LETTERS: Comet March 7

Many readers are shocked by a letter last week condoning drink driving

Many readers are shocked by a letter last week condoning drink driving - Credit: Archant

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, March 7.

DRINK DRIVING NO NO

Sir - I have never seen fit to write to a newspaper before, but the letter you published in last week’s Comet suggesting that drink drive laws should be ignored to enable drivers to visit pubs and then drive whilst drunk, is probably the most ill-conceived, irresponsible and downright dangerous proposal I and I am sure, the vast majority of decent law abiding citizens, have ever read.

While I have every sympathy with these businesses the salvation of them cannot be allowed to be found in this blatant enticement to break the law.

Is your correspondent not aware that Government figures show 2011 saw a rise of three per cent to 9,990 total casualties including 280 deaths directly related to drink driving incidents? While these are just figures they can’t begin to reveal the misery caused to the families of these casualties, what would your correspondent have to say to them and their children if these ideas were even to be considered.


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I feel sure also that anyone who has been affected by the consequences of drink driving would seriously hope that the police commissioner, far from relaxing these laws, will be encouraging the police to be more vigilant in the detection of drink driving in the event that this blatant incitement to break the law is taken seriously by anyone.

Kenneth Abel

Most Read

Address supplied

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SIR - With regards to Hilda Carson’s letter about drink driving, I actually can’t believe any human can suggest letting people drink drive. Not only are they a danger to others but also to themselves. Also who would decide is allowed to drive at these times?

My grandparents were killed and my young cousin badly injured by a drink driver. I can’t see how keeping a pub open is more important than someone’s life?

Vicky Homer

Address supplied

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SIR - Re: “Relax drink drive law to save country pubs” - Comet February 28.

I have to ask - was this letter written for a bet? Or, or has April Fools’ Day come a month early?

The writer cannot be serious if she really thinks that certain roads could be allocated, or should I say dedicated, to drivers who want to visit a country pub late into the evening with the sole purpose of drinking and then driving home again. Who is going to be “on guard” to make sure none of these drivers hits the nearest tree or drives into the nearest ditch? Which force is going to supply the extra police officers for this sole purpose? Where are the emergency services going to find their extra personnel to meet these extra needs when the said drivers injure themselves and maybe their passengers too?

I find it really easy to visit a country pub, eat the delicious food and wash it down with a very tasty soft drink or even just a cup of coffee. The whole atmosphere can be enjoyed without the need for alcohol. Of course, you need to choose your company and I find that sober company is far more acceptable and fun to be with than anybody who has been drinking alcohol.

Yes, we have lost some of our country pubs and it is very sad that this should be happening. However, to suggest that the drink drive laws are relaxed just to save one or two country pubs is madness in the extreme.

Name and address

supplied

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SIR - In response to Hilda Carson’s letter in the Comet (February 28) suggesting that some (experienced) drivers should be exempt from the drink driving regulations, in order to help save village pubs made me question what planet she was on when she wrote it. I was also rather embarrassed that this letter was written by a woman. Thanks for setting our species back 50 years, Hilda.

Her idea is ill conceived and she’s clearly never lost someone due to the actions of a drunk driver. Had she any common sense at all she would have realised that allowing anyone to drive, over the legal drink drive limit, with only headlights to navigate winding rural roads at night, would have devastating consequences.

And how does she justify the sanction of this ludicrous idea? To allow drivers to go to village pubs where public transport is limited to help keep them open. And she calls this ‘potentially positive’? Is she serious? I can think of safer ways to help attract more visitors from further afield.

The stark reality is, if you’re intoxicated and you drive, you could either cause a terrible accident, or kill yourself or some completely innocent bystander in your selfishness. Experience has nothing to do with how well you can drive if you’re over the drink drive limit and the regulations are there for a reason - to prevent loss of life.

If people want to go to a remote pub and have several drinks, I suggest the much more logical solution of either a taxi or a designated driver.

Mrs Tania Walsh

Darwin Road

Stevenage

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SIR - As a former resident of Ickleford now living in France, and thanks to the Comet’s excellent website, I was very sad to read in your letters page of the closure of my former haunt, The Green Man pub. I have enjoyed many evenings there over the years and think it is a shame it’s closed.

I was amused and surprised to read what Hilda Carson had to say about drinking and driving. I’m sure that there will be a few who think it’s not a good idea, but in reality it’s what has happened here in France for years. It is generally understood that you need to have a glass or two with lunch or dinner and I’ve never known anyone here have any bother with the Gendarmes on that score, and there’s no carnage on our rural roads here in the Dordogne, so why not go along with the idea and show a bit of Laissez-faire and give the rural pubs a chance?

Nicholas D. Aird

Address supplied

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VASCULAR SERVICES

SIR - While understanding the concerns voiced by your readers about the changes being proposed by the Midlands and East Specialised Clinical Commissioning Group (SCG’s) to Hertfordshire’s specialist vascular surgery services, the headline used to introduce readers’ letters in last week’s paper (Fight to save our heart service, February 21 2013) needs challenging.

Vascular surgery is not a heart service – indeed our cardiology service continues to go from strength to strength and is now recognised as being amongst the top 20 per cent of NHS performers when it comes to treating people suffering from heart attacks. The Lister continues to build upon its existing exceptional specialist services – including cardiology, urology and renal medicine – with the aim of ensuring that all living and working in east and north Hertfordshire, as well as parts of Bedfordshire, continue to have access to such nationally recognised services.

Vascular surgery refers to surgical procedures performed on the body’s vascular system, principally arteries and veins. Clinically-speaking, the Trust supports the centralisation of some very specialist vascular surgery procedures – which is the focus of the SCG’s deliberations at the moment.

While we were naturally disappointed at the SCG’s proposal that the Lister’s specialist vascular surgery service should be transferred to Watford, we are convinced that outcomes for patients are better when such highly specialist services – which in this case will involve some 30 patients annually – are provided on a single site.

We are also working with the SCG to ensure that should all specialist vascular surgery procedures take place at Watford in future, the necessary clinical arrangements will be put in place to ensure that our patients will continue to receive the same high levels of quality, safety and emergency access – especially those in the care of our renal medicine service. The Trust will, of course, retain its routine vascular surgery services assuming these changes do go ahead as planned.

Nick Carver

Chief Executive

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POLICE DRIVING

SIR - I read with deep regret your article ‘Driver jailed after friends are killed in crash’ Comet Feb 21.

I am always filled with enormous disappointment when innocents meet their death following a police chase. A couple of weeks ago it was a married couple on a tandem in the north of England, you may have read the story in the nationals.

There appears to be little or no control over police drivers, they often seem to drive too quickly, and with little concern for public safety. In the event of an accident involving a police car, the police drivers are not subjected to a breathalyser, unlike you and I. A recent article in the Daily Mail online reports a three-fold increase in deaths caused by high speed chases by police cars in the last four years years, not to mention the number of badly injured, estimated at over 2,000 per year. These are directly attributable. The deaths of the couple on the bike, and the friends in the car, would be attributable to the rogue driver. In my view, and in these circumstances, police drivers are equally culpable. It would not be difficult to imagine the adrenaline levels of both sets of drivers in the circumstances of a chase, another report cites the majority of police drivers in these cases being male, and between the age of 26- 34.

In the state of Florida, USA, police are not allowed to drive through stop signs, speed, or violate traffic laws, and accidents directly or indirectly attributable can result in the city or municipality being liaible for damages. I mention this because to me it makes complete sense, in other than the most extreme cases when a life is very clearly at risk, for example.

Chasing a beaten up Astra with rowdy teenagers on board at 1am makes no sense, tearing through Hitchin town centre at midday for a stolen handbag is equally ridiculous. There are other means of stopping crime without putting lives at risk. Let the insurance companies worry about the losses, not the parents/wives/mothers/families of those who are killed. Incidently, a written off car costs the insurance companies more than an abandoned car.

It’s high time our laws were changed to bring police drivers in line, speed limits are there for the safety of all, that’s why they are imposed. ‘Specially trained drivers’ are clearly not making any difference, the next death in these circumstances is inevitable and preventable.

The law needs to change, life before property please.

Steve MacSweeney

Kennels Lodge

Hitchin

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SLIP ROAD WORK

SIR - I am writing about the A1(M) Junction 9 Letchworth Gate slip road.

The Highways Agency has been working closely with Hertfordshire County Council and Hertfordshire police to investigate the high number of barrier strikes (over 30) that have occurred on the entry slip road over the past three years. As safety is a main priority, the agency decided, in agreement with the council who jointly own the slip road, to keep it partially closed until they have completed investigations and provided an engineering solution that addresses the causes and seeks to reduce the number of these incidents.

Both highway authorities have now agreed a safety improvement scheme and propose to commence the improvement works by mid-March and remove the road closure in time for the Easter holiday.

The improvements will include changes to signing, surfacing and road markings to encourage drivers to slow down. I am well aware of the impact this has on local traffic and have pushed the agency to get this completed as soon as possible. I hope this provides some reassurance to your readers.

Adrian Pascu-Tulbure

Private Secretary

Stephen Hammond MP

Department for Transport

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COMMON PRIDE

SIR - Walsworth Common is an area used by children, football teams, dog walkers and those interested in wildlife. It is deeply saddening to see the way it is treated by some people. Litter is widespread, despite the efforts of volunteers (the Friends of Walsworth Common) who pick it up; and there is fly tipping in the area of the recycling containers.

And sadly, there are dog walkers who persist in not clearing up after their animals. This seems to me to be both irresponsible and selfish.

If you’ve got rubbish, take it to the dump in Burymead Road. And if you’ve got a dog, clear up after it.

Simon Walker

Address supplied

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COUNCIL HOMES

SIR - The first new Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) homes for nearly 30 years is, indeed, welcome news (Comet, February 28, page 3).

The Liberal Democrats have been arguing for local councils to be given the ability to build new homes for rent for all this time, ever since the Thatcher Conservative Government effectively stopped councils from building homes, which we (and Labour) made continual protests about at the time. For most of those 18 years, I listened to Labour councillors telling us that it would all be put right when they got into power.

It wasn’t. After 1997, with Labour in office, we waited 12 years while the Labour government took no action on this. I am very pleased that it is the Liberal Democrats in the current coalition government that have forced this to become reality. These new homes will not solve the housing shortage in Stevenage, which has been growing since 1979, but they are a step in the right direction. If further funds (and land) become available, then more homes could be provided in future, under the coalition’s new rules for housing finance.

Cllr Robin Parker

Stevenage Borough Council

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PARKING WOE

SIR - As presented in last week’s Comet I was pleased for the people living in Beechwood Close, Baldock. At last after all these years something is going to be done about the narrow road giving access to this cul-de-sac. As one of the residents said to me, please don’t do anything that may hinder this step in the right direction.

There is one point I must make and that is this, how on earth is this going to help the parking problem. There are 14 houses in Beechwood Close with about eight parking spaces. When people return from work in the evenings the parking situation is dreadful.

The problem in the Beechwood Close and the Chiltern Road area affects all of us who live there. The parking issue is not going to go away it will only get worse.

PA Deacon

Chiltern Road

Baldock

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TOP BUTCHER

SIR - Congratulations to our local butcher.

May I through you letters page of the Comet congratulate Bob Chapman, butcher and his Sons of High Street, Baldock, on winning the regional award as the best butchers in the east of England.

With the recent information regarding the inclusion of horsemeat in some meat products on sale to the public, may I suggest that if your readers live within easy reach of Baldock High Street they should go to Chapman’s Butchers and see the display and choice of meats and the quality of the goods on sale. I can assure them they would not be disappointed.

It is so good that our little market town is on the up and up thanks to the likes of Chapman’s new shop and other shop owners who have and are continuing to trade in the town. I wish them all success in the coming years.

Peter Smith

Limekiln Lane

Baldock

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SILLY SIGNS

SIR - I am obviously not the only person perplexed as to why Hertfordshire Highways proposes to install electronic roadside information signs around Hitchin, when there are so many other more useful things they could be doing.

At the public consultations in 2009 for the most recent Hitchin Urban Transport Plan there were plenty of worthwhile ideas for the highways engineers to pursue – among them improvements for cyclists (the cycle network designed in 1998 has never been built), proper resurfacing to deal with the pothole problem, remedying the unsuccessful attempt at traffic calming in Pirton Road, 20 mph limits, taming the speeding traffic in the one-way system, a link road to the industrial area to reduce the problem of scrap metal lorries. There appears to have been no action on most of these.

During a time of austerity, and when traffic engineers are being encouraged to remove unnecessary signage from our roads, it is particularly hard to understand why Hertfordshire Highways thinks it is a good idea to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of our money adding electronic roadside clutter of dubious value. It is time that Hertfordshire Highways was brought under proper democratic control to make sure that the highways budget is spent where it is really needed.

David Borner

Mount Pleasant

Hitchin

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STORE DELIVERY

SIR - I am writing in response to the letter published in last week’s Comet titled ‘Delivery mess’.

I would like to assure Mr Woodgate that customer parking and delivery arrangements relating to the mixed use retail and residential development at Lyon Court near Hitchin train station were considered before planning permission was given. Consultation was undertaken with Hertfordshire County Council as the Highway Authority which raised no highway objections to the development. Consultation was also undertaken with over 60 local residents and businesses, and a public notice was displayed in front of the application premises giving people the opportunity to raise any concerns about the development.

Hertfordshire County Council was satisfied that the traffic generated by the residential units and shop would not have an unacceptable impact on the safe and free flow of traffic on the surrounding highway network. No objections were received from the emergency services, including the Fire Authority.

The Highway Authority advised with regard to the loading facilities that there may be a need for a Traffic Regulation Order to facilitate the loading bay in conjunction with the development. This is now being undertaken through the recently advertised Walsworth Road and Station Approach (Restriction of Waiting) Order 2013.

Customer parking for the shop (now a Tesco Express) was not considered necessary given the small size of the shop, the accessible location of the premises and the availability of nearby parking at Hitchin station. The district council is the enforcement authority for parking in the area. Any regular breaches of parking controls should be brought to the attention of NHDC’s parking services manager.

Cllr Tom Brindley

Planning and Enterprise

North Herts District Council

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HOUSING

SIR - I was disappointed to read Councillor Brindley’s comments in your article “Housing plans are back on agenda” dated February 28 regarding the reopening of the planning inquiry into the West of Stevenage (WoS) site and of NHDC’s opposition to re-examining the suitability of this site at this time.

The risk is that following his comments the public believe that the site is off limits and therefore exclude it from their consideration thereby allowing NHDC subsequently to justify their longstanding opposition to this site.

Mr Brindley is currently leading a public consultation on behalf of NHDC into where 10,700 new homes should be built. Both planners and councillors have been at pains to reassure the public that no decisions have been made as to where the homes will be built. It is therefore surprising that Cllr Brindley should make the following comment and raises a question in my mind as to the transparency of the consultation process.

“We (NHDC) have always argued houses there are in the wrong place and would be to the detriment of the well-being of people living nearby. We don’t believe they are necessary, that stance hasn’t changed.’’

This sentiment is one that probably echoes the feelings of everyone who lives nearby the seven proposed strategic sites. Of the three identified strategic sites on the edge of Stevenage, WoS would be the most effective in allowing NHDC to meet its new homes target. As a large site it would allow the building of 5,000 dwellings (NHDC 3,100: Stevenage 1,900) and allow NHDC to demonstrate its cooperation with Stevenage as called for under recent Government legislation. It would also permit development of Rush Green, currently a car scrap yard, creating a new community of 1,000 homes and removing a source of future pollution and contamination in the area as well as reducing the amount of building on Green Belt land. Together the above two sites could contribute 4,100 new homes towards the required 6,133 NHDC estimates it will need to build on strategic sites.

In light of Cllr Brindley’s comments what reliance can we place on the fairness and rigour of the consultation process?

Jack Rigg

Address supplied

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Sir - I am writing with some comments on the article on page five of last week’s Comet about 3,600 homes to the west of Stevenage.

Obviously there are many conflicting views involved. It is a fact that of the shire counties in the UK Hertfordshire is the second most densely populated and the NHDC proposals for 10,700 dwellings will promote Hertfordshire to first place in this regard. There are also plans for major housing development in other parts of Hertfordshire. This is in the context of an already densely populated island. Losing our countryside seems to be a great shame. Nevertheless the NHDC plan states that councils that try to pursue approaches that allow for no housing increases are not being allowed by the planning inspectorate to complete their plans. Thus it seems that the powers that be are trying to insist on this or an even greater level of development in Comet country. Putting aside the option of trying to resist the whole plan, choices will have to be made between the many sites that have been proposed by the NHDC. Cllr Brindley wrote the foreword to the Housing Growth Options document produced by the NHDC and in this extolled the virtues of growth. West of Stevenage is considered a strategic site within this document. It is thus surprising to me that Cllr Brindley has said that “NHDC have always been opposed to the proposals” and that “houses there are in the wrong place”. Does this mean that there is a hidden agenda within the NHDC Housing Growth Options document?

John Spiers

Stevenage

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Sir - I have just read NHDC’s draft local development framework and its proposed options for new housing. The sites selected for housing development range from an area of outstanding natural beauty to prime farm land, picturesque villages and Green Belt, as NHDC itself recognises. The word “brownfield” is mentioned only in the glossary and the plan is nothing less than a recipe for urban sprawl.

I wonder that no one at NHDC appears to have heard of the concept of smart growth, which aims to make best use of brownfield land in towns and cities; provide and encourage sustainable transport; protect countryside and heritage and create sound communities. I believe that the local development framework should be rejected in its entirety and that NHDC should be required to return to the drawing board. The Churchgate fiasco pales into insignificance compared to NHDC’s proposed local development framework. We can do a lot better than this.

A list of of brownfield sites is available from the Homes and Communities Agency website: www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/sites/default/files/our-work/NLUD2009SitesMV.zip

Comments on the NHDC consultation are open until 28 March.

Nancy Mayo

Newlands Lane

Hitchin

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SIR - We have nearly come to the end of the nine exhibitions we held throughout North Herts looking at where thousands of new homes that will be needed in the district over the next two decades could be built.

These were extremely well attended and I want to thank people for taking the time to find out more. Some of the sessions we held were very busy at certain times, but hopefully everyone who came was able to find out what they needed to be able to make a more informed response to the consultation questionnaire. The final exhibition will be held on Tuesday March 12 at Wymondley JMI School, Little Wymondley.

People can still access all the background information on our website at www.north-herts.gov.uk and hard copies are available at libraries and at the Council offices in Gernon Road, Letchworth GC.

The consultation itself will last until March 28 so there is still plenty of time for people to respond. That can be done either online via our consultation software, via email at localplans@north-herts.gov.uk or in writing to Strategic Planning and Projects Group, North Hertfordshire District Council, PO Box 480, M33 0DE.

I would urge everyone who wants to have their say on this important issue to respond in one of these three ways. All of the sites in the consultation have been proposed by landowners and developers, but it is the council who will need to choose between them. Only a third of the sites will need to be built on, and we want people to help us make the decision as to which are most suitable.

What we do know is that the thousands of new homes required over the next 18 years, much of them affordable housing, will mean that some Green Belt land in North Herts will need to be developed. We need to make sure that any future development is in the right place to minimise the negative impact on our beautiful countryside.

I am aware that a number of online petitions regarding specific sites have been set up and are attracting support. It is good to see people commenting in this way, but I must stress that it is the views expressed via the consultation itself that will count. While we want to know why people don’t think certain sites are suitable, it is just as important for people to tell us where they think the new homes of the future should be.

Tom Brindley

Portfolio Holder for Planning, Transport and Enterprise

North Herts District Council

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HELP THANKS

SIR - May I through your letters page thank the staff of Iceland who looked after my mother (Lily) following her fall until the ambulance arrived. Also thanks to the person who phoned me. After a good check over at Lister A&E she was allowed home later that afternoon.

Stuart Macbeth

Address supplied

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