LETTERS: Comet September 20

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, September 20.

SCHOOL EXPANSION

SIR - Your letter writer does well to be suspicious of the proposed expansion of Samuel Lucas school.

The congestion caused by this increase will require road-widening schemes, or new accesses being built. No one would feel comfortable objecting to this if the reason given is the safety of our school children, so any criticism will be deflected. However, when as your writer shows, no valid reason for enlarging the school can be found, it does make one cynical as to the true reasons for this decision.

Could it be that once these road changes take place and better access put in, an announcement can be expected that the nearby allotments are to be flattened for property building? So another pleasant little corner that makes Hitchin so agreeable to live in is to be covered in tarmac and concrete.


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I don’t know what makes me angrier. HCC’s duplicity, or the fact that they think we are stupid.

H Richards

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Oughtonhead

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SIR - Re the Proposed Expansion of Samuel Lucas School

I am delighted that HCC have proposed the expansion of Samuel Lucas School. The primary school population of Hitchin is growing and we need school places. It will be wonderful to have the school spaces equally distributed between all sides of the town. This should mean less parents needing to drive to school and causing the parking chaos that Keith Wright (Letters, Thursday Sept 13) expresses concern about. Equally perhaps Samuel Lucas may think about introduce a walking bus (if they dont have one) or car sharing scheme.

I have every faith that the staff team at Samuel Lucas will be able to learn the names of twice as many children, as the skilled and thoughtful staff at both Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre have always been able to do this. All children in our town are entitled to a “secure and intimate” school environment. It is certainly the case that this was my children’s experience at Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre, proving that it is more to do with the nature of the school community, parents and staff than the number of pupils.

It seems both fair and thoughtful that the schools in our town are of equal size and that the more privileged demographic of Hitchin do not have this exclusive right.

We have excellent schools in Hitchin I am pleased that the ethos and education of Samuel Lucas will be available to its fair share of our town’s children.

Kati Taunt

Hitchin

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SIR – Re ‘School Chaos’ published on September 13 2012.

I feel compelled to write in response to Keith Wright’s letter about the proposed expansion of Samuel Lucas School published in The Comet on September 13.

Whatever Mr Wright’s reservations about the expansion of Samuel Lucas, the way in which he has expressed his opinions has left many parents at Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre feeling very angry. His description of Samuel Lucas being a school where ‘teachers know all the children’s names’ and where there is a ‘culture of respect’, and his assertion that this will not be possible to maintain should the school double in size, makes it clear through implication that he feels that schools such as Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre are unable to provide the same kind of caring and nurturing learning environment.

Visiting the schools he cites would demonstrate that teachers in schools with higher intakes also know every child’s name and that respect and pupil welfare remain paramount. He would also see that some year groups in both schools do indeed have three classes and that 600 pupils in Wilshere Dacre would be highly unrealistic! I would argue that an increase in a school’s size need not damage its ethos and values. What might change, however, is the demographic mix of the school population, which could be a truer cause of the reservations of some.

I would also like to express hope that Mr Wright’s fears about traffic around Samuel Lucas increasing commensurately with pupil numbers will prove to be unfounded, through the reinforcement of the important message of walking to school, for the sake of children’s health and the environment. Finally, I feel strongly that the burden of birth rate increases should be shared out fairly and that such ‘Not in my back yard’ attitudes to change are extremely unhelpful.

Elaine Ross-Smith

Address supplied

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SIR - I write as a parent of children at Samuel Lucas JMI School.

The proposed expansion of the school was recently the subject of a consultation but limited to parents of the school.

The proposal is to increase the school from a single class to a two-class intake school on the basis of a shortage of school places within Hitchin over the next four years.

However in 2012/13 the shortfall of 11 places has been accommodated within the existing Hitchin primary schools.

As the shortfall for 2015/16 is predicted to be eight places then it would appear safe to assume that shortfall could also be accommodated.

That leaves the two years in-between and for those years HCC are expecting shortfalls of 29 and 31 respectively ie a maximum of 20 places taking into account that HCC has already acknowledged that up to 11 spaces can be accommodated.

This raises the question why, in this time of financial constraint, is the county council looking to spend millions of the tax payers money on the expansion of Samuel Lucas school to provide an excessive number of places, a further 30 places will be provided by the expansion, particularly when the problem is only short term?

Would a more reasonable and cost- effective option be to temporarily expand the intake of other schools within the town (Samuel Lucas itself has recently reduced from a 34 to 30 pupil intake)?

Indeed from the HCC website it appears that one school in the immediate area had unallocated spaces in 2012/13.

In addition, I believe that Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre were originally three-class intake schools and should therefore have the infrastructure already in place to cope with additional numbers with less disruption.

They have larger grounds and better access and the cost would be considerably lower to the local tax payer.

While HCC advised that information on all the sites considered was available on their website, it was very well hidden, if there at all, as I could not find it and therefore questions the transparency of the investigation.

The public consultation has now closed and it will be interesting to see whether HCC actually takes on board the objections received, or whether it was just a tick box exercise.

The proposed over-expansion of Samuel Lucas also makes me wonder whether there is an ulterior motive to the oversupply of primary school places within the area.

By providing additional spaces it will help to support any proposals for the development of land for housing to the west of Hitchin over supposedly protected Green Belt and open/recreational land which has been a contentious and unwanted proposal in its own right.

Name and address supplied

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SIR - Like most local politcians, Lib Dem Robin Dartington exaggerates his argument to support his case against the much-needed expansion of Samuel Lucas school in Hitchin.

In a letter to local residents, he wrongly claimed that the school would double in size to 420 places next September, if the plan is agreed by Herts County Council.

Wrong. There will be 30 additional places from next September, 30 the year after that, and so on until the figure of 210 extra pupils is achieved in seven years’ time, 2019, not 2013.

At a public meeting last week at Hitchin Cricket Club, he proposed his own solution to avoid parking problems at the popular school, expand Oughton School a mile away at Westmill, and let that school deal with the extra parking problem he claims will follow.

If that ludicrous solution was agreed, pupils who live in homes around Samuel Lucas school, and who cannot now get in to their local school, would be driven a mile every day along the congested Bedford Road to another school.

As the extra Samuel Lucas pupils will largely come from neighbouring streets, they will walk to school. Their parents will not have to drive them, so no exaggerated parking problems.

Like most armchair generals who never have to fight in battle, the veteran Mr Dartington is proposing a solution he himself will never have to fulfil, namely sending his own children out of their local neighbourhood to be educated elsewhere.

He is a classic NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard.

Tom Condon

West Hill

Hitchin

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CHOIR IRE

SIR - Re. Comet article ‘Alive and Singing’ (Sept, 6).

It is always good to welcome a new choir to the Stevenage area, but difficult to see it as being ‘unique’ (their conductor’s description) since the Stevenage Ladies Choir and the Stevenage Male Voice Choir performed with ‘Blake’ in March this year at the St Albans Arena and the ladies’ choir repertoire includes music by Queen, Leonard Cohen, Gary Barlow and Stephen Schwartz - hardly ‘Hallelujah’ music. We have recorded many albums, and the proceeds from our concerts are always donated to local charities.

Where the new choir would appear to be ‘unique’ is that they they have the financial support of Stevenage Council and publicity support of the Comet - neither of which we have managed to attract, despite our 50 years in existence and the town name in our title.

We wish the new choir every success with their venture but would suggest that in future their articles are better researched, more accurate, and definitely more humble.

Wendy Merritt

Chairman

Stevenage Ladies Choir

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PARKING PROBLEMS

SIR - Letchworth, along with many other towns in the UK, has a parking problem – an obvious statement maybe, but Letchworth does have an advantage over many towns, in that most roads have grass verges either side of them.

There have been several attempts by Herts Highways to alleviate this problem by cutting into the verges in some roads, which has without doubt eased the situation. However many roads in the town are essential one- track lanes due to a continuous line of parked cars and vans, both from commuters and in many of the residential areas which were designed prior to the influx of the car being fully appreciated.

One solution has been successfully tried out in Blackpool, whereby the pavements and roadways have been integrated and highlighted with white lines. By this method, parked vehicles can have half or more of their width on the pavements, which frees up approximately three-four feet of road width. This extra space would in many cases in Letchworth allow two-way traffic to resume as was planned when the roads were built.

While there will be some fully understandable resistance to grass verge removal, as none of us wishes to lose these, only part of the verges would need to be removed. There is also a problem in some areas where lampposts and trees are too close to the road edge to allow such a change, but the town is gradully becoming stifled with traffic due to this parking problem, and wherever possible this could be a solution.

Barrie C Woods

Eastern Way

Letchworth Garden City

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ROAD MESS

SIR - As a resident living off Chaucer Road in Hitchin, I am becoming more and more concerned at the mess and graffiti in the area. The police are powerless, so we must do something about it ourselves.

Children from the estate are responsible for the graffiti, there is no doubt of that and it has to be stamped out. Parents need to speak to their children and emphasise that anti-social behaviour will lead to police becoming involved.

We must all keep an eye out for kids hanging around the St Michael’s Road and Chaucer Road areas. If you see anything suspicious, call the police.

We all know the type of people that do not care at all about the local area and happily use roads, paths and even the stream as a rubbish tip. Unfortunately, these people also think their little angels wouldn’t use a spray can to ruin the place I enjoy living in.

Parents need to wise up or risk their children becoming losers for life.

Andrew Southam

Bearton Road

Hitchin

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BOOT MESS

SIR - After reading your piece on Samuel Beach, I am willing to donate �10 towards rugby boots for Samuel. Hopefully, this will encourage other readers to follow suit.

Georgina Swift

Uplands

Stevenage

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SORRY

SIR - I would like to apologise most sincerely to the Hitchin Committee Councillors for attacking them at the Town Talk prior to their meeting on September 11 due to apparently misleading information published in the national press.

The source was the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

My complaints were in relation to getting value for money from the council tax.

I pointed out Hitchin has the highest parking charges in North Herts, unlike Letchworth our waste disposal unit is only open on Sundays, there is still no kerbside collection of plastics, and nearly all the street lights are switched off at midnight.

According to the national press the councillors had voted themselves the fourth highest allowance rise of 18 per cent in England.

The Daily Mail had NHDC in a table headed ‘The Dirty Dozen’.

Cllr J Billing replied that it was not correct and back in November they had voted themselves a zero per cent pay rise.

The council officers have a public duty to protect councillors against false and misleading information that is detrimental to their position.

Legal action should be considered against those responsible, and I trust it will be.

Brian J Foreman

Broadmead

Hitchin

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LIGHT WORRY

SIR - With reference to the relocation of the football club to green belt land in the parish of St Ippolyts.

How will the development manage to go ahead when Kingshott School has had an application for floodlights on their Astroturf, additional access to the back of the school (thereby relieving some of the traffic problems with the front entrance) blocked by local residents?

Will they play football in the dark or only in daytime and have their main entrance on the tiny roads either site of this green belt site, therefore destroying more greenbelt land, or will this development run over local resident objections like every other one in Hitchin to date?

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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ROLE MODEL

SIR - It was great to see on TV last weekend young children in Dunblane playing tennis with their hero Andy Murray, fresh from his terrific achievements.

With all the talk of Olympic “legacy”, what better time than now could there be to refurbish those long-neglected tennis courts at King George’s playing fields in Stevenage?

Yes it will cost, but I believe there is some funding available from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), and maybe certain businesses who have done well out of Stevenage, could be persuaded to give something back to the community.

Who knows, there could be another Andy Murray in Stevenage, just waiting for his opportunity!

E Sturges

Fairview Road

Stevenage

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FLOWER TREAT

Sir - I was pleased to read last week’s letter from Peggy Sherno in praise of the planting on roundabouts in North Herts this year, and thank her for taking the time to write in regarding the one at the bottom of Fishponds Road, Hitchin.

In addition to looking very attractive, the planting of wild flowers on roundabouts is part of a new district-wide approach that is more sustainable, reducing the need for watering. It also helps to improve biodiversity while helping to manage the increasingly limited resources that all local authorities face.

We will indeed be adopting the same approach next year, and hope that people who live in or visit North Herts continue to enjoy the results.

Cllr Peter Burt

Portfolio Holder for Waste, Recyling and Environment

North Herts District Council

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