Council's record over Hatfield town centre 'shameful'

Sir – It s good news of course that council leader John Dean (letters, WHT, November 19) is getting down to his day job of installing CCTV and public toilets in Hatfield town centre and is arranging for graffiti to be cleaned off and damaged walls to be

Sir - It's good news of course that council leader John Dean (letters, WHT, November 19) is getting down to his day job of installing CCTV and public toilets in Hatfield town centre and is arranging for graffiti to be cleaned off and damaged walls to be repaired. That's what he was elected for, but it would be churlish not to be pleased that the work is now being done.

Where his letter is disingenuous is in his recounting of the history of the town centre over the seven months since the news of the delays to its redevelopment was leaked to the WHT. Reading his letter, one might assume that the council had thought long and hard about the interim improvements needed to the town centre, and then embarked on a programme to address them. The reality is that almost every idea in John Dean's letter, almost every positive step that the council has taken, was only done following the relentless lobbying by local campaign group, Action Hatfield.

Back in May, when I organised a public meeting to allow Hatfield businesses and residents to find out why the redevelopment had been put on hold, 200 local people attended - but John Dean and the council refused to attend. That public meeting led to the setting up of the Action Hatfield campaign and to the development of a charter for the town centre, much of which we are pleased that the council has adopted. It would be more honest of the council leader to acknowledge Action Hatfield's role in consulting the public on the improvements needed to the town centre instead of, as his recent letter does, trying to take the credit for himself and the Conservative Party.

The reality is that, however pleased we are that the town centre is now being slowly improved, the council's record with regard to the town centre is a shameful one. The council hid from the public the news of the delays to the redevelopment, it took a couple of months and the drawing up of the Action Hatfield charter before the list of improvements were agreed, and it has taken over seven months for some of the most basic repairs to the town centre to be started. Even now, the council is painting boarded up shops instead of glazing them and the town centre Christmas decorations were clearly designed if not paid for by Scrooge.

John Dean would perhaps be better advised to build a partnership with local residents, to share the credit for the good news, and not to pretend that his administration's record is such a praise-worthy one. Honesty about the council's mistakes would go a long way, I suggest, to starting to rebuild trust with the public.

Action Hatfield is determined to maintain its positive and constructive role with regard to the town centre. We are delighted that both the borough council and St Modwen have accepted our invitation to appear at a public meeting at 7pm at Breaks Manor Youth Centre on Thursday December 4 and to answer the public's questions. Seven months after the news of the delays to the town centre development, the public want and deserve answers to their questions, and at last they will get them!

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Mike Hobday, chairman,

Action Hatfield.

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