LETTERS: Comet October 11
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, October 11.
BALSTOCK LETTER ANGER
SIR - I feel the need to write after reading the article regarding Balstock in the October 4 edition.
I would like to ask does the reader that wrote this letter know exactly how hard the young people had to work to get this festival up and running all in the name of charity? I am a resident of Baldock, I have been for over 40 years and I have never seen such a variety of people flocking to Baldock town for that festival. I am sure all the people who attended had a different taste in music but they knew it was for a good cause.
I would like to thank the young generation who took part in this festival to make it such a hit and help raise money for a worthy cause.
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SIR - I felt moved to write to you regarding the letter in this week’s Comet regarding Balstock festival and also your related article on page 13, concerning The Performing Rights Society’s demand for �1,500 licence fee.
As someone who was at the Brandles site on both Friday and Saturday nights I can attest that, whilst the site was not ideal (it was a new experiment this year) the levels of noise were not excessive and I recall only one ‘death metal’ band playing. Most of the bands featured were young bands looking to get some local exposure although the band that over ran on Friday were a well known Hitchin punk band who have been together since 1977 and the small group of fans present would not let them stop.
Lest anybody thinks I cannot see it from the resident’s point of view, I am in my late fifties, but was once young as, I am sure, was the writer of the letter. I have lived in Knebworth for over 40 years and festivals do not come much bigger, or noisier, than Knebworth.
Given that this festival was a charity event, aiming to raise money for the town hall fund I find it sad that people cannot live with a little disruption for one weekend. Still, given the PRS demands for excessive licence fees there is a chance that the event may not be able to continue next year. Is that really what the people of Baldock want?
SIR - I am writing in response to last week’s negative letter about Balstock Music Festival. I am the organiser of Balstock and can assure the writer of said letter that we will be working with Environmental Health next year, should Brandles be used as a venue. I’d also like to point out that when Environmental Health did arrive at Balstock we were accommodating and immediately bought the volume down to what E.H. considered a reasonable level.
However most of the criticisms in the letter were far from accurate; firstly all the music at Brandles finished strictly before 11.15pm (I personally oversaw this) and your complaint of weekend long ‘death metal’ and swearing is completely fictitious. Only one band out of the 20 odd that played on that stage could be classed as ‘Death Metal’. Brandles was our ‘Rock’ stage and was never meant to offend anyone.
We appreciate all constructive criticism to improve Balstock for later years, but last week’s letter was merely slanderous.
Graeme ‘G’ LaRoche
SIR - I am writing to complain about the letter you published concerning Balstocks’ “dreadful” music, entitled “Festival was not music to our ears”.
Firstly, there was only one death metal band to my knowledge in the entire music festival weekend, and to my knowledge they contain no offensive lyrics whatsoever in any of their songs.
Secondly, he could have gone to any other pub in Baldock at all and perhaps enjoyed some lighter music that probably would have been easier on his apparently somewhat close-minded ears. If you don’t like death metal, don’t go to a venue where the only death metal band of the weekend are playing. I for one enjoyed a marvellous and relaxed Balstock and will continue to contribute toward it in the hope that it happens every year.
Thirdly, what were his kids doing playing in the garden at such a late hour? While I can’t comment on how he raises his children, mine are always in bed well before nine in the evening. I live less than a minute from Brandles School and can safely say I slept very well that night. “Excessive noise levels” indeed.
I am disappointed that this letter was published as it damages the credit of a brilliant festival that gives many small local bands a chance to play in front of people when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Name and address
SIR - To whom it may concern,
The letter published in the Comet titled ‘Festival was not music to our ears’ is a disgrace.
For one negative uptight gentleman to get coverage this large to slam a charity music event is preposterous.
Have you ever thought it might be useful to perhaps to give the opinion of maybe just one of the hundreds of people that attended, gave to charity and had a fantastic time. There are hundreds of people to chose from.
The mentioned article is an insult to many of us that worked hard to help Balstock run smoothly and successfully.
I am one of many people who volunteered on various occasions to raise money for charity. I fully understand that everyone is entitled to their opinions, they will not like all of the stages of Balstock, but if he was like any normal resident of Baldock, maybe he should consider venturing past his front door down to Baldock High Street and let his children enjoy the various activities available. All of which were there all day Saturday for children and adults to enjoy.
This festival is a credit to the town of Baldock and brings people from far and wide. Not only helping raise money for the carefully selected charity each year but also helping small business’ in the area generate more money in one weekend than perhaps in the whole month of September if Balstock did not exist.
Graeme Laroche worked tirelessly around the clock for no money to make this event the success it was as he does every year.
I am appalled that you yourselves would publicly publish such a damaging, ridiculous and to be honest factually inaccurate report. Not only publish it but give such huge coverage.
Maybe in next week’s edition you should give a page to Graeme himself or one of the many volunteers, or even one of the hundreds that did enjoy it?
I’m not suggesting all the music is to everybody’s tastes, that is indeed understandable. However, it is a charity event, all acts perform for free there is no profit to be made from this. So, rather than slamming a charity event, maybe your newspaper should consider promoting it and showing the Comet community how wonderful the town of Baldock and their residents (the majority of them) are.
NAME AND ADDRESS
SIR - I am writing in response to a letter printed in your October 4 edition.
The letter was from a reader complaining about the noise coming from Brandles School during the Balstock weekend. I am a member of staff at the school and also the chairman of the Friends of Brandles, a group that has been started over the last year to raise the profile of the school and funds. We have spent some time and effort over the last few years to try and make a positive impact on our local community and a letter from your reader would I feel do a lot to undo some of our hard work.
I feel that I must point out that the bands that used our school as a venue were not endorsed by the school, in fact apart from hiring the grounds to Balstock, Brandles had nothing to do with the event and I am not sure if the organisers of the event have given any money to the school so we have not gained finacially from the event.
Brandles is a school that exists to educate boys who other schools have given up on and we are proud of our achievements and our growing positive reputation within the comunity.
Editor’s comment: The Comet is a firm supporter of events such as Balstock , Rhythms of the World and Stevenage Day and will continue to do so. However we are also firm believer’s that readers have the right to let their views be known. This was a letter, not a story endorsed by the Comet and is a view held by the writer alone. The goodwill shown by so many writers here this week bodes well for the future of Balstock, an event we look forward to once again promoting and covering next year.
SIR - As someone who always clears up my dog’s mess, I also find those people who leave dog mess in public spaces despicable. However let’s not just demonize dog owners there are plenty of examples of people’s selfishness all around us.
I enjoy walking with my dogs around the lovely Great Ashby park but during a weekend of sunny weather, I walked around the edges of the crop fields. As I reached the top of a hill to enjoy the view, it was clear that other people had also enjoyed the view at that spot prior to me. There were barbecue leftovers, empty and half-filled bottles of booze, cigarette packets, cans and other rubbish strewn over the grass and in the crops as well as a filled carrier of empty booze containers (why couldn’t that have been taken home).
NAME AND ADDRESS
SENTENCE TOO LENIENT
Sir - I am sure I cannot be alone in being horrified at the appallingly lenient sentence meted out at Cambridge Crown Court by Judge Jonathan Haworth to Ryan Mouton for his ‘road rage’ attack on Lee Whytock and his girlfriend. This disgraceful man wantonly attacked and seriously injured two people, the provocation existing only in his own mind, and his only punishment is a nine months suspended sentence and a miserly �2,500 fine to be paid to Mr Whytock, in compensation for injuries so serious that he can no longer work. Mr Mouton in contrast is free to swan off to Australia ‘to rebuild his life’! Where is the deterrent effect in this? What happened to justice being seen to be done? Why was this dangerous, violent man not given the prison sentence he so richly deserved? If I were Mr Whytock I would be asking the Attorney General to review this unduly lenient sentence.
Dog Kennel Farm
SAMUEL LUCAS EXPANSION
SIR - The public meeting on October 17 at 7pm in Samuel Lucas JMI will be the opportunity for all Hitchin people to express views on how to ensure Hitchin children get a reception place next year and in future.
But without full information on both the problems and the options for increasing primary school places, public response can only be emotional (e.g. ‘my child should go to Samuel Lucas just because we live very close’). Choosing the right school to expand will balance the needs for all Hitchin children to get to school without hardship – most do not live very close to any school - whilst protecting the urban environment and residents from excessive change. Costs should also be minimised while the council is not allowed to increase council tax.
Questions people want answered should be emailed to HCC director of education at firstname.lastname@example.org who will chair the meeting.
SIR - To Robin Dartington’s largely anonymous supporters who have attacked me in your columns over the expansion of Samuel Lucas school, I offer this wise advice from Churchill:
“I do not resent criticism, even when, for the sake of emphasis, it parts for the time from reality.”
Despite my opponents’ increasingly implausible figures, the facts are as follows:
Not one child has been injured in a road accident outside the school gates in more than 30 years. So much for scare mongering over road safety.
The school will expand by 30 pupils next September, not 210 as claimed by my opponents. So much for claims of parking chaos in 2013.
Samuel Lucas is expanding to allow children from the neighbourhood to walk to their local school. Otherwise, they will have to travel by car to other schools in Hitchin. Can we please stick to the facts at next week’s public meeting and avoid exaggeration and hype.
In this new spirit of fair play, I wish to apologise to Lib Dems for suggesting Robin Dartington is a party member. He is, of course, a former Tory councillor for the Highbury Ward before moving to live in Priory Ward.
Sir - The calm and measured letters from John Martin and Hannah Wiseman (October 4) clearly show why Herts CC is right to propose expansion of Samuel Lucas.
In the current academic year, only four “new” parents managed to obtain places at the school (with the rest being taken by siblings and others on the priority list). The maximum distance from the school of these parents was 189 metres. In contrast, the equivalent distance from Strathmore was 1,527 metres and from Oughton Primary the distance was 886 metres. These figures show that the criteria being applied by the council for choosing which school to expand, far from being professionally incompetent as Mr Dartington suggests, is extremely sound. No current school in Hitchin could accommodate an extra class each year so infrastructure changes are required to whichever school is chosen. Samuel Lucas was rightfully chosen as it is the school with the most local need for extra places and is best placed to meet the educational needs of the pupils. Moreover, as seen by the distances currently travelled by pupils to the other schools, this would improve traffic throughout Hitchin as more children could go to a school nearer their home. Quite simply, expansion of Samuel Lucas is the best option for Hitchin for years to come.
COUNCIL HOUSING PLANS
Sir - Comet Headline October 4 - Housing Plan to Cut Waiting List
There really should have been a question mark at the end of the headline on the front page of the Comet newspaper dated October 4.
While the Conservative led North Herts District Council agree to an ‘overhaul’ of its housing strategy there is only one question that really needs to be asked: “will these changes help address the housing crisis in North Herts”? With over 3000 people on the housing register in North Herts seeking an affordable home to rent, with house prices being some of the highest in the country and with the average salary levels in North Herts making home ownership impossible for most, particularly for younger people, what we really need is a robust strategy that would bring about real change and offer hope to those in housing need.
Instead, and like many of the other Tory/Lib Dem Government initiatives on which this strategy is based, it really hasn’t been thought through. Where this model has been used in other countries it has been shown few if any properties are made available as the tenants still need those properties at the end of the tenancy. And by the way, shouldn’t we really be looking to build strong communities?
There is also much talk about under occupancy, with many (elderly) residents remaining in the home they have had since bringing up their families. So how are we going to free up these properties? Well we are not. Unless we can offer elderly tenants a smart two-bedroom bungalow type property to move into they will remain where they are, and can you really blame them?
So where will this ‘overhaul’ of the housing strategy leave us? Whilst the Conservative cabinet at North Herts District Council will no doubt be claiming ‘to have done our bit’ to ease the housing crisis, I fear that the reality will be that unless the council stimulates the house building programme needed to create the movement in the housing stock they will have in fact done little.
Cllr Gary Grindal
Labour Housing Spokesperson
North Herts District Council
SIR - I am concerned that your front page report in this week’s edition of the Comet, headlined ‘Housing plan to cut waiting’ is misleading and could cause unnecessary concern amongst our tenants.
We are currently undertaking a review of the council’s housing allocations scheme but it is inaccurate to suggest that Stevenage Borough Council ‘will follow a similar system to that approved by North Herts District Council aimed at stopping the practice of life-long council homes’. We are in the early stages of our review and any decisions are a long way off.
Stevenage Borough Council wants to make sure that the decisions we make are informed by the views of the residents of Stevenage, both those who are hoping to be allocated council housing and those who are not. We have issued an online survey seeking the views of residents about several issues, including flexible tenancies and who should qualify for an allocation of council housing. To allude that that decisions on the future of council housing in Stevenage have already been made is untrue. Only when these views are known will we move to considering the future of council housing in Stevenage. Every response that we receive will be taken into account when a new allocations scheme is drafted, and we will carry out further consultation with residents, partners and other stakeholders before any new scheme is adopted.
In addition in Stevenage, as in the rest of the country, any decisions made regarding flexible tenancies will apply only to new council tenants, a fact which your report ignored. Existing council tenants should not be fearful of being forced to leave their homes.
Strategic Director (Community)
Stevenage Borough Council