LETTERS: Comet September 27

THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, September 27.

SIR - Tom Condon, as a parent of children at Samuel Lucas School, will have been in the privileged position to have received notification of the proposal to expand the school and had the opportunity to submit his comments. Although Robin Dartington was not entirely correct with his facts, as often happens when someone is passionate about something, he did do what the councillors had failed to do, and that was to notify the residents, and hold a meeting to enable them to voice their opinions. There were some very valid points made at the meeting, nothing to do with being “Nimbys”.

1. The forecast for shortfall over the next two years is, I understand 29 and 30 which obviously needs to be covered. However we were told that the following year’s forecast shortfall hovers around the 10-15 mark. If there are 30 extra places available at Samuel Lucas, they will obviously fill, leaving vacant places in other schools. The concern is that this will most probably be at Oughton School, and where does that leave them with only 10-15 children per intake. Is it the council’s intention to force a local school into closure?

2. Traffic is the big concern for many, with respect to the safety of children and for local residents. Obviously with children coming from further across Hitchin, an increase in traffic is inevitable, but another point was made when it was suggested that children from neighbouring streets all walk to school. Many very local children are not in a position to walk to and from school, as often the journey is tied in with parents around work commitments, and therfore they drive.

I congratulate Mr Dartington in doing what the council failed, and who along with many other residents, is just asking for more transparancy on the proposal and asking if spending �3.5 million on a school expansion really is the best thing for Hitchin.


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SIR - I am writing to contribute to the debate regarding the proposed expansion of Samuel Lucas School.

I live 280 metres away from the school, just off Oughtonhead Way. Had my daughter been due to start school this year there would not have been a space for her at Samuel Lucas, as I believe the furthest away child for the 2012 intake lives less than 200m from the school.

Fortunately she is not due to start school until 2014, so I hope this situation will be remedied by the proposed expansion. I fully agree wth your correspondent Tom Condon (Letters,Thursday Sept 20) who pointed out that the extra pupils will largely come from neighbouring streets. There has not been space for so many children who live within walking distance of the school in recent years. Clearly the children of Oughtonhead Way and the neighbouring streets should be attending their local school, which they can walk to. And far from increasing traffic problems this should decrease road travel in Hitchin as a whole.

Laura Martin

Greenside Drive

Hitchin

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SIR - In response to the letters published in the Comet on September 20.

The evidence against the expansion, lack of research conducted by the council, as well as the botched statutory consultation has already been highlighted in previous letters.

Does the fact that nearby schools like Strathmore and Wilshere Dacre that were previously three class intake schools (forced to reduce in size) go to show how unreliable HCC forecasts are in the medium term?

It seems ludicrous that although the council is aware that local schools within minutes of Samuel Lucas are able to accommodate any overcapacity, they are stubbornly sticking to their approach.

Can HCC research be relied on after they had to admit at the EDU panel meeting on September 19 that they could not even conduct the statutory consultation correctly in June 2012 and will have to repeat that process at our expense?

How can a council which is forced to turn off street lights at midnight to save money justify the folly of blowing over �3.5m of public money expanding Samuel Lucas School just because it seems like a good idea?

I would suggest that the council needs to get back to basics and prove that it has conducted independent research before a decision can be made on this expansion.

Mike D’Souza

West Hill

Hitchin

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SIR - Last week Tom Condon wrote to this letters page to attack the perceived NIMBYism surrounding the expansion of Samuel Lucas School and specifically the views of Robin Dartington. Mr Condon suggested that Mr Dartington was a member of the Liberal Democrats, I can confirm that Mr Dartington is not a member of our party and was expressing his own views about the proposed developments.

Hitchin Liberal Democrats completely understand the need to expand school provision in the town. However we do have two concerns: that there was never enough consultation with local residents about the Samuel Lucas proposals and that with even limited expansion of the school there will be an increased traffic flow which will need to be addressed.

As the population of our county grows there are some major infrastructure decisions that will need to be taken in Hitchin. But if the Tory controlled district and county councils ignore local residents and continuely fail to represent their views, then people will be left wondering why decisions have been made and to whom does it really benefit.

This Saturday (29th) Hitchin Liberal Demcrats will be in the Market Square from 9am and will be happy to discuss any concerns local residents have about the future development of our town.

Rob Lambie

Hitchin Liberal Democrats

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SIR - The personal abuse in Tom Condon’s letter on the future of Samuel Lucas School added nothing to public debate.

Robin Dartington has never been a Lib Dem, has been out of local politics for 20 years, has never been more than a second Lieutenant, sent two children to Hitchin schools, has two grandchildren in Hitchin plus one coming and spends little time in his armchair as he runs two community bee gardens in Hitchin.

As a veteran journalist Tom Condon should really know he should check his facts.

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SIR - Good news. Although the HCC education panel decided last week to go ahead with statutory notices to enlarge Samuel Lucas JMI despite the level of public opposition and the call for renewed consultation based on fuller information (as reported in the Comet last week), HCC cabinet changed direction this week and decided to hold back the statutory notices and start a genuine new six-week public consultation, including a proper public meeting.

The public has won openness, an opportunity for all to express views and offer local knowledge. The question is how transparent the schools’ planning team will want to be – or how much they can be, if the preparatory work was never properly done in the first place.

The published forecast for school places only covers three years, the shortfall dropping to only eight places in the third year and HCC has only said that, even if more spaces are not strictly needed in future, it would be nice to have a bit of slack in the admissions system. No investigation may exist of enlarging any other school that might be cheaper. How many public services and jobs have been cut while HCC has planned spending �3.5m (plus unidentified consequential highway works) on such a casual basis?

The whole question of ‘what is a ‘local school’ must be clarified. Oughton is only eight minutes walk from Samuel Lucas, Wilshere Dacre six minutes – the three schools are surely all ‘local’ to west Hitchin.

No one has yet explained why it is fair for all children living near Samuel Lucas having to walk no more than three to four minutes when children from say south Hitchin or Charlton have to walk say 15 to 20 minutes to their nearest school. Obviously, ideally society should pay for building many more primary schools to be built all over Hitchin, all running below capacity, so that every child always has equal opportunity to go round the corner – but let’s get real.

Robin Dartington

West Hill

Hitchin

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Sir - I would like to humbly correct the inaccuracies in Wendy Merritt’s letter (September 20).

The new Stevenage choir, Alive and Singing, is totally self-funding and has never received, nor intends to apply for, any public funding, therefore does not have “the financial support of Stevenage Council”.

As to the Comet promoting the new choir, in my experience, our local paper is always keen to print good news stories reflecting the interests of the local community and would no doubt include interesting articles about other choirs, should they take the time to submit them. Regardless of repertoire and achievements, what makes us unique is the exuberant personality of our very talented choir director, who welcomes everyone with warmth and enthusiasm - there could never be another Jamie. New members are always welcome to come and give us a try!

Lif Bishop

Choir member

Alive and Singing, Stevenage

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SIR - Please could you find somewhere in the Comet to relate this story. I have found a digital camera disc with some photographs of a christening.

I found the disc on the Bancroft Road on Monday September 24 opposite the Alms Houses. I hope these are not the only photographs of the happy event.

I can be contacted on 07596484217 and if someone can describe what is on the disc, I will be happy to return it.

Colin Southward

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SIR - Hitchin councillors are sensible to call for a blanket 20mph limit for the town. In Sweden, where my daughter lives, residential areas have a 30 km/h speed limit. Outside schools during term time the limit is 20 km/h. These equate to approximately 20mph and 12mph respectively. They are obeyed without the need for draconian reinforcement because the Swedes see the reasonableness of the speed limits.

In the UK, speed limits are widely disregarded because we do not connect cause and effect, unlike the attitude of earlier generations. There is no ‘respect’ and as Margaret Thatcher said “There is no such thing as society, only individuals”. She was making a comment, not necessarily advocating that attitude, but did little to change it. Rather, she encouraged the culture of personal greed and acquisition. “We do not need a manufacturing industry. The UK can get its wealth from the City of London”. See where that has got us.

Local authorities’ response to this anti-social behaviour was to place obstacles in the way of the motorist, innocent or guilty. Road humps and pads, which even when traversed and way below the posted speed limit, can cause spinal injuries and damage tyres and suspension, leading to accidents later.

‘Pinches’ are also installed. These do not slow speeding drivers when there are few vehicles. Speeds of 60mph through Little Wymondley are not uncommon in the evening and on Sundays. They do completely stop traffic when the density is high however, causing noise, air pollution and driver frustration, possibly the cause of accidents later in the journey. ‘Statistics’ gained from traffic monitoring by the police are disingenuous as they only report average speed. Not the maximum speed, the number of those exceeding the speed limit, nor at what time of the day.

The police also, very occasionally, place radar speed monitors, and even less frequently, speed cameras on stretches of road where the residents complain of speeding and it is considered to be a police priority. These are of little use. Hi-Vis jackets and prominent marked police cars tend to make even the stupidest motorist conform, but only on that occasion.

So, if the speed limit is to be (commendably) reduced to 20mph, what even greater draconian measures must be employed to restrict speeds? A 6ins high kerb across the road? That should do it.

Better would be the placement of the new generation of linked average speed cameras, which the Government is now advocating. These have the advantage of needing no attention by the police, there being no film to change, and as they are linked to cameras other types of law breaker can be monitored. Plus, the cameras are self-financing through fines.

I bet the present inappropriate humps, bumps and pinches won’t go though. Cognitive dissonance rules in council ivory towers.

Robert Sunderland

Oak House

Little Wymondley

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SIR - I would like to say how much I enjoyed the wonderful event that Baldock hosted, Balstock. The sun shone throughout the weekend and the town centre was a vibrant place to be for residents and visitors alike. It was an impressive event for the Baldock community and for Hertfordshire. The event raised much needed funds for the Baldock Town Hall.

There are big plans to rejuvenate our town hall to once again be the focal point of the Baldock community. A huge thanks to the organising committee, led by Graeme LaRoche, for selecting the Baldock Town Hall for the designated charity for 2012. All residents of Baldock and the surrounding area will potentially benefit from the facilities the venue will be able to offer.

Many thanks also go out to all the musicians who contributed their talent and time to make Balstock such an enjoyable weekend, not forgetting all the support staff whose dedication and hard work enabled the event to run as smoothly as it did.

We should all feel very privileged to have such an inspiring event on our doorstep and be surrounded by such a wealth of talent. I am looking forward to Balstock 2013!

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SIR - The arrogance of NHDC knows no bounds. Roads closed, car parks closed, plans for no-go areas in the town centre in the pipeline, all to accommodate some film-maker.

No pre-consultation with retailers, no discussion about how this will disrupt our businesses, trading through the worst economic situation in living memory. I’m not against our town being used as a film location. A bit of showbiz kudos is good for the soul. But I cannot abide gross arrogance that sidelines those most affected by these closures and proposed closures.

We live in a democracy and are fighting in other places for this way of life to become the norm. NHDC smacks more of a totalitarian regime than a democratic piece of local government.

Talk to us please. Consult us. There’s ways to allow filming that perhaps enhance rather than diminish our trading opportunities.

NHDC should take all views into account before committing themselves to this starry-eyed strategy that is more about vanity than economic reality.

Doubtless they have been compensated for closures. What about traders?

Mike Newman

Arena Stationers

Letchworth GC

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SIR - I would like to thank the gentleman for all the help he gave to my elderly mother when she lost her car park chip in Aldi.

He went out of his way to be helpful when the staff in Aldi wanted to charge her �7 for a spare chip, even though it was obvious that she had just done her shopping in their store, which made her entitled to free parking.

J Holding

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SIR - For the last couple of months I have been walking a friend’s dog. I usually take him over Norton Common, it is a lovely area to walk dogs with pathways kept beautifully mown. Unfortunately it is spoilt by irresponsible dog owners who do not clear up after their pets. Some people seem to think that if they let their animals off the lead and don’t look, it is acceptable to ignore them fouling the paths. If you are reading this and are guilty, how about putting bags in your pocket and using the doggie bins provided ?

L Steward

Rushby Mead

Letchworth GC

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