Letters (including concern about what Dixons leaving Hemel Hempstead could mean for town)

Letters to the editor
Letters to the editor

A selection of your opinions from this week’s Gazette.

Dixons leaving town

Our town is losing its professional population fast

Whilst this is hardly a surprise (anybody who has followed this merger has suspected this for months), it is very worrying for Hemel.

Yet another employer who had employed well educated and highly paid people leaves Hemel.

The town has gone from being the headquarters of many major national companies to very few now.

What exactly are our “representatives” doing to try and make Hemel a more attractive place to do business?

We are in a great physical location between the M1, M25 and WCML, but the physical fabric of the town is looking more and more tired by the day and is not the sort of town large businesses want to be associated with anymore.

Soon enough the town will start to lose it’s professional population as they move to other towns to find work.

I worry for the future of Hemel.

Brian Boitano

Posting on our website

Environment

We must act now on climate change

Recently thousands of ordinary people of all ages marched through the streets of London demanding action on climate change.

We have good reason to march too: last year saw the fastest growth in greenhouse gas emissions for thirty years.

With just 0.8 degrees increase in temperatures a third of the polar ice caps have melted, increased air moisture levels have led to increased weather turbulence and regular flooding. The increased acidity of the oceans has accelerated the extinction of sea life species and erosion of coral.

It is all but inevitable that we will reach two degrees temperature increase, which is the commonly accepted point where feedback loops mean that temperature rises become unstoppable.

If temperature growth is not held below two degrees the likely consequences include large scale famine from crop failures and mass migration caused by rising sea levels obliterating coastal living areas. Mass migration means mass human conflict.

Urgent action is plainly needed and yet the political response has been paltry.

For all the fancy words, the UN conference last week pledged only $2.3bn for a Green Climate Fund to help adapt to climate change.

Note the word “adapt”: they appear already to have given up on “prevention”!

These pledges are tiny in comparison to the estimated $1tr spent each year by the oil and gas industry on developing new sources of hydrocarbons that are unusable if we are to meet emissions targets.

The coalition government claims to be the greenest government ever and yet cuts subsidies for renewable energy projects and provides grants to local authorities if they allow planning permission for fracking projects.

UKIP remain in denial and pledge to repeal the Climate Change Act. All the mainstream parties are committed irresponsibly to economic growth now at whatever future environmental cost.

We must not cave in to the disinformation of the fossil fuel lobbyists and we cannot dither any longer. Only the Green Party is serious about tackling climate change through setting meaningful carbon emissions budgets along with massive investment in renewable energy and conservation measures.

Paul de Hoest

Treasurer,

Dacorum Green Party

Europe

Mike Penning told to vote against EU

Our Member of Parliament Mike Penning said in Speaker’s Corner: “I am delighted that the people of Scotland have clearly spoken and chosen to stay with the united kingdom.”

At least Scotland had the right of a referendum. This has been denied to the rest of the United Kingdom. In fact our MP Mike Penning has voted against giving the people a referendum.

He did so on the 22nd Nov 2013: he voted no and on the vote to cut the EU spending he voted no. On the international monetary fund increase in the subscription he voted yes.

He tells us that his constituents know his views on the EU. He told me in his letter to me on the 2nd April 2013: he blames the Lib Dems and Labour for not giving the people of this country a referendum. But his voting habits tell a different story. Mike Penning said that he is against a federal Europe. Well that is what we have now. He is in Parliament to represent the views of his constituents. Well I do not think we come into his views.

The only thing he represents is his job and not his constituents.

Noel Swinford

Hemel Hempstead

Budgeting

Why did leisure centre cost go up?

Dacorum Sportspace has decided to publicise its decision to charge concessionary Sportspace membership card holders and also Dacorum Card Holders £10, per card, annually for this facility.

The people holding these cards are usually elderly and/or on a low income: £10 may not seem much to many people but when every penny counts it may be difficult to find. Since the 2012 Olympics the Government has been insistent that people should get more involved in sport, so Dacorum Sportspace firstly decided not to take up the chance giving the over 60s free swimming facilities, unlike other local authorities, and now is adding these other charges.

Swimming and exercise classes are a vital part of keeping fit and healthy whatever your age and with regard to the elderly helps maintain physical and mental wellbeing thus reducing calls on NHS.

Perhaps Dacorum Sports Trust, which manages the sports facilities on behalf of the council and is a registered charity, could explain how this is justified with the stated aims as a charity?

Will costs involved be less than the expected extra income and how will the income be used for the benefit of the service users?

Mary Harris

Hemel Hempstead

Development

Crocodile tears over Green Belt

Andrew Williams’ crocodile tears piece about the prospect of building on Dacorum’s precious Green Belt land in “Speaker’s Corner (October 1) was at best disingenuous.

Dacorum’s councillors were persuaded to approve a Core Strategy which, as far as its “Local Allocations” are concerned, has proved to be inconsistent with Government policies as stated by Ministers, and with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

It also verged on the dishonest in suggesting that “it’s all Government’s fault” – the requirement is for local authorities to meet objectively-assessed needs, subject to some specific policies, and those needs were assessed by DBC. In particular the Local Allocations run counter to the Secretary of State’s written statement (July 1 2013) in which he “considers that the single issue of unmet demand, whether for traveller sites or for conventional housing, is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ’very special circumstances’ justifying inappropriate development in the Green Belt”.

They are also out of line with the Planning Minister’s written statement of January 17 2014 and his letter of March 3 2014 to the Planning Inspectorate in which he stated that ‘authorities should meet objectively-assessed needs unless specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted’. Crucially, Green Belt is identified in the NPPF as being one such policy.

Just in case some councils were choosing to remain deaf, the Secretary of State has yet again restated (October 4 2014) that “protecting the Green Belt must be paramount. His press release is headlined “Councils must protect our precious Green Belt.” He continues: “...local people don’t want to lose their countryside to urban sprawl, or see the vital green lungs around their towns and cities lost to unnecessary development.”

Specifically the new guidance makes clear that councils do not have to build on the Green Belt just to meet the five-year housing targets.

In any case it has become clear that significant numbers of conversions of offices to dwellings are already adding substantially to housing supply, particularly in Hemel Hempstead where, since mid-2013, over 600 additional dwellings have been, or have gained consent to be, created.

None of these was allowed for in DBC’s Core Strategy forecasts, and the potential is now even higher because Government has recently extended “change of use” rights to any type of employment premises.

There is also significant long-term undeveloped land in Hemel Hempstead which Dacorum Council has currently reserved for “employment”, based on its belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that there is a need for over 1million square feet of additional office accommodation. The reality is that significant employers (e.g. Epson) have recently moved their offices away from Hemel Hempstead, and Dixons Carphone, a major local employer, will have left by May 2015.

So where is the need coming from, and why hang onto building land just in the hope that “something may turn up?” Why not use some of it for housing?

All of these factors indicate a complete lack of justification for taking land out of the local Green Belt through Local Allocations, and clearly indicate that significant aspects of DBC’s Core Strategy require review and change now, to prevent irreplaceable Green Belt sites being lost for ever.

So, councillor Williams and your colleagues, hands off our Green Belt: by Ministerial order.

Michael D Nidd

Hemel Hempstead