LETTERS: Comet October 18

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, October 18.

BADGER CULL CRUEL

SIR - I have every sympathy with farmers, who are struggling in these difficult economic conditions. However, the proposed badger culling - supposedly to curb bovine TB - has no sensible basis.

Ireland has snared and killed over 45,000 badgers since the mid 1980s. Result: their bovine TB levels are twice as high as in the UK. Ninety per cent of scientific proof argues against badger killing; prominent figures in the conservation world, including Sir David Attenborough, are campaigning strongly against it.

The proposed killing of one of our most distinctive wild creatures appears to be a governmental knee-jerk reaction to pressure from farmers - “We must be seen to be doing something”.


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This August, Defra, the government department responsible for farming, actually issued new figures, which show a marked drop in bovine TB levels in the UK - and this was mainly down to increased testing.

There are many things that can be done to prevent bovine TB spreading, most of which need actions from farmers or the government. The 2007 report by the Independent Scientific Group (accepted as accurate by Defra) stated that increased early testing, tighter controls on movement of cattle from TB hotspots and improved biosecurity on farms would decrease the incidence of bovine TB.

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So, not even one badger needs to die. All the government needs to do is act sensibly, for once.

Pamela Manfield

Astwick Road

Stotfold

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PARK VANDALISM

SIR - I was disappointed to read your article on the arson attack on the toilets in the recently splendidly refurbished Howard Gardens.

I was also very annoyed to see both the council and police spokesmen referring to this as “mindless vandalism”. This understates the problem. Vandalism it is and we all pay the cost through our council tax. Mindless however I suspect it is not. The specific targets of the attack, the facilities for some of the most disadvantaged in the town, suggest that this was a deliberate attack planned to cause maximum distress and inconvenience.

In my mind it approaches the level of a ‘hate crime’ and should be pursued by the police as such. This way it may get rather more attention than the numerous instances of anti-social behaviour that the police have to deal with.

If the criminals are caught I trust that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and are locked away rather than given the meaningless community sentences that are so prevalent today.

Julian Cunningham

Address supplied

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FESTIVAL

SIR – I write in response to the letter printed in the Comet on October 4 – Festival was not music to our ears.

The Balstock organisers approached us requesting the use of our grounds and we were pleased to be able to help.

Our understanding of Balstock is that it gives local bands the chance to play their music and help raise funds for local charities. As a school this is an event we want to support. The local people will be aware that our grounds are used for the beer festival and that several local groups use our school as a venue for their clubs.

Unfortunately, after the event was held we received complaints about the level of noise and language used.

I would like to apologise on behalf of the school if our hosting of this event caused difficulties for some of our neighbours. We also received a written warning about the noise level from the Environmental Health Agency.

Balstock is a good event, held for the right reasons and we would like to continue to support it. Although, if there were any future events held at Brandles we would need reassurance that there was not a repetition of this year’s mistakes.

Staff and Friends of Brandles have worked hard to establish the image of Brandles positively in the community and want to continue the good work.

What I ask though is that things are kept in perspective. This event was held in good faith at Brandles and I would be extremely disappointed if the bad press it received affected how Brandles is perceived by the community.

Janet Stone

Senior Management & Community Link for Brandles School

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CENTRE PLAN

SIR - Mr. McPartland’s Surgicentre solution (Comet October 11) is inept.

It would create chaos in North Herts because if the CQC suspended Surgicentre’s operating licence it would have to stop treating patients who would be obliged to travel long distances to get seen. The solution lies in the hands of the PCT, itself in a terminal organisation condition.

They are able to enforce the contract with Carillion including re-assigning it to another health organisation - the obvious one is the East and North Herts Trust. The new East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group (which replaces the PCT) should be involved even though it is not yet legally authorised.

They will become responsible for the management of the contract after April 1 2013.

However if Carillion also own the Surgicentre and its facilities contract changes could be very complex. The PCT should publish urgently the options available for rendering this service to acceptable clinical and administrative standards. It would be helpful if Mr McPartland would say he opposes the changes to the NHS made by the coalition that facilitates similar future privatisations.

Patrick Newman,

Chancellors Road,

Stevenage

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MARKET FUTURE

SIR - I am writing in response to the article in last week’s Comet about the closure of the outdoor market.

If the outdoor market is running at a loss to the council, let the traders manage the market themselves. Or give them an alternative place to trade in town under the Town Management Scheme and let them join the flowers stall, the hot dog wagon, the stall that buys gold. Get them to purchase nicer looking stalls or as another article in last week’s Comet points out, Stevenage has a newly refurbished, profit making indoor market, offer them stalls to operate in there.

The market traders on the watch stall have been there 23 years, the clothes stall 23 years and the sweet stall17 years. All are Stevenage tax paying residents that are long standing successful traders.

Yet a burger van that has traded for four months is allowed to continue to trade?I do not understand how in these tough times the council big wigs can consider putting people out of work.

The market does’t have a negative impact on the town centre, it has been serving the community of Stevenage for 23 years and many locals still use the market.

I know for a fact that traders have requested to move in to the town centre or opposite McDonald’s with new stalls, many times, over many years and they have been refused.

If you want to improve the negative impact in the town centre, stop letting all these two bob shops in, give it a splash of paint and get some big brand names into the empty shops.

Let the traders continue to trade, somewhere. I don’t believe putting people out of work is in Labour’s mandate, is it?

Nicolas Newman

Address supplied

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SAMEUL LUCAS EXPANSION

SIR - Two of your correspondents in this week’s Comet (October 11) seem to be willing to accept the case of Herts County Council for expanding Samuel Lucas School. Of course the council’s feasibility study may have been done properly. The problem is that we don’t know because the published documentation of their case is limited to one sheet of A4 paper.

There are links on the council website to further information about how the analysis was done. Unfortunately these links don’t work. Oddly this seems to be true for every school expansion in the county.

Requests for more information are ignored. It is interesting to note that county councillors say that the conclusion is obvious because Samuel Lucas School is so popular.

That may be one reason why the “consultation” that was restarted in late September still seems to be assuming the answer is Samuel Lucas. All my immediate neighbours think the consultation is either a farce or a sham. All have children either at the school, potential entrants in the next two or three years, or both.

Of course we must provide school places in Hitchin to meet the need. However the HCC forecasts show only a three-year blip in demand, and there is no information about (roughly) where in Hitchin these children live.

To summarise: there is practically no information to support the proposal, and this process seems to be followed by Herts County Council in all such proposals (currently 11 I believe). We seem to have a proposal to spend a lot of money (at least �3.5m I understand) on the permanent expansion of a school to meet what may be a short-term demand. We have a consultation which gives the strong impression of being started after the decision has been made, and the places provided may well be some distance from the demand. One wonders when money is so tight what the heads of Hitchin’s other schools could do with just part of that �3.5m?

A public meeting is to be held in the school hall on October 17 (at 7pm I believe). The hall accommodates a maximum of 210 children. I am old that the scheme does not include expanding the hall and other facilities. If this is so how will the additional pupils be accommodated in the expanded school?

I hope that the meeting on October 17 will provide some answers, help to improve transparency and openness, avoid a further loss of trust, and reduce the concern that large sums of money are about to be wasted.

Anthony Thomas

Address supplied

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SIR - I take issue with Andrew Southam congratulating John Martin and Hannah Wiseman on their calm and measured letters re the proposed expansion of Samuel Lucas school.

He is implying that other letters have been neither calm nor measured. I have been a parent at Samuel Lucas for 10 years and I don’t recognise his name as being a parent (indeed living in Bearton Road his nearest school would be the Strathmore/Wilshere Dacre schools), and John and Laura Martin and Hannah Wiseman acknowledge that they aren’t parents of children at Samuel Lucas.

Personally, I think that if you have a child at a school to which there are proposed huge changes you cannot possibly have an impartial view, nor be calm nor measured. If you think your child’s welfare and education are at risk of disruption, I defy any parent to be calm and measured.

Hannah Wiseman would clearly love to be a parent at Samuel Lucas and presents her case of having to drive across town to Strathmore because she couldn’t get her children into Samuel Lucas.

The reasons for this apart, if she chose her nearest alternative school, Highbury, her journey would be much shorter, and so it is her choice to travel further. Once her children move on to Wilshere Dacre, her journey will be shorter anyway.

She also mentions other local parents choosing to drive out to Preston; this then perpetuates the problem elsewhere. At some point, children who live in the village of Preston will not be able to get into their village school because of children travelling in from Hitchin.

John and Laura Martin’s complaint that their child wouldn’t have got in if they had applied this year is groundless. It is only this academic year of 2012/13 that children have not got in to Samuel Lucas who live close enough. I have a child in Year 6 and throughout their time at Samuel Lucas there have been, and still are, spaces in the class.

The reason why children couldn’t get in to Samuel Lucas this year is because, over the past 5 years, more and more parents from the Westmill area (and beyond) have been choosing to send their children there. Once they have one child at the school, under the so-called sibling rule, their younger (and sometimes older) children can get a place there too.

As Robin Dartington has hinted at previously, there are also a good many children who have lived in Hitchin when starting school in reception at Samuel Lucas, and who have then moved out of town. In the current Year 6 there are eight children who don’t live in Hitchin. At least half of these have younger siblings?

So you ask yourself why are parents choosing Samuel Lucas rather than other local schools? Yes, it is a lovely school, but so too are Strathmore, Highbury etc. The burning question is why aren’t parents from the Westmill and surrounding areas sending their children to their local school, Oughton Primary? This was rated good by Ofsted last year. How much of the �3.5 million earmarked for the expansion of ‘outstanding’ Samuel Lucas could be spent on Oughton to make it outstanding too?

As council tax payers and parents too, this is the question that we should all be asking Herts County Council, regardless of where your children are at school.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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CENTRE PLAN

SIR - I have worked in Baldock High Street for over 10 years.

I used to park in the High Street until the two hour restriction was put in place to allow more parking for shoppers.

I, like many other employees in Baldock, then started using the car park off Simpson Drive until it became a pay and display.

So then I used Simpson Drive itself. I now read in today’s Comet that from the December 3 it is residents’ parking only. Any suggestions as to where workers should park?

The only decent place is Tesco which I believe is reducing its parking spaces and no doubt becoming pay and display also. Soon the shoppers won’t need the vast amount of spaces if the workers can’t get to work.

I drop my son to school in Baldock on my way to work so it’s not as though I can walk or cycle in from Letchworth.

NAME AND ADDRESS

SUPPLIED

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