LETTERS: Comet December 13
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, December 13.
SCHOOL SITE PLANS
SIR - Last week you reported that plans for a 90-bed care home on the Lannock School site, had been submitted for approval (‘Plans for school site’). Cllr David Levett was quoted as talking about “concerns of the height and access of the building but”… “these issues had been addressed in the plans”.
Not so. The first time any one of us locals saw the proposed plans for a care home was at an exhibition on October 21. This was where the concerns were first raised. (The quoted consultation was actually an exercise in so-called ‘community involvement’ – suggesting the community were involved in developing the plans.) The planning application was then submitted on November 15. How had the plans changed in those three weeks in response to our concerns? Not a jot, of course. And while few are against a care home on this site in principle, if anything those concerns grow as we continue to learn more about it. Cllr Levett was also quoted as saying the proposed care home “is providing something that is needed” – well yes, but not literally (a need is something necessary that one doesn’t presently have). Since Freeman House in Letchworth and Minsden in Hitchin will close and be sold off for development if this proposal is built, it would be doing no more than maintaining existing care home provision – in fact reducing it from 96 places in the present two homes to 90 in the planned home.
And do we need more schools, not less? Lannock was closed, in your own words “due to a perceived lack of numbers”, yet plans are now in the pipeline to expand the schools left after the last round of closures (and land sales). And, apparently, we are in something of a mini baby boom in this region. Meanwhile issues such as planning behind closed doors, developer’s spin and last minute consultations hover around.
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I think I can speak for my neighbours as well as myself – we are not reassured and our concerns are not assuaged.
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SIR - Re your headline story of December 6 (‘Is your son really ill?’ Letchworth GC and Baldock Comet).
Dr Attias and his team at the Arlesey Health Centre are without doubt the best first line medical team I have placed my personal medical care in after nearly 70 years usage of the NHS.
He personally is a kind, caring and considerate man let alone being an excellent doctor.
His team are also always courteous and considerate and, within the constrains of the overseeing health authorities fiscal restrictions will do all they can to help and assist, unlike some other practices I have had to use.
While I fully appreciate the concerns of the complainant for their son in your headline story, to publicly condemn this excellent medical practice over one letter, the contents of which they dispute and which could have been sorted out with a simple phone call, the facts established and doubtless an apology given if needed, I find impossible to understand.
I doubt you will find any Arlesey Medical Practice patients who have anything but praise for Dr Attias and his team.
Mr G Nash
SIR - Contrary to the suggestion made by Conservative councillor Michael Hearn (Comet Letters, December 6) local residents in Chells, Mobbsbury and Chells Manor will know that, as well as attending my necessary meetings, I do indeed often leave the alleged comfort and warmth of the council chambers – most recently, for example, at our Liberal Democrat Street Meets, to stand (with my councillor colleague Graham Snell) on cold street corners each Saturday for the last 12 weeks in order to meet local people and hear their concerns at first hand.
I am not sure to what role Cllr Hearn thinks I am “self elevated”. In fact, I am a local councillor only because local residents have kept voting for me since 1982. However, I have been around long enough to know that if a councillor does not attend a council meeting for six months, then he/she risks being disqualified from office. I can report that, following my letter pointing out that Cllr Hearn last attended a council meeting on June 28, he did in fact attend on December 5 (although I recall him saying nothing at the meeting).
Cllr Hearn really should learn not to believe Labour’s attempts to belittle me by claiming that I waste hours searching for grammatical errors in council papers. Actually, on the occasions when I do raise errors (I cannot recall raising grammatical ones) I see them without searching – 40 years working as a physics teacher helps here.
Sometimes the errors I correct are important – like the difference between “national debt” and “national deficit” which were muddled in recent council papers – although, since I do not wish to try your readers’ patience, I will not list all the grammar and syntax errors that I spotted (within seconds) in Cllr Hearn’s letter as printed!
Cllr Robin Parker
SIR - As Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, I am fully committed to making the county’s roads safer and cracking down on anti-social and dangerous driving. I have asked the Chief Constable and his team to focus on this issue and have made this the subject of my first formal campaign.
Operation CallBack – which I launched on November 30 – is a Herts Constabulary-led initiative that aims to stamp out the dangerous habit of motorists using their mobile phones while driving. The month-long, focused operation has a simple message: taking calls in the car is dangerous and unnecessary – just call back.
It runs alongside a broader Christmas drink drive campaign and a clampdown on other aspects of dangerous driving. In the new year, plans will be announced for people to have a direct say in tackling unsafe driving where they live.
Regarding Trevor Burnham’s more general concerns (Comet November 30), I want to see an improved public service ethos in the police. Customer service is a real and vital skill and should be seen as such – listening and responding to the public’s concerns in a caring way must be central to all public services. As your commissioner, I will work with the constabulary to ensure this happens.
Police and Crime Commissioner
SIR - The proposal to establish a ‘free school’ in Hitchin should smack us in the face and get us to really think about how we can ensure a good education for all our children.
Everyone wants the best for their children – you only get one chance in life (although children do develop at different rates and lifelong education is so important).
But how do we get the best for our children?
In the past we had a system whereby a rat-race meant the best, luckiest, or in some cases most wealthy children won a place at the best schools and got the best chances. But people learned that this system resulted in the large majority of children not ‘winning’. They ‘lost’. They went to the ‘other’ schools. And they were labelled as failures by the system for the rest of their lives.
The large majority can only get a fair chance if we, as a community, make sure we have good schools for all our children, and this is why our parents’ generation set up a comprehensive education system – for all.
We need to ask ourselves how we can pull together as a community and make sure that none of our schools ‘fail’. What can we do collectively and individually to help make sure all our schools – including Wilshere Dacre – are giving our kids the best start in life?
SIR - Could NHDC please let us know how they expect a family of four to fill only one brown bin of food waste, cardboard, etc, in the four week period between December 14, 2012, and January 11, 2013?
Having cut back the service to fortnightly, cutting back to monthly over the holiday period is unlikely to meet the needs of many households. As a consequence, much of our food and cardboard waste will go into mixed waste via the Hitchin waste transfer site.
SIR - It is very honourable that people would like the lottery money that has been unclaimed to stay in the Stevenage and Hitchin area.
However as a town we cannot be selfish and take all that money as people from all over the country have paid into it and each and every town has worthwhile causes in need of financial support. It would be only fair that the money be placed into the pot and distributed fairly among good causes all over the country, including some in Stevenage and Hitchin.
It is, after all, a national thing and not just money that has been paid in by our local towns. It is a lot of money and distributed evenly and fairly could help a huge amount of charities and causes. Stevenage and Hitchin I am sure would appreciate this as the people in these towns are not selfish and understand the needs people have everywhere. Let’s hope the right thing is done with this money.
SIR - I would like to make it clear that I, as a resident of Common Rise, completely and wholeheartedly support North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) proposals to solve the existing parking problems in Common Rise and neighbouring streets. I am delighted that NHDC has recognised this issue, consulted fully and reached a sensible decision.
I was initially perplexed as to why the Green Party was not also supporting these plans; plans that would lead to more use of public transport, walking, cycling and car-sharing to and from Hitchin station.
Commuter parking in Common Rise causes poor visibility at junctions, dangerous driving conditions down the road and is, more often than not, in contravention of the Highway Code. It is better to solve it now than wait for an unfortunate incident to take place.
It is said in a leaflet that the council is only introducing this scheme as a money-making exercise. If you read any of the supporting material you will see that no money will be made; this is a cost covering, not money-making exercise. Whilst not usual for political agents to mis-represent the facts hearing such blatantly incorrect statements from a member of the Green Party does make me view the party in a new light.
They also say that this is a charge for leaving your car at home. If you had walked around the area you are so keen to influence with your view (via your leaflet) you would notice that the majority of premises have off road parking (a higher proportion still in neighbouring affected streets). The proportion of affected residents that leave a car on the road all day must be tiny. Please could you quantify what proportion of residents will be charged (a nominal amount) for leaving a car at home. Sweeping, unsubstantiated facts are not helpful.
I agree with you that we need to be wary that the parking problem is not displaced further along St Michael’s Road. However there is a lot of space on that road and much of it is grass verge. There is the potential to design that whole area, in a sympathetic manner to include off road parking spaces, a clear cycle lane and normal width road. With access to the station from the other (ie, St Michael’s Road) side of the tracks (as longed for and demanded by many for many years) then more issues will be resolved.
I also agree with you that the pathway from Benslow Lane Bridge (if indeed if that is what the footbridge is called) should be established or (as your leaflet semi-implies) reopened. That would help but I do not believe for one minute that people are driving from Halsey Drive to park in Common Rise to commute to work. Your proposal to open up the footpath would only displace the problem of parking induced, overcrowded roads to Halsey Drive and that neighbouring area. I do appreciate that you live in Walsworth Road (or at least have your office there) so can understand your desire to move the problem away (accepting the point about St Michael’s Road) but the real answer must be to encourage every person, who lives in Hitchin, to travel to the station by foot, bike, bus or shared transport and leave the limited parking spaces for those who have to travel in from afar and who will have factored a station parking charge into their decision to live where they do.
Please could you alter your views to supporter NHDC in their attempts to make the area around the station safer and, dare I say it, greener? I’m not a natural support of NHDC; they still need to resurface Common Rise and my request have fallen on deaf ears to date. However the current situation is not safe and the parking permits and other waiting restrictions must come into force as proposed.
SIR - North Herts District Council (NHDC) has decided that it is appropriate to spend �800,000 of public money to build dance studios at Archers gym in Hitchin. There has been no discussion of this decision by the Hitchin Committee and no consultation with the public.
The council claim that this project will be ‘at no cost to the council’ and that ‘the capital will be repaid with interest over a period of 10 years’. You have to wonder what planet councillors are living on if they believe this. If this project goes ahead they can however be certain that in 10 years time the public will require a detailed audit of this investment and will hold councillors to account for the inevitable shortfall.
Further this project is according to the council’s sports facilities strategy unnecessary. In relation to health and fitness studios that strategy found that ‘Market forces are working well in North Herts to ensure there is a wide range and choice of provision. It is unlikely that existing facilities are currently operating at capacity, and there is therefore spare availability to accommodate additional demand.’
The proposed new studios will be available through Archers only and therefore used by a small section of the public who by definition can afford gym membership. They will also be used for a limited range of activities – keep fit and gym classes.
Surely a better spending choice and priority exists in Hitchin which is to build a new town centre community centre. This would be available to all Hitchin residents and for a wider and more diverse range of activities including but not limited to fitness classes.
Since the council appear unwilling to consult with the public over how public money should be spent perhaps your readers might like to tell them.
ROAD TO RUIN
SIR - I am a resident of Graveley High Street, and not a happy one.
Both Hertfordshire Highways and North Herts District Council (NHDC) seem to treat Graveley as a low-priority area. For example, Herts Highways relaid the High Street in the summer, yet they did an appalling job of it. Rather than a proper relay, they merely surface-dressed the road. And not the whole road, just parts of it. This included laying tar directly over some drains, then failing to roll the road properly (it is now rough and noisy, with loose chippings still present after three months). The things carpeted the pavements, damaged cars, caused pedestrians to slip and they never swept up properly. For that matter, they did not even bother to repaint the road markings properly.
I have been engaged in a lengthy correspondence with an official from Herts Highways. Yet, there is not one word of apology, nor is there any indication when or even if someone will sort it out, only half-hearted excuses for the problems. I have had enough of being fobbed off.
The other problem is more bizarre, and something nobody ever takes any responsibility for. The High Street only ever gets cleaned on one side. In the last month, I have had to go out and clear the drains of dry leaves and debris myself several times to prevent my home from flooding. Yet, the gutters on the other side of the road are cleaned regularly, despite those houses being at no apparent risk from flooding. On several occasions, I have had to restrain myself from piling the debris into buckets and dumping it on the other side of the road. That side, the west side, has several big and valuable houses, and it is my suspicion that this is the main reason why it gets preferential treatment, whatever NHDC says.
I have tried to contact Herts Highways about this, and they say it is the council’s responsibility. However, my district councillor absolutely assures me that it is Herts Highways’. One more example of Herts Highways fobbing off anyone who complains.
It is high time someone took responsibility for this and sorted it out, before my house floods. If that happens, I shall hold them responsible for any damage incurred.
Name and address Supplied