extend the Chequers Bridge Road footpath alongside the railway beyond Trinity Road so that pedestrians are facing the traffic when crossing to the footpath towards the Old Town. I said that the life they save might be mine.

Well, I had a near miss tonight, so this is a notice for Herts Highways, Stevenage Council, Uncle Tom Cobley, and anyone else interested.

If they don’t extend the footpath, then I will.

I’ll hire a mini-digger and take four inches off, and dump the bushes and spoil down the embankment, and get someone to lay tarmac. It won’t be to Herts Highways’ standard but it will be good enough to give me a better chance of reaching 74 in a year’s time than risking that crossing as it is.

David Stonebanks

Chequers Bridge Road

Stevenage

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SIR - I would like to address some of the questions and comments about improvement work at The Hyde and The Glebe neighbourbood centres that were raised by letters published in The Comet on May 17 and 24, and June 7.

Stevenage Borough Council has almost finished work to enhance the public areas at the two centres. We have installed new paving, bins, benches and lighting, refurbished the canopies, and put up new signage, all aimed at making the areas safer for residents, businesses and visitors. The costs of carrying out this work were covered by a grant that we applied for from the government specifically for this purpose. The funding was given with conditions that meant it could not be used to subsidise shop rents, as some of your correspondents have suggested. The Hyde and The Glebe are both popular areas for businesses - most of the shop space at the two centres is occupied, but we can offer support and incentives (such as small business rate relief) to business owners on request.

In designing the enhancement projects, we sought the views of residents, shops, and other businesses across Chells and Shephall, and we invited them all to a public event in June 2010. We wrote letters to the residents of the flats on the sites, displayed posters in the neighbourhood centres, distributed posters and leaflets to all the shops, placed an advert in The Comet, and promoted the scheme on our website. When we had finished the consultation exercise, we published the results on our website and sent them to the local councillors.

Many residents asked us to provide better visibility and signage at the entrance and exit to The Glebe, which we have done, and we have tried to give both centres a distinctive identity by using flags. I know that design can be very subjective – some people like the look of the centres now and some people don’t – but I do believe that the work has succeeded in enhancing the areas.

While we can never accommodate every idea and suggestion, we remain committed to communicating with residents and community groups about our planned work, and we welcome further suggestions and involvement.

We’re planning opening events at The Hyde and The Glebe on Thursday, Jul 19. I hope that many residents will come along and celebrate their new-look neighbourhood centres.

John Gardner

Executive Member for

Environment and Regeneration

Stevenage Borough Council

Royal return

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SIR - May I extend a huge thank you to everyone who made such a success of the Queen’s visit to Hitchin.

North Herts District Council and Keith Hoskins and the town centre office worked so hard alongside the office of the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire to give a tremendous welcome to Her Majesty.

The volunteers of the British Schools Museum were earlier this month honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award given to voluntary groups. The Royal visit provided a most wonderful opportunity for Her Majesty to present her award to us in person and for our volunteers to be present in the market place. It enabled the people of Hitchin (who have supported us for 20 years) to share the great day with us, and for us to share our joy with them.

On behalf of our current 150-strong volunteer team, the many volunteers who have retired from active duty, the trustees and staff of the British Schools Museum - thank you everyone. It was glorious.

Terry Ransome

Hitchin British Schools Trust

British Schools Museum

Queen Street, Hitchin

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SIR - I would like to thank the customers, local businesses and well wishers that have made our lavender fields a success. We were incredibly surprised and honoured to be asked to provide a gift to Her Majesty The Queen on her Jubilee visit.

We incorporated items from the community in the arrangement my daughter in law Noel made. The message accompanying the gift ended with the line “with love and affection from the people of Hitchin” – standing in the crowd on Thursday it was clear that there was a great deal of affection, and I am sure Her Majesty will have enjoyed her visit.

Alec Hunter

Hitchin Lavender

Cadwell Farm

Ickleford

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Council fight

SIR - As a strong supporter of our Garden City and Garden City principles, I am very concerned about the drive to abolish our town council shortly before elections to it in 2013. I hope that North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) will wait until after then before deciding on abolition, to give us citizens a chance to show our views clearly and also to show NHDC’s impartiality.

It is important to remember that in 2004, 33% of citizens voted almost two-to-one to set it up.

Unfortunately, it was dominated by a group of town councillors who appeared to want to use it to challenge Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF). Contrary to advice against political suicide, they trebled their council’s tax demand, seemingly to try to buy votes. Sadly, we now have the opposite extreme of a group of “abolitionist” town councillors who want to abolish their own council because they genuinely believe it is of no use to our Garden City. However, I feel that they are grievously mistaken for reasons including:-

(1) We are the world’s first garden city and should have a person (a mayor) to be our face to the world. The abolitionists’ dropping of the title of “mayor” was not in their manifesto for the 2009 elections.

(2) Our town council, if sensibly run, would counter the democratic deficit here. The abolitionists rightly imply that LGCHF can do more for our town than the town council can do, but do not mention that only 6 out of 30 governors of LGCHF are elected to it by us citizens. The abolitionists refer to NHDC’s Letchworth area committee, but fail to mention that its most vital function, of deciding planning applications in our garden city, was stripped from it, with Letchworth district councillors now forming a small minority or a district-wide planning committee – corresponding to what Hitchin residents have complained vigorously about. The refusal by the abolitionist councillors to be statutorily consulted by NHDC on garden city planning applications was also not in their 2009 manifesto. I wonder whether citizens would actually have voted for them if it was.

(3) town councillors (should) have the contacts to steer citizens with problems in the right directions for possible assistance. Having been a district and county councillor here many years ago, I was surprised when citizens have complained to me that, when they approached their own abolitionist councillors whom they had voted for, they had received the cold shoulder.

Anthony Burrows

Business Centre West

Avenue One

Letchworth Garden City

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Green plan

Sir- I refer to article ‘Church goes green’ on page 3 in last week’s edition of the Comet.

All credit to the church members who have taken the required steps to encourage their membership to work towards and succeed in gaining the national Eco Congregation award. Indeed the lady who has been mainly responsible contacted me and others at Christchurch, Hitchin, for ideas when they first started thinking seriously on environmental matters. I have already publicly congratulated them at a recent Churches Together in Hitchin meeting. We are delighted for them

Nevertheless may I point out that Christchurch, Hitchin obtained this award in 2007 and we are now working towards our second award from Eco Congregation. At the time we obtained the award we had press coverage and our then minister was quite sure we were the first church in the Herts to obtain it. We will be having a stall next Sunday at the Party in the Square event

Eco Congregation awards are obviously related to church groups so hopefully other churches within our area will also get involved. Members of other specific community groups should feel challenged to be involved in other aspects of becoming more green-there is so much individuals and groups can do – LGC has a thriving Transition Town group,schools encourage their students in these matters etc

There is so much more we can all do besides recycling, important as that is.

K M Tuck

Founder Christchurch Eco Group

Open gardens

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Sir - This year’s Open Gardens was, I believe, a great success. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many beautiful gardens in a marvellous community event.

The highlight for me was to view not only the garden of 158 Wilbury Road but also the interior of the house.

Our family has for many years called it ‘The Seaside House’ and I have been longing to see inside it for as long.

Congratulations to the owner for creating such a lovely garden and for restoring the house, without destroying its character.

Thanks again to the owner for providing an opportunity for interested people to look around.

Linda Gathard

Spring Road

Letchworth

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Meal mess

SIR - Re Meals On Wheels Volunteers dropped.

So in their wisdom Herts Community Meals have decided that volunteers can no longer deliver MOW because quote higher standard of training, welfare reporting & food hygiene unquote is needed.

Having been volunteers for the past 30 years [Sheila] & 18 years [me] we cannot recall that any training was either given or necessary,the feed back from the clients was always good & no one suffered any ghastly ailment due to the volunteers lack of hygiene We resigned nearly 2 years ago so haven’t had to endure the insult of being dismissed.

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry !! Still the changes will no doubt create more jobs for the pen pushers.

Ron and Sheila May

Hawthorn Hill

Letchworth

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SIR - In my opinion I feel quite disgusted at the treatment by NHDC of the Meals on Wheels voluntary team that work in Letchworth.

After years of loyal service, often working on Bank Holidays and using their own cars-all for the love of it, they get a letter saying their services are no longer required from the end of June.

And to top it all, the letter states that the new jobs will be paid ones for health and safety reasons, using the unemployed and ex-criminals, so I am sure the elderly / blind meal recipients will feel really safe from July onwards!!!

H Lloyd

by email

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