LETTERS: Comet June 28
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, June 28.
TOP FIELD GATE
Sir - Talk of the proposed development at the site of the current football ground is infuriating. As a local resident, I feel like I have no power or voice in the matter. Every week, we read updates of the development in the local paper, and are aghast at how far the whole process has gone. How can anyone with Hitchin’s interests at heart be in favour of this development (be it residential or large supermarket)?
It has been said before, but it’s important to reiterate what impacts this would have on the town and local community: destruction of local businesses, eyesore in the middle of a residential area, increased traffic, increase in anti-social behaviour (it can only be assumed alcohol will be sold at all hours), but more importantly the destruction of the core and heart of the community: the football ground. Plans to
relocate it are farcical, this will only damage the efforts the football association have made to involve the community and again, seriously increase traffic in the town as people will no longer be able to walk to the ground.
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Hitchin is a beautiful market town but unless we fight for its survival, it is becoming clear that several entities have not got its best interests at heart. A Tesco store has already opened by the train station, much to the disbelief of the local residents who were given no say in the matter. Hitchin has enough supermarkets as it is, we definitely do not need a new one. What can we, seemingly powerless local residents, do to fight against these greedy developers?
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Sir - A great deal of noise has been made in the past few weeks about the possibility of Tesco or another major retail development moving on to the Fishponds Road site currently occupied by Hitchin Town Football Club, ousting the Canaries and forcing them to relocate.
Local shop owners have not unnaturally come out against the move to allow Tesco a second site in town, but little has been heard from the actual football club facing this enormous threat to its future.
It is suggested Hitchin Town should move - only suggested so far but this would presumably become “told” by its Cow Commoner landlord should a deal be struck - to a vacant field out of town and opposite Kingshott School on the road to Stevenage.
Does anyone still capable of walking upright and talking at the same time really expect this would benefit the town’s football club in any way whatsoever? Hitchin Town struggles to draw a viable crowd as it is in a location within walking distance of the Town Centre. Not necessarily the club’s fault, it currently plays in a relatively minor competition with low crowd involvement.
Which of course is not to say Hitchin cannot draw four-figure gates. I’ve seen them play big FA Cup matches at Top Field against Football League opposition in the past when the ground was heaving - the town will always turn out for a big game. But will it still do so if supporters have to drive or take a Stevenage bus out to the turn-off to St Ippolyts? I fear not.
To shunt the club out of town and plonk it to a location which denies spectators travelling on foot the chance to see them play (well, you try walking from St Mary’s Square to Kingshott on a Monday night, see how much you feel like cheering when you get there - and how depressed the idea of walking back makes you) takes no account of the impact it will have on the club or its followers.
Hitchin is one of the oldest clubs in the world - that’s right, not just North Herts or the Home Counties, but the planet - a founder member of the FA Cup in 1871 and resident at the end of Fishponds Road for close on 85 years.
I unashamedly love the place and it strikes me as a dreadful thing to threaten an institution which has been an integral part of this town for so long. Don’t suppose for a minute the Football Association won’t get wind of what’s going on, either. I’ll make sure they do.
Messing about with a club which can trace its history back to 1865, I believe, is not going to endear developers to the country’s most influential sporting governing body. Or any of us.
Sir - Councillor Richard Thake has belatedly told your newspaper that he will not be voting on the future of Top Field because he sits on the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, the site owner who wants to sell it via local property developer Richard Daniels.
But Maggie Dyer, chairman of the Trust, has told me that secret discussions on moving Hitchin Football Club to St Ippolyts have been going on between the Trust and Daniels since August last year.
So the real question for Councillor Thake is simply this, was he part of those discussions and if so, was he representing the interests of the voters of Priory Ward or the Cow Commoners who stand to make millions if the site is eventually sold to Tesco?
The policy of the Tory group on North Herts District Council is to oppose development in the Green Belt between Stevenage and Hitchin, a policy which would rule out moving the football club to St Ippolyts.
Again, does Councillor Thake support the Tory policy or his fellow trustees?
Sir - I am most surprised that you have not published any positive letters regarding the Top Field Proposal. I know for a fact that a friend of mine has written in support of the scheme. Please tell me you are not publishing just one side of the story?
I am a resident of a nearby town (Shefford) and I for one would welcome a Tesco store in Hitchin, I currently use the store in Bedford and then continue into the town, if there was a store in Hitchin I would be using it then doing my other shopping in Hitchin Town Centre, so what rubbish that it would kill trade in the town.
What about all the jobs it will create for local people and many young people looking for work these days? Do these narrow minded people not see the bigger picture.
As for the opinions created about the developer, Mr Daniels, he is a local man and lives in the next village and has developed in the area for many years all for the good of his community as well as to keep his business running. He has provided Shefford with a much needed library, chemist, housing and supermarket.
I dont see many people complaining about that despite local opinion of him. Isn’t every businessman out to make money in whatever trade they are in? I do believe that a new football field is being provided with facilities for all the community to use.
Sir - ‘Some questions that I think the leader of NHDC Councillor Lynda Needham should answer’
I have been reading with much interest the various articles regarding Top Field, the redevelopment of the Portmill Lane site, the on-going saga regarding the Churchgate area of Hitchin and the other planning applications that have been submitted to NHDC over recent years.
I am pleased that so many residents, business people and town centre groups are finally, prepared to challenge the decisions which the NHDC councillors have been making ‘on behalf of the people that elected them’.
I am pleased to know that so many people care passionately about their town.
I know that the NHDC councillors read the letters/comments pages of the Comet, so I thought it would be a good place to request that the leader of NHDC Councillor Lynda Needham could answer a few questions which I think need answering.
Why does NHDC spend so much of its budget on ‘public consulations’ and endless meetings, when most of the decisions it makes does not reflect the views of the majority who have taken the time to voice their opinions or individuals or groups whose quality of life or their right to enjoy their homes or to run their businesses successfully.
I have noticed time and time again the use of very flawed and biased research which appears to be carried out by school or college students. It is obvious if you ask someone who only uses buses and comes to Hitchin from one of the many surrounding villages, that they are mostly likely going to say that they do not have an opinion on ‘the state of the car parks, or the price of using them’. I know that a survey was carried out which actually said that most people that came to Hitchin ‘did not shop or visit Hitchin Market’. I would like to know what the response to that same survey have been if it had been carried out on a busy Tuesday or Saturday, and of course near the market.
Yet another planning application has been submitted to NHDC for the refurbishment of the Churchgate ‘shopping centre’ (it is hardly a modern shopping centre is it?). Yes it can be made to look better, as anything is better than what it does now, but surely the people of Hitchin deserve better.
The second question that I would like to ask Cllr Needham, is if she could define the phase ‘Managed Neglect’. Over the past years I have heard this phrase used by various individuals to explain why so many historic and listed buildings which were given to ‘the people of Hitchin’ but currently managed by NHDC have not been properly maintained. In particular I am saddened to see that Charnwood (the Grade 2 listed building given to the Hitchin and District Regional Survey Association in 1939 by Ralph and Hubert Moss Grocers built in 1825 formerly the Hitchin Public Library and now the soon to be closed The Hitchin Museum and Art Gallery, has graffiti on it, the gutters are full of weeds, and the building seems to be suffering from serious neglect. As it is a Grade 2 listed building, NHDC should be ashamed for allowing this historic building to get into such a poor state of disrepair. I know that this same building was deemed ‘not fit for purpose’ when the new museum was approved, could this be why now repairs have been carried out?
Sir - I write in protest of the council’s decision to subject us to the blackout of turning off the street lamps in Gun Lane, Knebworth, after
I live in Gun Lane and I fear for whoever has to travel by train after midnight (yes, there are some trains then), not being able to see the kerbs or be aware of anyone around you when walking home. I foresee the council being sued for broken bones plus the criminal activity of opportunists attacking people late at night.
We pay for this service. It is our basic right. We have already incurred reduced refuse collections and a decreased police force. We pay the councillors their enormous salaries and expenses which should also be reduced as well.
We had blackouts in the war for our welfare, these cuts are for the council’s welfare to go into their bank account, to spend on another white elephant like the useless yellow canopy monstrosity in Stevenage - �50,000, I believe.
How I wish we were more like the French and not so apathetic.
Name and address supplied
Sir - There have been many objectors to the proposed Big Switch-off, however several issues have not been properly examined.
The first is that the present number of street lights is excessive and as they are not energy-efficient they are wasteful.
We have become accustomed to having our streets and even quiet country lanes illuminated as part of the artificial ‘24 hour living’ espoused by New Labour’s ill-thought ‘Continental Cafe Culture’, aka late-night boozing.
People are concerned about the increase in traffic accidents without street lighting. Cars have excellent headlights so should not need additional lighting for them to be able to progress safely in the dark.
Pedestrians walking after midnight should for the most part be on footpaths and should carry torches and wear fluorescent jackets.
Crime is the big issue. I grew up in North Herts in the 40s & 50s. No lights in my village at all and very few lit after midnight in the towns. The big difference back then was that if one was out and about late at night a policeman (dressed in a dark uniform) was very likely to appear from the shadows to stop one and ask for details. With the continuing and potentially damaging cuts in police numbers it is unlikely that night-time police patrols can be increased to reassure us in the hours of darkness.
One solution would be to reduce the number of street lights and replace them with high-brightness white LEDs, which are very much more efficient. Another would be for pubs and clubs to shut at a reasonable hour.
Sir - I live in Roebuck Gate in Stevenage, and I was away from June 5 to June 12.
During that time some of the pavement was resurfaced - not that I ever saw the need for that. When I returned, the area was adorned with two traffic cones, one headed by a home-made notice saying “wet tar”. I can guarantee that this tar has not been wet (except, of course, for rain) since at least June 13 - but the cones are still there. Alas, this happens at the end of virtually any roadworks, major or minor: bits of equipment like warning triangles get left behind and never get collected. But they are paid for by our taxes. In these times of austerity, where all public institutions have to make savings, wouldn’t not wasting equipment (which can also be only too easily “recycled” by mischievous or drunk passers-by) be an easier and painless way than real cuts?
In my school workshop there was a notice I have never forgotten: the job isn’t finished until you’ve tidied up. Please could somebody tell that to Herts County Council.
Sir - Reference the article ‘Church goes green’ (Comet June 14). My congratulations go to Holy Saviour Church on their achievement in winning their Eco Congregation award. It is also good to see the Comet taking an interest in the matters of faith and the environment.
How times have changed. Back in 2007 there was no interest from the local press when Christchurch, Hitchin were awarded their Eco Congregation award. The Eco Congregation award has been in existence since 2002 and I find it concerning that only 235 Churches in England have been presented with the award to date. Further, the Eco Congregation web site currently indicates that our two churches are the only ones in Hertfordshire to have this award. I’m sure, with a little more effort, we could do better as a county. To enable other church-goers to learn more about Christian faith and environmental concerns, I would recommend they visit http://ew.ecocongregation.org/ and get involved.
Sir - I refer to the increasing number of signs selotaped, nailed or stapled to trees and lampposts declaring the loss of a feline pet.
While I am a confirmed cat and dog lover, I just can’t understand what I am supposed to do when confronted with such a sign. The latest details a lost ‘Fluffy Black Cat’.
There are hundreds of cats roaming our area at various times, most of which are black and furry. Do I kidnap them, hold captive and ask the advertiser to attend an identification parade. Get real owners please. While we are on the subject. If you really feel the need to place such signs around your neighbourhood. Could you also please, after a reasonable amount of time, say three weeks, remove all said signs and don’t leave it once again to the local residents to do your work for you. Thank you
Mr R Talbot
Sir - I deplore the suggestion that these appointments of Police and Crime Commissioners should be promoted by political parties.
Even the suggestion that the appointee would be in a position to appoint and or sack the Chief Constable on the basis of party lines is abhorrent to any democratic system where the appointed commissioner becomes less answerable to the protection of the public than to the dictat of his or her party chairman.
The appointment should be made based on the independence, integrity, and commitment of the individual applicants – not on a party political
base. It is entirely unsuitable that party politics should have any influence on the outcome of the appointment as evinced by the posturing already shown in your article on page 38 of last week’s Comet. May I suggest that applicants be strictly limited to say, a �1000 spend, on self promotion for advertising, posters and literature and otherwise rely on local support instead of being politically promoted.