LETTERS: Comet November 8

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, November 8.

LUTON AIRPORT EXPANSION

SIR - The proposals to expand Luton Airport to initially double its existing activity, can only mean a massive increase in night flights, low over Hertfordshire.

The operators and owners state that they will voluntarily limit the increase. This is not good enough.

Heathrow, Stansted, and Gatwick airports are regulated by legislation which bans night flying. Luton must be regulated in the same way.


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Hollow promises that night flights will not increase are unacceptable, as these can be withdrawn at any time in the future.

Long suffering Hertfordshire residents must not accept empty promises from Luton, who consistently ignore them.

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Luton’s glossy brochure still reveals an ultimate intention to expand up to 30 million passengers per annum.

18 million in their current proposals might be seen as a stepping stone to their ultimate goal.

Airborne pollution, increased noise nuisance, and the destruction of our already overburdened roads and lanes, cannot be acceptable in any way.

Luton Borough Council already receives 25 million pounds per annum from the airport operator, and aspires to double this income, all at Hertfordshire’s expense.

Put this alongside Luton’s aspirations to build into our beautiful Greenbelt, engulfing our villages, and destroying our way of life, makes it even more important that we fight now for the right to determine our own destiny, and protect our peaceful existence now, and for future generations.

As a candidate in the forthcoming district council elections, I will fight to protect North Hertfordshire and its residents from such atrocities!

Luton’s gain must not be Hertfordshire’s pain.

Faye Barnard

Lilley Bottom.

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SIR - Regarding the Luton Airport debate, a letter last week raved about ‘planes stacked up waiting to come over Stevenage’ and ‘black, sooty marks on washing from fuel dumping’.

I am all for justice, due diligence and Luton Borough Council not approving its own planning application but the sensationalist nature of comments like this does nothing to bolster our defence campaign and weakens our collective position to the planners. A few truths as a pilot who has been flying you in and out of Luton for five years, having previously been a town planner.

Luton very rarely stacks any aircraft, instead, London centre use a variable speed policy over the preceding 100 miles or so to soak up any delays. The hold north of Stevenage is only used as a last resort should something happen on the runway for example - twice in my career.

Furthermore, very few aircraft these days have the ability to dump fuel - it is something found on only the largest aircraft that cannot fit onto Luton’s short runway. It is only approved in emergencies to reduce the weight of the aircraft (for example in an emergency about-turn), commonly offshore and never over population centres, notwithstanding the price of fuel these days anyway. I am in no way in favour of these plans, yes I work for an airline but I am a diligent sceptic and know that if residents wish to fight this successfully, you must get smart - unite and study the procedures of aviation and planning protocols.

K Forster

Hitchin

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SIR - Through your paper I should like to question Stevenage Borough Council as to why it feels justified in supporting the proposed huge expansion of Luton Airport. Why aren’t our councillors representing their constituents and fighting to stop the increase of pollution and noise which is being created by the planes of Luton?

To suggest that the expansion will provide employment for Stevenage residents must be a fallacy. If there are any extra jobs they will surely go to the residents of Luton.

When the wind is from the west, which is 90 per cent of the time, the incoming planes line up along Fairlands Way. Sometimes four or five can be seen at any one time. They cross close to the town centre and over the station. One would imagine that these areas of dense population would be the very places to avoid when considering flight paths.

There are building regulations which prevent developers from putting residential homes on industrial estates because of the problems with night noise. Luton is one of the few airports in the UK which welcomes night flights. How is it that aeroplanes are allowed to disturb our sleep throughout the night? There are areas in Stevenage where it is impossible to sleep with the windows open in the summer. SBC, why are you not asking these questions? Why do you have no concern for the wellbeing of those who elected you?

Resident of Fairview Road.

Address supplied

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SIR - I’m wondering if any of the plethora of correspondents who took to their laptops and rolltop desks and inkpots as regards the Luton expansion proposals actually read the motion passed by the council - the second half of it read “however this council remains very concerned about the potential impact of any increase in noise levels arising from the proposed expansion and will be strongly presenting the case to both the applicant and the Local Authority Planning Authority (Luton Borough Council) to minimise any increase in aircraft noise over Stevenage”. One would have thought by the tone of the other correspondence received that Sharon Taylor herself had mooched down to Luton Town Hall with a missive demanding that Heathrow’s additional runway be relocated to Stevenage Old Town High Street.

If any of the correspondents had done a modicum of research, they would have seen that numbers of passengers at Luton and Heathrow actually fell this year - so much for a 100 per cent increase, which is an aspiration by the commercial entity running the airport - quelle surprise that they want to increase business.

I trust also that our Conservative MP will consult with the Conservative group on the council, who actually voted for this motion allegedly welcoming an aviation free for all over North Herts - so much for “typical Labour Party, they just don’t take any notice of the people who are against the airport expansion” - typical Conservative Party - having it both ways. Where were the Conservatives when NATS were planning on flooding the skies above Stevenage with flights diverted from over Conservative-voting Knebworth, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans?

Ryszard Konietzka

Address supplied

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SIR - I was amused to read (Stevenage Comet, October 25) that the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stevenage is against the proposed expansion of Luton Airport and he was very critical of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), who passed a Labour promoted motion at their recent full council meeting on October 10, supporting the expansion, saying that it showed the council “does not care about local people”.

This latter point may at times be true but, if he had been at the meeting, he would have seen for himself that, in the debate on the pro-expansion motion, all his Conservative borough councillor colleagues said nothing (as usual) and then all of them voted with all the Labour borough councillors (as usual) in favour of the motion and therefore in favour of the proposed expansion of Luton Airport.

I was the only councillor to speak against the motion and to oppose the huge Labour majority (as usual) and both myself and my only other Liberal Democrat colleague, Graham Snell, were the only two councillors to vote against the expansion of Luton Airport.

I made clear that I get many complaints from my local residents in the areas that I represent (Chells, Chells Manor and Mobbsbury) about aircraft noise, because the aircraft to/from Luton come right over Chells - but I am powerless to do anything about it. There is absolutely no way that I am going to vote for my residents to suffer huge increases in noise pollution in return for some vague promises (which we have all heard before) about local economic benefits. Even though SBC has no decision making power over the expansion, I believe it is important to express opposition to the expansion at all available opportunities – hence why the Liberal Democrats voted against the expansion.

So, we know Labour are in favour of Luton Airport expanding – but what about the Conservatives? Is the Conservative MP really saying that his Conservative borough councillors “do not care about local people”? If so, we should be told more!

Robin Parker

Address supplied

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PCC ELECTIONS

SIR - The reason that the Green Party is not standing a candidate in the election of a police commissioner for Hertfordshire is that the role would be best suited to an independent candidate.

We opposed the creation of the police commissioner position, arguing that there are dangers associated with the powers being concentrated in the hands of a single politician and that all local public services should be accountable to the people through the local council and elected councillors.

We believe that the role would best be filled by an independent candidate with relevant experience rather than the police being closely associated with a political party. Given that in Hertfordshire the only choices are political candidates, we suggest quizzing the candidates about their pledges to prevent the politicisation of the police service. The Green Party is particularly concerned about protecting community policing teams and the need for the police to engage with local residents and councillors about community safety issues. We are also asking candidates how they would work with other agencies to prevent crime and promote the rehabilitation of offenders.

Gavin Nicholson,

North Herts. & Stevenage

Green Party

Walsworth Rd

Hitchin

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LOCAL PLANS

SIR - Recent Comet articles described proposed developments in Hitchin, including the sorting office, football ground relocation (for Tesco), “Churchgate” and conservation extension to Benslow Lane.

Local plans exist to enable developers and communities to know what to expect. The previous government required them to be updated in 2007; North Herts District Council did not and use most policies from their 1996 plan. Could this contribute to disjointed thinking, inconsistencies and outlandish proposals? There is still deliberate concealment of information and misleading use of Churchgate. A Churchgate planning brief was agreed in 2005. In 2010 it was radically changed to include removal of the market and decimation of open spaces in the historic market town centre conservation area; just the name was kept. The NHDC website has no update since 2011; the timeline still has the last step as June 2010.

The reported council meeting discussing this development (November 1) is almost secret with the question of “when is the first milestone?” not considered because of commercial sensitivity. Can the first milestone really be three years after signing the agreement? If not then NHDC can soon bury the scheme, leave troubled Simons behind and concentrate on the sorting office, Top Field and updating the local plan. Churchgate can be relieved of its uncertain future and improved.

Conversely, time spent on extending the conservation area to Benslow Lane is trivial and irrelevant.

In the real world, we remember the debacle of Coopers’ Yard; no large store could be attracted to the Woolworths site. We see Hitchin already has six national-chain supermarkets (plus two Tesco superstores within five miles). The internet shows Hitchin has around 180 flats but only 40 four-bedroom family houses (town, terraced, semi and detached) for sale or rent (ignoring duplication of agents). The concentration on flats is harmful to the character of Hitchin. All proposals should be based in the real world, not pie in the sky and short term finances.

Richard Kelly

Wratten Road

Hitchin

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BELL DEBATE

SIR - Further to the letter written by Len Lucas of Holroyd Crescent in the Comet dated October 25, I would like to add my support for the continued ringing and chiming of the bells at St Mary’s Church, Baldock.

My wife and her family have lived in Baldock for 39 years and two years ago, we bought a house within five minutes walk of the church. My wife and I enjoy sitting in our garden and hearing the bells chime. I also enjoy hearing the bells chime on my daily walk to and from work, they’re a part of Baldock life.

It was therefore with great interest that I heard about the pre-meeting to the regular Baldock Society meeting held on the October 18, where the Rev Andrew Holford, would be coming to talk the society about a single complaint that had been registered with North Herts District Council about the bells at St Mary’s.

Rev Holford made it very clear from the outset that we were only talking about the chimes and compromises that could be made regarding them. He also stated that, as the townspeople, we were the custodians of the church and the town, so he would not be able to make any decisions alone. After some discussion, Rev Holford suggested a straw poll (a show of hands) to see who was in favour of a compromise from the bells chiming between 7am and 10.45pm to 9am and 7pm; four people raised their hands. Upon asking who would be in favour of no compromise, most people present at the meeting, 20 plus raised their hands. Rev Holford thanked people for their contributions and said that he would be able to use the information he had gathered, at further meetings with NHDC and the single complainant. Three weeks have now passed since the Baldock Society meeting and I await with much interest the outcome.

Chris Bassett

Icknield Way

Baldock

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SPEED KILLS

SIR - The “Name and Address Supplied” should think himself/herself lucky to get the opportunity to go on the speed awareness course.

It only cost �25 more than a fine and puts no points on the licence and no convictions to increase insurance premiums. And if he/she was paying attention, how on earth did he/she not see the speed camera, van or officer holding a speed gun in time to reduce speed to within the limit. All are very visible these days.

I object to the comments that everyone goes over the speed limits sometimes when ‘we’ consider it safe without causing problems to anyone. If that is his/her attitude to speed limits, I wonder if he/she has been caught before. I would query how does a speed camera cause deaths because a driver spots one and “jams on the anchors”? If the driver had been driving lawfully there is no need to slow down. Speeding causes death. At 40 mph an alert driver can stop in 118 feet. At 46 mph this will increase by 32 feet.

I retired in 1990 after 30 years in Hertfordshire Police, a lot of it in the traffic department, some of that in charge of the accident investigations unit. In over 90 per cent of all the fatal road collisions I attended, excess speed was a contributory factor.

In, perhaps, the worst collision, a small child ran across a road in Stevenage which has a 30mph limit and was hit by a car. I arrived on the scene before the ambulance. The child died in my arms with her mother looking on. When I investigated the collision, I found that the car had been travelling at 39mph. If the car had been travelling at 30mph I proved the driver would have been able to react, brake and stop before hitting the child. Imagine how the driver felt when she heard this in court. Also imagine how that affected the child’s mother and family.

The saying ‘speed kills’ is correct.

Tony Marshall

Address supplied

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SCHOOL FUTURE

SIR - Many residents are very unhappy with the way the second consultation on the proposed Samuel Lucas expansion seems to have been manipulated as a marketing exercise rather than the complete, open and transparent consultation process.

The education department at Herts County Council has failed to make much of the key information available to residents in a timely fashion. In many cases information has only been posted on the website weeks after the consultation process started.

Many residents feel that the second consultation was equally flawed as the first as residents were clearly kept in the dark about the detailed analysis on alternatives ( government four test results) that the education department had considered.

Here are some examples of the Education Departments failings in this regard:

- The Department failed to even present the “four test” results for the alternative schools in the area at the public meeting on 17th Sept.

- The four test results were only posted on the website last week after much pressure from residents and most people had already voted.

- In many cases key information had to be demanded by residents as “freedom of information requests” when it should have been available at the start of this consultation.

- Interested parties were asked to vote long before relevant information on alternatives was made available released on website.

- Key data like Housing developments used to forecast anticipated demand include incorrect data that unnecessarily boost the forecast demand.

Everyone believes in the best education for local children. However, we do expect a fully transparent, fair and open consultation process.

Mike D’Souza

West Hill

Hitchin

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LETTERS EXTRA

SAMUEL LUCAS EXPANSION

SIR - The public consultation on the expansion of Samuel Lucas is about to end in the week after record box office takings of Syfall, the latest James Bond film, despite initial protests on Daniel Craig being cast in the part. It is both wonderful and curious that he, and the film, are now so applauded!

Could this be so for an expanded Samuel Lucas school? Could things turn out well after all?

Currently West Hitchin is home to a school that is proven to be too small to cater for its local population. The school?s own website remarks that temporary classrooms were installed way back in 1978, only four years after the school opened. If expansion is not due now, then when?

I support an enlarged school to better cater for the local people in the West of Hitchin. Shortage of places at Samuel Lucas is not a new situation: from experience of a failed application for a place for my eldest son for entry in Sept 2008 I can say that - and contrary to other correspondents’ views - for that intake, of 34 places available 23 (67%) were allocated to siblings of existing pupils. While his allocated schools have been very good, they are not local and we have to travel by car. This, in my view, illustrates the case for expanding Samuel Lucas, which he could walk to. I firmly believe that local schooling reduces traffic (i.e. reduced distance to school negates the need to drive), strengthens community identity and provides a safer environment for the children.

I do look forward to the outcome of the consultation and, hopefully, to improved capacity that would bring Samuel Lucas in line with other Hitchin schools by establishing intakes of 60 children per year. But this is no criticism of the great work that other Hitchin schools do, of course!

Lastly, I do hope that Herts CC will flex the Sept 2013 admissions process to reflect the uncertainty surrounding the capacity of Samuel Lucas next year. At present I do not know if the school is big enough to merit applying for my younger son to be admitted. I would be sad to see my next school application reduced to a ?shot in the dark? pending a decision on the expansion.

John Cannon

Address supplied

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AIRPORT EXPANSION

SIR - The letter from Peter Robbins deserves a reply.

If I were a financially secure resident of one of the villages he hopes to represent on the NHDC I might support his point of view (although I think his description of the villagers as ‘suffering’ and ‘terrified’ might alienate some voters). However, I live in Stevenage along with some 80,000 others. Stevenage has the highest rate of unemployment in the county (see Hertsdirect.org for statistics). An increase in employment opportunities should be welcomed not dismissed lightly by the Comet. Anti-airport campaigners consistently say there will be no benefit to Stevenage from airport expansion but do not tell us why.

Expansion will undoubtedly create more jobs at the airport. Will there be a ban on Stevenage residents applying for them?

Are industries supporting the airport going to be prevented from locating on Stevenage industrial sites?

Will passengers needing overnight stays be forbidden to use Stevenage hotels or Stevenage based transport facilities?

Will there really be no improved access to the airport so that it ceases to function from day one?

Isn’t Luton Borough Council supporting its own planning application (it would be strange if they didn’t) another red herring thrown by the antis? Everyone knows that airport expansion in the Southeast will be decided by Government. Meanwhile it would be good to see the Comet stop using its carefully designed anti-airport logo and headlines, start being even handed in reporting airport expansion pros and cons and get behind Stevenage Borough Council’s efforts to bring more employment to the town.

John Cullen

Lyndale

Stevenage

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SPEEDING

SIR - I would like to make a comment regarding your readers tirade against speed cameras in last weeks Letters and Comments.

At the end of the letter He or She repeats that often quoted “ fact” that speed cameras cause deaths, this is a nonsense. The cause of any death in the situation rehashed in the letter is twofold. Firstly the driver, who suddenly brakes upon spotting the camera, has clearly not been watching the road ahead. Other wise he would have spotted the speed restriction signs. The following drivers are obviously travelling too close to the vehicle in front.

Failing to read the road ahead and driving to close to the vehicle in front are the two biggest causes of accidents. Speed per se is not necessarily a cause but when in association with the two causes above becomes fatal.

We cannot choose as individuals the laws we obey and those we don’t.

No wonder then that cars will soon be under the control of on board sensors overriding drivers who fail to follow the rules laid down in the Highway Guide.

Not something to look forward too if one enjoys driving, but how else can dangerous driving be curbed?

Geoff Seymour

Cambridge Road

Hitchin

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SIR - Like your anonymous correspondent, I was sceptical about the value of attending a Driver Awareness session after being caught for speeding. But I found it of great value and, at a time when road deaths are rising again, the most telling comment came from one of the tutors: Cars have to undergo a roadworthiness test every three years, but there is no equivalent scheme for drivers. Yet most accidents are caused by driver error.

An account of the session I attended (at Hatfield) can be found on the MSN Cars website under ‘speed awareness’.

Chris Phillips

Boswell Gardens

Stevenage

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CAMPAIGN FOR DARK SKIES

SIR - As we move into the second decade of the Twenty-First Century a valuable and precious part of our natural heritage is quietly being taken away from us by the relentless spread of light pollution.

When photographed from a satellite at night, much of mainland Britain glares luridly back into space like some gigantic lorry park. This is all because of much badly designed, poorly directed and unshielded night time lighting. There remain only a few isolated pockets in the less populated areas of the UK that can get to experience the full beauty and grandeur of a starry night. The Council for the Protection of Rural England and The British Astronomical Association have calculated that the UK burns two whole power stations worth of electricity lighting up the undersides of aircraft and the bottoms of clouds. This tremendous energy waste represents millions of pounds in council tax and electricity bills going up in smoke. So it isn’t only astronomers and environmentalists who should care.

The Campaign for Dark Skies recognises that astronomers have the same lighting needs as everyone else, but the important thing to understand about light pollution is that it is completely unnecessary. It simply isn’t necessary to create so much orange ‘skyglow’, which reaches far out into the countryside beyond the towns, in order to adequately illuminate the streets and roads, car parks, sporting facilities, etc. The technology already exists to minimise the impact on the night time environment by installing shielded, or full cut-off, downward only directed lighting. This is far less wasteful of energy, because all of the light generated shines down onto the ground where it is needed. All that is required is the will and the common sense to use it. Good examples of this are the pathway lights installed by Stevenage Borough Council in the new town centre gardens, and the sports floodlights of the Football Training Academy in Broadhall Way, Stevenage. Sadly, these examples of environmentally friendly lighting are the exception rather than the norm.

Two major comets are expected to make their grand entrance in our night skies next year, one in the springtime and the other in the autumn. They are predicted to gradually become bright enough to be visible to the naked-eye, with the latter one having the potential to become very spectacular. This is bound to attract media attention, generate much public interest, and whet schoolchildren’s appetite for the science and majesty of astronomy. However, it is unlikely that either will ‘light up the night sky’ very much, local man-made light pollution is already doing that. For sky watchers in Hertfordshire, the celestial show is likely to have much of the edge taken off it. It would be the hallmark of a civilised and enlightened society not to mindlessly destroy our view the starry heavens so relentlessly, and to recognise it as a site of Special Scientific Interest and Exceeding Natural Beauty.

For more information about light pollution and how to combat it, please visit the following websites:

www.dark-skies.org.uk

www.need-less.co.uk

www.cpre.org.uk/lightpollution

www.ile.org.uk/ guidance notes for the reduction of light pollution

Robert Townsend

The Campaign for Dark Skies

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THE WORLD’S END

It was most interesting to listen to dozens of customers last week over the business of the film crew in Letchworth. The views polarized into two very distinct camps. We had enthusiastic onlookers, fascinated by the whole paraphernalia of a film crew and delighted to watch the action. The would- be actors with a prized roles as extras. Then there were those whose livelihoods depend upon freedom of mobility, access and trade. Here the picture was quite different. Pity the delivery driver whose schedule was torpedoed, while he waited for a ponderous crane to tortoise its way along Broadway. Then another one whose delivery process was disrupted by a prancing man in high visibility coat, earphones and a clipboard (yes, a clipboard!), threatening all sorts of dire consequences because this working man was “in shot”. Then the taxi drivers snarled up in long queues and apparently instructed not to occupy their legally laid out waiting spaces, which of course they pay for in their licence fees.

I had a conversation last week about events like this one. My companion pointed out that allowing this kind of activity could be a door-opener to a future that persuades other film companies to look favourably on Letchworth both as a location and as a possible site for support offices and so on. In other words something that could give our local economy not only a shot in the arm and produce jobs and income from those working in these places but the opportunity to build a long-term future as part of the film industry and thus have an additional USP to that of being the world’s first garden city.

I totally agreed. However, I had a couple of points to make myself on behalf of those whose livelihoods depend on those freedoms I mentioned earlier. They were, I am glad to say well received by my companion. I said that this kind of location activity should be undertaken to revolve around working life in our town, not to disrupt it. More attention should be given to compensating those whose businesses are genuinely detrimentally affected by this activity.

There should be better consultation than hitherto so that all parties are totally aware of dates, times and likely activity so that businesses could tailor their day to what was happening. Obviously our local authority knew. So did people like the owners of the Broadway Hotel and other locations who were doubtlessly generously compensated for the use of their premises. Above all though I expressed the hope that future crews who occupy our space will show a little more humility and kindness to all they come into contact with.

So, a few tweaks here and there and we could have the start of a very good relationship with the film world based upon mutual respect which is the essence of all relationships. We’ve got a head start with our wonderful art deco cinema. We’ve got willing would-be participants and above all we’ve got an accommodating business population willing to embrace change and move forward. For example, I’d love to see a “zombie” in our shop buying a pen. What’s the chances of that happening? Nil I expect! Notwithstanding that let’s stay starry-eyed and see what happens.

So. Sound, Lights, Action………

Mike Newman

Arena Stationers

Letchworth

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SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT CONCERNS

SIR - Giles Nursery & Infants School in Stevenage is a total disgrace to the local area to which it surrounds due to the contstant wanton destruction of the local environment, I thought in this day and age schools promoted the environment and environmental issues.

It seems it is a school that obviously has more money than any other infant school in Stevenage. Other schools would love the money this one has at its disposal and they would use it to help the children in their learning not turn the outside into an accident waiting to happen due to the alarming potential safety issues caused by the on-going changes from a pleasant green environment to one of concrete, steel and tarmac. Over the past few years they have removed so many beautiful shrubs,trees and bushes that encouraged the local wildlife that the children that attend the school and the neighbouring houses could enjoy. Bushes removed and flower beds completely destroyed for pebble-dashed concrete sheds, (too many to count). Green iron railing fencing all within the school sectioning the concrete and tarmac areas, which I have seen children running into and hurting themselves. This year alone they have chopped down two beautiful trees that made a welcome entrance to the Nursery and made more concrete and tarmac paths and built two enormous wooden structures, that look like “bandstands”! We are at a loss as to why this happened as we have never seen any local brass bands playing inside them! These are normally only used by siblings mucking around inside them at weekends when the schools football fields are used. Then this half term week the entire shrub area arround the nursery and lovely grass area for the young children to play on has been removed and more tarmac and concrete paths put down and a huge train station style glass/plastic canopy, with steel supports and paving slabs installed which is the same height as the single level school. It has massive girders holding it up encassed with bright red rubber encasements (obviously due to potential Health and Safety issue here then). Did any of us residents in Durham Road get to oppose any of these disgusting building works to this school by the school itself or the council or whoever actioned them. The answer is NO we did not. It is a truly vile eyesore that so many houses have to now look out at every day. How can a school in this day and age get away with all this destruction and ruin a very nice (originally) laid out school? How about spending some of the money actually tidying the hedges that surround the school that are just a dumping ground for the childrens litter and the dog mess from the parents who bring their dogs to school with them to drop off and collect their children. I would appreciate answers from the head of this school and whoever gave the final approval via the letters section in the Comet.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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