LETTERS: Comet September 13

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, September 13.

HOUSING CONCERNS

SIR - NHDC’s decision to review its proposed “New Homes” target figure of 7,000 to accommodate future migration into North Herts under pressure from Central Government risks increasing this number significantly (to the old SNAP target of 15,800?), with the main developments likely to be focused on green belt land around Graveley and Great Ashby.

At present any changes to the New Homes target has yet to be formally proposed and discussed by NHDC cabinet. However once the planners/councillors have recommended a figure it will be very difficult to influence/change that figure subsequently at the Public Consultation. We need to make our views known now.

I suspect convenience mitigates strongly in favour of green belt sites around Graveley and Great Ashby. These sites have already been identified/agreed under the previous SNAP proposals: the ability to tack onto existing estates and/or direct access to North Road: large-scale developments are more prestigious and much easier for planners to manage.

Projections are very subjective, the proposed NHDC target of 7,000 equates to the number of new builds required to accommodate NHDC projected social housing requirement out to 2031. Projections assessing future migration into the area can I suspect be made to prove whatever is deemed desirable. How and by whom have these projections been drawn up? Are NHDC planners and councillors challenging the validity of the projection criteria?

Secondly building new houses to accommodate perceived levels of future migration tend to be self- fulfilling -- people will move to where the houses are, the more you build, the more people you get. Central Government pressure to build large numbers of houses over and above local requirements to accommodate possible future migration seriously brings into question the government’s commitment to “returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local communities”.

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The strong public responses to the SNAP proposals and more recently on the Housing target for 2011-2031 were very clear in rejecting large-scale development within the NHDC area.

The above possible developments will place a further burden on an already over burdened infrastructure, increasing road congestion and travel times to and from work, as well as increasing waste generation etc. They will also result in a further blurring of borders between villages to the North and North-East of Stevenage and Stevenage itself.

No new target figure has yet been announced but if your readers are concerned they should write to NHDC expressing their concerns. Further information and contact details can be found at www.graveley.org.uk/gasp.asp

J Rigg

Chair G.A.S.P

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SIR - One of the main reasons that Pirton Parish Council objects to the building proposal is that the site imposes a very dangerous access on to Holwell Road by both vehicles and more importantly pedestrians.

There is no footpath along Holwell Road, nor is there any possibility of providing one. Pedestrians would have to walk close to the centre of the road when passing existing cottages.

Pirton Parish Council supports the need for more affordable & social housing, but not at this dangerous site.

In your report, NHDC commented that the parish council had not identified any alternative suitable site. This is not quite true. The council has been in contact with the Howard Cottage Housing Association who presently has a planning application for affordable / social housing lodged with NHDC planning department for an alternative site in Pirton. It is worth noting that as far as we are aware the Holwell Turn application does not have the support of any housing provider, thus they cannot guarantee that the housing would remain affordable or social. The parish council can demonstrate that there is an alternative and viable site for affordable and social housing, housing which would be owned by a housing association, and with the agreement of the landowner to support such a development already obtained.

It is true that the site concerned is also outside the designated village boundary which was one of the objections to the Holwell Turn proposal, however, the parish council is likely to be more sympathetic to the Howard Cottage Housing Association application for three main reasons:

1. Should the Howard Cottage Housing Association application be approved, and the development goes ahead, the property owners will be the Howard Cottage Housing Association, thus guaranteeing the housing will remain affordable or social for the future.

This is not the case with the Holwell Turn application.

2.The site is more central in the village and with none of the highway concerns associated with the Holwell Road application.

3. The site does not impact visually on any approach to the village whereas the proposed Holwell Road development completely changes the view and would be intrusive when approaching the village from Holwell.

The parish council are at a loss to understand why certain planning officers at NHDC are so keen to promote the “Holwell Turn” proposal, whilst seeming to give no consideration to an alternative, housing association application, which is a far more acceptable, and safe, proposal.

Sam Davies

Pirton Parish Clerk

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FRESH VIEW

SIR - As a result of the huge interest in the Paralympics, the question is being asked “Have the Paralympics changed attitudes to disability?” It would seem that the answer is “Not yet” if the headline in last week’s Comet is anything to go by. (Autistic boy, 9, has school transport cut.) Herts County Council appear to show no respect or understanding for the problems faced by the parents of this child, or for the child himself. I find it frightening that our council officials have such disregard for such a disabled child, and say he should walk the two miles each way or change schools. (Does any able-bodied child of any age walk two miles to and from school these days?) Was this decision taken by a committee with some knowledge of the boy’s disabilities, or by a single individual in the accounts department? Could they not have discussed the situation with the parents to see what alternative arrangements could be made before cancelling the transport outright? For instance, there is a volunteer transport scheme in Stevenage. I wonder how many other disabled children have had their school transport cancelled.

Name and address

supplied

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DANGER ROAD

SIR - It puzzles me why the section of Baldock Lane from Letchworth Gate to Baldock is a 60mph speed limit.

There are better roads in the area with a speed limit of 40mph. This road has a bend with a poor view in the last 100m approaching Baldock, where a safe speed is 30 mph, as there are often people walking up and down this road.

I drive and walk on this road and when walking like to step on to the grass verge when a vehicle comes along, particularly in the final 100m to Baldock. This is more difficult now as in places the bushes are overhanging the road.

Robert Beattie

Oakhill

Letchworth GC

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FLOWER POWER

SIR - Many thanks to whoever had the inspired idea of a wild flower planting for the roundabout at the bottom of Fishponds Road in Hitchin. Brilliant, can we have it again next year please?

Peggy Sherno

Garden Row

Hitchin

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SPORT FUNDAY

Sir - While thanking you for the article on our ‘We love sport funday’ event (Sports day proves a triumph, Comet, September 6) may I take the opportunity through your letters page to thank others who were involved?

Firstly, the clubs and organisations: E. Colman Building Services donated prizes, Jazzercise, Royston Tennis Club, Bedford Fencing Club, Grass Roots Soccer, Zoku Shotokan Karate, Paolo and Bayley with their Scooter Tricks, The Discreet Chef, Bounce and Play and especially the Holly Blue Centre, who did a great job entertaining the younger visitors.

Then I must mention Paula Chapman and her colleague from NHH, the St. John Ambulance duo, our treasurer, Monica Harnden, who steered us through the paperwork (no mean feat these days) and Rebecca Costantini – www.wix.com/rebecca09/photography – who took the photograph you published and those of people with Gobi Ranganathan and his Olympic torch, helping us to raise �50 for his charity SHINE (Spina Bifida).

As a residents’ association we are always looking for new members and anyone on the Nightingale estate is welcome to contact me on 01462 895077.

Mike Sweetlove

Chairman

Nightingale Residents’ Association

Baldock

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GREAT NHS

SIR - My son Daniel Parker suffered an injury following a trampoline accident.

I would like to thank everyone involved in helping Dan get the all-clear later that night.

Everyone was amazing and worked like clockwork to make sure my son was looked after 100per cent.

We don’t just do amazing Olympics, we have a stunning health service second to none in my eyes. We should start realising that we are good at what we do and stop putting ourselves down. Thanks NHS.

Mike Parker

Address supplied

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POST WOES

SIR - As a village subpostmaster I was interested to read the article on page nine of the Comet. I have been a subpostmaster for nearly 11 years and up until a month or two ago the postmen would leave at our village shop any parcel or letter that they could not deliver because the customer was not at home to sign for it or receive it. A card was left with the customer telling them their post was at the village shop and because the shop is open on weekdays from 6.30am until 7pm mail could be picked up when people got home from work.

However, while the majority of parcels and letters are still left with us, the postmen will no longer leave special delivery items. The special delivery service is guaranteed for delivery next day either before 9am or 1pm, depending on the service chosen, and the sender pays the price appropriate for such a service. My understanding is that these items are taken back to Stevenage sorting office, then on the following day they are taken to Brookers Post Office. A card is left with the customer telling them to pick up from Brookers. We were not informed by Royal Mail that the system would be changing.

I wrote a letter complaining about this situation to Mr Chester at Stevenage Sorting Office but I have not received a reply.

People who live in this village and surrounding areas can easily drop in to their village post office before or after work but if they do not work in Hitchin it could be the weekend before they get their guaranteed next day delivery.

A special delivery item has to be tracked during its journey but this is possible at any post office whatever its size via the Post Office Horizon computer system.

A lot of my customers are unhappy because they had a good service and for no apparent reason it has been taken away from them.

Norma Fears

Whitwell

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SIR - Having been in correspondence with Royal Mail I am told Hitchin is a success.

Their target is to deliver by 1600 each day and they are succeeding in Hitchin so they are giving themselves a pat on the back and no doubt looking forward to bigger management bonuses this year.

My delivery was about 1000 each day but now it is 1400, local post box last collection was 1715 now 1615, town centre last post was 1815 now 1700. Having received my post at 1400 I have trouble relying to important letters by 1615.

Undelivered post has to be returned to Stevenage before forwarding to Brookers so we are told to wait a day before attempting collection from Brookers. As reported in your paper, the queues at Brookers are a standing joke (pun intended) and as stated if one has to work one cannot get there before they close. I fear for Christmas parcel collection. At the old Royal Mail sorting office in Portmill Lane the wait was minimal and free parking.

Success, who are Royal Mail trying to kid?

Name and address

supplied

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HOSPICE HELP

SIR - Garden House Hospice are extremely grateful to the residents of Wilbury Road and Sollershott East who left their outside lights on overnight last Saturday, September 8. As a result the 363 ladies who walked through the night, without the benefit of street lighting on these roads, felt much safer.

Every walker and marshal used a torch and we received sponsorship for the hire of a number of rechargeable lights to aid visibility. However, the assistance of these householders was a definite bonus. We thank them for their contribution to the success of our major fundraising event of the year as �32,000 was pledged on the night.

Jo Wiffen

Community Fundraiser

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LINE LOSS

SIR - David Morgan’s letter regarding East Coast mainline rail raises some important issues.

Although there are a number of direct services to Leeds from Stevenage it is extremely disappointing that there are very few to other north of England destinations and Scotland.

Stevenage Borough Council’s view is that the current East Coast timetable does not fully meet the needs of Stevenage residents and its business community. The council vigorously campaigned on this issue as soon as we learned that there were proposals to make significant alterations to the time table. We have expressed our concerns at meetings with East Coast’s senior management team and in correspondence with the Department for Transport.

The council has also made its views clear in our response to the recent Department of Transport’s rail franchise consultation.

The Council is keen to work with all parties in order to achieve the best possible result for Stevenage railway station users.

Cllr Ralph Raynor

Portfolio Holder for Economy, Enterprise and Transport, Stevenage Borough Council

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SCHOOL CHAOS

SIR - Re the Proposed Expansion of Samuel Lucas JMI

HCC proposes to double the size of this school next year. The school is on a small plot bordered by houses and allotments, on a congested cul-de-sac, and just off the one-way system around the library and Waitrose. At school drop-off and pick-up times the traffic is already chaotic at best: I fear for the safety of children if the car numbers were to double and for commuters competing with school traffic on the Bedford Road and one-way system in the morning rush hour.

How can the county justify spending millions of pounds on this new build when other schools to the west and north of Hitchin have spare places. I believe Strathmore and Wilshire Dacre had operated for many years with a three-class intake and now only have two (the infrastructure is already in place!) Wilshire Dacre even says on its web site that it once held 600 pupils and now has less than 300! If Samuel Lucas School is doubled in size and families choose to send their children to it, couldn’t this reduce the intake of other local schools and put their funding under threat? -----------------

Could it be that councillors have an alternative agenda? It is difficult not to be cynical when the doubling of the Samuel Lucas School capacity may conveniently remove one of the planning objections to the much disliked proposed housing development to the west of Hitchin.

And finally, at Samuel Lucas, teachers know all the children’s names, there is a culture of respect that comes through familiarity with rules and each other, and children are in a secure and intimate environment. I fail to see how this can be maintained, as by doubling the intake of the school, the fundamental nature and culture of the school will also inevitable change –a great loss to our children.

Keith Wright

Poplar Close,

Hitchin

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