LETTERS: Stevenage parking charges and Hitchin public toilets debated

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland's petition on parking has been discussed this week

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland's petition on parking has been discussed this week - Credit: Archant

Stevenage parking charges and a problem at Hitchin’s public toilets have featured on our letters page published today (Thursday).

Town toilets of no use to the disabled

SIR - Since getting out of hospital at the end of May last year having been disabled by a stroke, I acquired a mobility scooter and with the help of my family am able to travel to town on my own.

By July I discovered I that it was impossible to use the disabled toilet in Hitchin without the help of a passer-by to open the door.

I raised this with numerous councillors but nothing happened until December when I was asked to meet representatives from the council who, when I demonstrated, agreed that it was not possible to enter without help.


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Finally about six weeks ago contractors fitted a different door closer but instead of starting to close slowly from open to give time to start going in, it still starts closing fast and only slows at the closing position. A suggestion has been made that an automatic door opener would be better but I was told that one could only be fitted if a bollard is installed to stop people walking into the door. I have watched people leaving the toilets now, there are five cubicles, and they open the doors much quicker than a mechanical one would.

May I suggest that the disabled sign be removed until the problem is sorted.

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Ken K Burton

Address supplied

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EU debate

SIR - My recent letter, which tried to help Dave Walton understand some of the issues, has stirred up a hornet’s nest from David Bell and Vicky Ford MEP (letters May 8), and has certainly proved Mr Walton’s point that politicians seem invisible until there is an election.

David Bell doesn’t like the paid for reports by Stuart Agnew MEP. Why not? As an elector I would welcome a regular paid-for report in The Comet from every MEP telling us what they have voted for. It is called reporting back, and with the legal levels of EU expenses available should not cause any embarrassment for anyone.

Where David Bell is right is in the inability of the European Parliament to help the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. So what David Bell is admitting is that voting in a European election can only benefit those who believe in open borders, a budget that cannot be balanced and a total daily cost of membership of £53 million. What he forgets is that if the majority of MEP’s elected disagree with him, the EU will become unworkable.

David Bundy

Shaftesbury Court

Stevenage

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Parking cost

SIR - Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland is campaigning against Stevenage Borough Council’s rip-off parking charges and although I support his campaign, there are far worse rip-off charges going on in the town.

Anyone who has thought that they would avoid council charges and has parked in Staples car park will know what I mean. For a long time, Staples has been using a private parking company which are supposed to stop people who are not going into Staples parking in the car park.

What they actually do is sit in an unmarked car in the car park and allow you to park. The minute you walk away towards Tesco or the town they will put a £94 ticket on your car.

They then get back in their own car so when you return you have no idea where or who they are. It is the typical underhand sneaky behaviour of these so called parking companies. They make the borough council look positively angelic!

Do not give these people your hard earned cash. Read the yellow signs in Staples’ car park which tell you that you cannot go anywhere other than Staples. These people are not stopping non-customers parking in Staples, they actually want non-customers to park in Staples because that is the only way that they can get money.

Forget data protection, the DVLA sell them your details for £2.50 and then this underhand bunch bombard you with threatening letters, hoping to scare you into paying.

A year ago the charge was £70 and I confronted their man when he ticketed a car the minute the owner left. He told me that he has to get at least 10 tickets a day. If everyone parking in Staples only goes into Staples, this lot make no money at all. Another Stevenage retailer used Parking Eye a few years ago, but after numerous complaints, the store stopped using them. Take note Staples.

Name and address supplied

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Postal profit

SIR - I write to commiserate with Denys Preedy (Mail mess, the Comet, May 8) and all Stevenage citizens experiencing the same or similar problems of so called ‘customer service’ from Royal Mail.

Increasingly we are seeing a once proud service diminished due to the commercialisation of what should be an affordable community service, to one where the new company can now fleece, almost at will, the community so as to increase their profit margins, as clearly evidenced by last week’s letter.

The blame lies solely with the coalition Government who this year chose to sell a majority of Royal Mail off, and to add insult to injury at a price that even the ‘markets’ agree robbed the taxpayer of much needed revenue. It should also be noted that this was done without any public mandate to do so and, in the space of months, they are on track to destroy a national institution that has served this country proudly for more than 350 years. It is natural of course that the citizens of Stevenage (and the UK for that matter) will turn their frustration and understandable anger at hardworking postal workers, who are in the impossible position of trying to deliver a service fully in the knowledge that they do so with ever increasing delivery ‘targets’, at ever increasing cost to the public. They don’t have the opportunity to explain that the primary criteria now is to pack them out like work horses, and to bear the brunt of dissatisfied citizens because the people now running the company care only about financial returns and not the public they are meant to serve.

Sadly, the only certainty for the future is that, as the pressure to increase profits grows, the impact will be felt by us all. Potentially those in rural communities can expect to pay a ‘premium’ for the benefit of a delivery simply because profit margins will not be as great as those in the larger cities.

The lesson for us all here is that when governments of whatever colour seek to privatise much treasured services such as Royal Mail, then we must hold them to account. Hopefully more enlightened politicians will see the error of this sell-off as a step too far, and bring Royal Mail back to its rightful place as a publicly funded and accountable organisation, and not a cash cow for the privileged.

Sean Ryan

Address supplied

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Road mess

SIR - A couple of weeks ago I was parked in Bancroft, Hitchin, for half an hour, and on the other side of the road several taxi hire cabs were parked.

I sat and watched the first cab driver finish his sandwich, then throw away the crusts under his cab. The next cab driver ate a huge green apple and he too threw most of that away under his cab.

Another cab driver was smoking continually and every cigarette end was thrown out of the car onto the road. In your paper the following week there was a report of how people were being asked to join the Hitchin Big Tidy Up.

Why should we, the public, have to clear up after these lazy so and sos? Can North Herts District Council please put litter bins where these taxi cabs are parked or would it be too much trouble for these lazy devils to use them?

T. Lavers

Address supplied

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Flight horror

SIR - The appalling news that Luton Borough Council (LBC) have been given carte blanche to approve Luton Airport’s plans for its biggest ever expansion is a disaster for the village of Breachwood Green.

The opportunity has now been given for the airport to double its number of flights day and night, thereby doubling the noise disturbance, sleep deprivation, road traffic and particulate pollution to be suffered by residents of this Hertfordshire village.

The continued insistence by the airport and LBC that the development will “create 5,000 jobs” flies in the face of research that proves it would actually be less than a third of that number.

The noise measurements recorded by the airport monstrously underestimate the decibels suffered here because the planes are on full take-off power over the village, which is just over a mile from the end of the runway, while much higher and quieter by the time they reach the monitors situated in the valley several miles to the east.

It is time the airport began to act as a responsible neighbour by banning night flights and putting in place more stringent sanctions.

Elisabeth Greet

Heath Road

Breachwood Green

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Kind act

SIR - My faith in humanity is restored.

After leaving my shopping on the ‘Uno’ bus from Stevenage on Thursday, May 1, I was amazed at the level of customer care I received.

On telephoning their depot in Hatfield to explain my predicament they sent a text message to alert the bus driver whilst I was still on the phone.

Shortly afterwards, I had a call from their depot to tell me that nothing had been handed in, but that I should telephone after 9am the next morning to see if there was any news.

This I duly did, and-joy of joy- was informed that my shopping had been handed in.

Uno arranged to have my shopping put on one of their buses and I arranged to meet it in Hitchin that morning. Ten minutes before the arrival of the bus, I had a call to let me know that the bus would be with me shortly and my shopping was definitely on the bus I was due to meet. Wow. Can I say a special thank you to the staff involved and also to the honesty of the passenger who handed in my shopping. Well done Uno.

Pauline Large

Verulam Road

Hitchin

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Letchworth GC report

SIR - I was disappointed by your report on last Tuesday’s meeting when our Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF) made its annual report.

It was well-attended and most citizens disagreed with LGCHF’s offering to expand our town by an additional 1,500 dwellings over the next 17 years. None of that appeared in your report, which was thus a disservice to your garden city readers.

Responding to the objections, LGCHF representatives rhetorically asked the audience what garden city principles are (without giving us a chance to tell them), implying that there are not any, and, rather contradictorily, asserted that the principles were out-of-date anyway.

A main principle is obviously that a garden city is thoughtfully planned. Another is that it combines the best of countryside life (e.g. agriculture around it, generous green public and private areas within it, such as allotments, gardens, village greens, and tree- and grass-lined roads) with the best of city life (e.g. a variety of local employment, good external transport links, a wide variety of cultural facilities). A further is that its population should be large enough to achieve that combination and yet small enough to give a real sense of community.

LGCHF’s proposals fail on all three principles.

1,500 dwellings means roughly a 4,500 population increase, including roughly 3,000 adults, i.e., at least 2,000 extra going out to work (obviously locally for sustainability), but LGCHF has not proposed any additional industrial or commercial zoning. What’s worse is that LGCHF is offering existing industrially zoned land for a few hundred of those dwellings.

Unfortunately, the planned maximum population of 32,000 for our garden city has been exceeded as it is now about 34,000. LGCHF’s offer would make it almost 40,000 and so damage our social cohesion, especially since LGCHF seems unaware that the Grange estate was planned to round-off the northern part of our garden city and so the 3,000 residents of the proposed development must have access away from our town.

As regards to external transport links, the dual-lane sections of the A1(M) and the two-track section of the East Coast mainline at the Welwyn tunnels and viaduct are serious infrastructural problems and LGCHF should not have ignored them when making its offers.

Anthony Burrows

Business Centre West

Letchworth Garden City

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Refuse row

SIR - Last week’s letter from Cliff Cummings asking why our refuse collectors will not take the rubbish if it is just one black bag over.

I have a neighbour who regularly has two or three bags over, so that the lid of the wheelie bin is at the back of the bin and one or two bags are on the floor. The first time I saw it, I was sure that the dustmen would not touch it, and was astounded when they cleared it. This has continued, and the dustmen continue to clear it. I can’t say what is going on in Mr Cummings’ area, but in Stevenage where I live, the dustmen are good. We live in a ‘risk assessment’ society. The wheelie bins are emptied into the dustcart by the lift mechanism. If the collectors pick up a black bag that is on the floor and it contains broken glass, sharp objects, or any corrosive liquid, that collector could suffer an injury that he cannot claim for.

Lazy people are in all walks of life and the dustmen’s job is demanding, so not really a job of choice for lazy people. They do a job many people wouldn’t want and we can’t do without them. I remember the strikes in the 1970s.

Name and address supplied

Vile march

SIR - I note that the English Defence League is planning a protest in Stevenage on Saturday, June 7. I would not advocate attempting to ban such an event, but I would advocate that all like-minded people will join in a counter protest against the vile policies and half truths propagated. I am not suggesting a confrontation, but an alternate voice to the dangerous ideas propagated by this organisation needs to voiced in Stevenage and not left to be heard unanswered.

Trevor Palmer

Address supplied

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