Letters, February 14, 2013

PUBLISHED: 09:34 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:34 14 February 2013

Colts scheme just makes no sense

SIR – Following Cllr Bernard Lloyd’s wish (Letters, January 31) not to prolong the correspondence on the Colts FC/Herts County Council plan to turn a swathe of attractive Green Belt countryside into a massive football ground, but then proceeding to do so, might I express that same wish and likewise immediately quash it.

I have been criticised by David Williams, Mr Lloyd’s Conservative “heir apparent” on the county council, for describing the New Farm scheme as “grotesque”. I have strongly defended my use of that word, on the grounds of the project’s monstrous scale. It would involve the sacrifice of what is, at present, no less than 32 acres of agriculturally productive farmland. That is considerably more than half the area of Harpenden’s 56-acre Rothamsted Park and eight times – yes, eight times – the size of Harpenden Town Football Club’s facility, which occupies just four acres.

Yet Mr Lloyd says, in his January 31 letter, that he does not believe residents’ objections to the size of the proposed New Farm facility “are justified or sustainable”. How much land would the scheme have to cover to make it unjustifiable in Mr Lloyd’s eyes – 50 acres? 100 acres? Ridiculous? Not necessarily, because, as Mr Lloyd points out, Colts intend to continue using the site at Redbourn, even though the whole tenure of the New Farm proposal is allegedly to provide Colts with a self-sufficient “home”, without the club needing to hire outside facilities.

Mr Lloyd makes light of the question of vehicular access to the New Farm site. But, as he would quickly verify by driving or walking up Roundwood Lane from the A1081, its narrow width and unsighted bends make it quite unsuited, from a congestion and safety point of view, to cope with concentrated football match traffic. Just above its junction with Park Rise, the carriageway narrows down to just 16ft (4.9m) wide, with no centre white line – indeed not wide enough for a centre white line to be practical. There is a footway on only one side, which itself is only 4ft (1.2m) wide in places, already resulting in pedestrian safety issues, made even more serious by seasonal hedge overgrowth.

The only feasible alternative route to the New Farm site for vehicles coming from Harpenden is via Park Hill which, for 100 metres or more at its lower end, is effectively reduced in width from 24ft (7.3m) to only about 13ft (4m) wide by ever-present parked cars on both sides, reducing it to a single ‘no passing’ thoroughfare.

Mr Lloyd airily dismisses the likelihood of additional traffic at match times on the rural Luton Lane/Kinsbourne Green Lane/Roundwood Lane route past Redbourn Golf Club, a tortuous single-track lane with only “unofficial” (i.e. muddy bank) passing places. Drivers bringing Colts’ visiting team players from Redbourn, Hemel Hempstead and points west would certainly elect – or be sat-nav directed – to take that route to the New Farm site, rather than following the much longer alternative via the B487 through Hatching Green and the centre of Harpenden.

ALAN BUNTING

Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

SIR – Can I assure Cllr Lloyd that Mr Bunting was correct about the lack of transparency in the development of the proposals for New Farm.

Cllr Lloyd says the council has reserved a site for a school on New Farm and the area was clearly marked on the plans shown at two public exhibitions. In fact, the literature only used the words “education use”. The part of the plan which used the words “primary school” was hidden. Setting out precisely where the school would be and allowing change to the other land prevents the school being put elsewhere on New Farm and makes it more unlikely that it will be on a different more suitable site.

The Colts’ proposals are being used to establish the idea of a school by the back door when the appropriate vehicle for the consideration of the boundaries of Green Belt land and the identification of such sites should be a local development plan. Reports commissioned by the council show the focus for New Farm is a school. The reports are concerned that the reserved site is some distance from Roundwood Park School’s existing site (which is where all coaches would have to go given the unsuitability of the other access roads) and the pavements on Roundwood Lane are described as “poor... and there is little or no scope to improve these facilities”. Reports describe visibility at the junction of Roundwood Lane and Falconers Field as “very poor”. As most of the children will be travelling to school from the south, why is the selected school site on the northernmost part of the land?

Cllr Lloyd acknowledges the problems with current access to the Roundwood Park schools but omits to mention the council’s expert report states that there are highway improvements that could be made to the Park Hill access road which make a two-form primary school entry on the current site feasible. Cllr Lloyd wrote to me that moving the primary is not dependent on the senior school being willing to expand but all the council-commissioned reports I have seen only envisage the primary school moving if the senior school expands.

A council tender authorisation document of January 20, 2012, titled New Farm states the site has “potential inter linkages with Football Association aspirations to achieve artificial pitches serving Harpenden” which means these controversial pitches could be used much more every day of the week. Colts would doubtless be hoping to use them as a revenue stream.

No wonder at the exhibitions residents were given conflicting information about how many times the pitches would be used and not given reassurances about a “tournament scale” event ban. Once increased use starts to conflict with school traffic on weekdays then the area’s infrastructure will collapse.

HCC’s planning consultant’s brief of July 9, 2012, states the pavilion is a single -torey building (which is what is shown on the plans) and that a first floor is to be added at a later date. It actually says “flood” not “floor” in this document so I wonder if the typo was linked to future designs on floodlights too!

This is all indicative of the fact that any change will lead to more inappropriate use and subsequently the destruction of the Green Belt land rather than conferring any protection against further development as Cllr Lloyd has suggested.

I support Colts as a club and the creation of school places in the areas that need them but given the above it is little wonder residents doubt what they are told.

SARAH JENKINS-GREIG

Falconers Field, Harpenden

Keeping our city centre sustainable

SIR – I have sympathy for your correspondent who bemoans the rent and rates increases for businesses in St Albans.

As a local councillor for the area, I am particularly aware of how much some businesses are suffering, and how much the public are turned off by empty or low-quality shop units.

As the district council doesn’t set the rent or rates, there’s little it can directly do about them. However, there is a lot it could be doing to support local businesses and the local economy.

One way would be for the council to procure more of its goods and services locally. There are rules about this that make it difficult for the council to discriminate in favour of local companies. That’s why I proposed to the council that it uses the Sustainable Communities Act to make it easier. The Act enables local people and councils to get government rules changed if doing so would help the life of their local area.

I am pleased to report that the council accepted this proposal, and I look forward to local businesses enjoying the benefits of it soon.

CLLR SIMON GROVER

St Albans District Green Party

Clifton Street, St Albans

The road to ruin?

SIR – Harpenden Town Council appears to have mislaid its priorities.

The recent snow has left local streets scarred with potholes and local drivers fuming. Instead of putting road maintenance at the top of their agenda, however, the Council has quietly submitted a planning application for a new access road across Westfield Common, apparently so that maintenance vehicles can get onto it.

Strange timing, as the independent inspector appointed by the county council is still reviewing the local residents’ application for Town Green status. This follows a two-day public inquiry which, according to figures obtained from the council, has already cost the taxpayer £20,000.

Even stranger, there is an existing access road which has been used by council staff for many years. Could the council be planning the new road to pre-empt the Town Green outcome and strengthen their controversial proposal for building houses on the Common?

Surely they wouldn’t be wasting their time and money when there is urgent road maintenance to attend to!

G CHAMBERS

Fallows Green, Harpenden

Scheme is a waste of taxpayers’ money

SIR – The world has gone crazy! I’ve been asking myself why would the county council think it’s a good idea to spend in excess of £35,000 of taxpayers’ money to pedestrianise a road that doesn’t need it? As pointed out by Teresa Heritage we need to spend it or lose it.

What is the world coming to when councils have to invent rather pointless schemes in order to get the cash? I find it incredulous, when there are so many other budgets in our community that could benefit from this cash, that it can’t be transferred.

We’ve had to spend a lot of money to get the appropriate schooling for our SEN daughter – if the education department had more money this could have been avoided. The police department is reducing staff due to budget cuts, why can’t they get this sort of cash? Fire departments are in crisis because of lack of money and the list goes on.

We can’t be the only district that this is happening in – surely if all this money was put back into a pool and redistributed some of these budget cuts would no longer be necessary.

I’m a simple person, I just don’t see the necessity for all this confusion and unnecessary spending just because you have to. It makes me weep!

ELISSA BAIRD

Willoughby Road, Harpenden

SIR – £35,000 to further damage to the livelihoods of hardworking, struggling traders in Harpenden High Street just beggars belief. Our rural high streets need initiatives to keep them thriving, not to be destroyed by “trial pedestrianisation”.

Where do these amateur officials and councillors from the county council, who have possibly never ever held down a job in the real world of business, get these stupid ideas from? And, when then challenged, they attempt to justify the decision through obfuscation and “political speak”.

If, in these straightened times, there is £35,000 to “waste” then why not invest it instead in filling in the potholes on Harpenden’s roads?

PETER COX

Lynsey Close, Redbourn

SIR – Unfortunately I missed Teresa Heritage’s letter in your newspaper, but I see from the Herts Ad website that she is quoted as saying this scheme has two objectives: “to address the confusion over the no right turn and major safety issues”.

Could she explain what the confusion is – it is a no right turn junction; most people understand that to mean you cannot turn right there. The signs could be improved but it is not really possible to do a right turn anyway.

Secondly what major safety issues – where are the accident statistics backing up this statement?

BRIAN MOORES

Long Buftlers, Harpenden

SIR – It was obvious from Teresa Heritage’s outburst of January 31 that she thinks Harpenden retailers and residents should stop questioning the sanity of local councillors’ decisions.

She states that “after a lenghy public consultation the Harpenden Urban Transport Plan 2011 was approved by the community and Town Council”. If this was the case, why are we faced with a vast number of residents and shop keepers raising objections? Is it a case that the “Public Consultation” was deliberately low key so as to not generate negative feedback to a scheme that Teresa is obviously keen to push through regardless.

The tone of her letter is so condescending one can only hope she falls heavily off her high horse. As for her stating that the £35,000 must be spent regardless of public opinion, surely she is not fit for public office. Let’s hope Harpenden taxpayers remember her name on the next ballot papers.

Her letter also hints that the road changes are only Phase One of a much bigger plan to remove vehicles from Harpenden town centre. Next in line for removal of parking bays will be Vaughan Road and Thompson Close followed by the rest of the Lower High Street and around Church Green thus eliminating any free parking in the town.

On the issue of safety, I have never seen any vehicle turn right into Lower High Street from Station Road since the block paving was laid a few years ago. Any confusion at this junction must be in Teresa’s mind. The combined level road and pavement works safely between both cars and pedestrians, even on crowded days. If this combined level is now considered dangerous, why was a large sum of money spent raising the road level?

Teresa wants to improve the shoppers’ experence by allowing retailers to trade out onto the road area. Does she think the bank will have a stall or the charity shop? If she extends her idea further along will Boots, Sainsbury, WH Smith, etc., all bring out a stall on a good weather Saturday.

You have shown us that you have no idea about making money, but you have avery good grasp on spending other people’s.

DAVID WHITBREAD

Crabtree Lane, Harpenden

Parking plans target the vulnerable

SIR – My wife and I were dismayed to learn from your lead story of January 31 that West Herts Hospitals Trust intends imposing charges for disabled Blue Badge patients to park after they’ve struggled to St Albans, Watford and Hemel hospitals for vital treatment.

These are the very people who have paid their dues to the health service for countless years and who now need help in leading a normal life, rather than being taken advantage of and having their reduced savings picked into.

I appreciate that the Government is at the heart of paring millions of pounds from our health service while at the same time making available 10 times as much to send our young servicemen and women to prop up foreign regimes and uprisings across the world that will inevitably drag on for years.

But our local trust should think again. If not, then perhaps administrators like Louise Gaffney (who seems to think it fair to impose the new charges) are shown the door in order to reduce costs.

IVOR WATKINS

Watling Street, Radlett

SIR – What is this world coming to? Upon reading about the parking fees that are due to be imposed for Blue Badge holders in hospitals, and no doubt various other facilities in the near future, and also the fact that the council tried to scrap free parking for three hours in Westminster Lodge, I am just appalled at the abject greed of the local authorities.

I was always of the opinion that the car parks were run by private companies with a percentage of the money made going to the various authorities concerned – so just what is going on?

This will be a further nail in the coffin for the small traders. Maybe it would make more sense if local authorities did not waste money on trivia and concentrated more on the requirements of us, the council taxpayers, thereby having enough money to spend more efficiently and effectively.

The High Street in St Albans and surrounding areas has shops closing and remaining empty, largely due to parking restrictions and other extra charges.

Gone are the days of the small friendly shops and to add insult to injury, we won’t even be able afford to use Westminster Lodge to keep fit, as the government is urging us to do. What will be taken from us next one wonders, it seems that everything these days is done purely for monetary gain? How long will it be before we will all be charged to park our cars in our own drives?

So for us, of a certain age, it will just mean getting rid of our cars (our lifeline), stay indoors and let the state take care of us – I don’t think so.

CAROLE POMERANCE

Old Orchard, St Albans

SIR– It is a well-known fact that the most downtrodden in society have become accustomed to having to live with the thin end of the wedge and they are a soft touch for higher authorities looking for an easy solution to some minor finance problems that appears to have lead our local NHS trust to tighten the screw a little firmer by inroducing new swingeing car parking fees so that the minimum chage is now to be a monstrous £4.50.

And then for Ms Gadney to have the gall to describe the increase as “fair” is hardly a true description of the situation; I suggest Ms Gadney looks up the dictionary meaning of “fair”. My suggestion would be to have a free period of say, one hour, from the time of arrival and I think experience is likely to show that large numbers of patients can be treated within that time without seeing a massive drop in car park revenues. At least give it a try for perhaps three months and Ms Gadney might be agreeably surprised.

PHILIP WEBSTER

Townsend Drive, St Albans

Extra charges are scuppered

SIR – It will come as a relief to the majority of local people that the Tory Cabinet’s proposal to scrap free parking for the first three hours at Westminster Lodge and Amenbury Lane, Harpenden, was defeated during the St Albans District Council budget debate. A Liberal Democrat amendment to reject this “Fitness Tax” was carried.

The proposal was an ill-considered but lucrative – projected income was over £100,000 – sledgehammer to deter a minority who park for free and go elsewhere.

At a time when we should be strongly encouraging people to use our leisure centres and parks, this would have been a singularly greedy and misguided charge. Westminster Lodge is a fantastic new facility but the average user is now spending more and a parking fee would just add to the overall expenditure. With obesity at record levels, surely we should be encouraging everyone, and especially our youngsters, to enjoy the range of sporting facilities exquisite Verulamium Park offers?

CLLR ANTHONY ROWLANDS

Liberal Democrat leisure spokesperson

Beaumont Avenue, St Albans

Unreliable buses

SIR – Yet again, Arriva Buses don’t arrive.

My daughter is so fed up with the appalling 321 service (not) provided by this useless bus company, that she is getting a motorbike.

No wonder our local roads are so congested – people cannot rely on public transport.

PETER MANNELL

Aldwickbury Crescent, Harpenden

Shortfalls in recycling service

SIR – Thank you Jean Day for reminding us of the many shortfalls in the St Albans council’s recycling service. It’s laughable that the council have only just trialled recycling plastic beyond bottles.

I would like to add to her comments about the Bedford council service by concentrating on the bare bones of their system. The major one being that they have a recycling wheelie bin rather than our three storage boxes. This means no sorting. No gardens looking like dumping grounds. No unsightly roads, verges and pavements grossly littered on and after collection days. And no re-learning what to put in which container each time the system is enhanced.

Bedford council’s system also appears to have been professionally thought through. It’s an easy, user friendly, built for purpose and easily enhanced system. They have looked at the system from the user’s perspective. They actively encourage users to recycle. Two wheelie bin sizes are freely available. You can swap bin size as required. You can even have several bins of one type or none according to need.

They lead by example by having street litter bins with two sections to encourage recycling when out and about. They have comprehensive web pages covering the subject on one web site. They have even incorporated composting and water management (working with their water authority) with recycling as one subject. There’s none of this searching through pages in finite detail as on the St Albans council web pages desperately trying to discover facts only to be passed from site to site each with different layouts and purposes. There’s no conflicting information either. It is no surprise that one often gives up a search in total despair on the St Albans council web pages with the unnecessary consequences.

Wake up St Albans council. A year ago some UK councils were recycling 20 per cent more than you, which incidentally is pathetic in comparison with the other major EU countries. You currently hope to take two years to increase ours by 10 per cent.

I am so looking forward to even more unsightly litter when the cardboard in box (or loose if too much!) change happens this year as a result of the Redbourn trial.

D WALLER

Flint Way, St Albans

Go after the ball, not the man

SIR – Reading Sandy Walkington’s letter of January 24, it was obvious to me that he was very exercised about Tony Leach’s letter in your paper; how Mr Walkington feels, is of course, his own business.

What I instantly found unpleasant about Walkington’s letter was him dragging Tony Leach’s son, Martin (who is a Labour councillor), into the matter.

Mr Leach senior, like Mr Walkington is entitled via your newspaper to express opinions on local concerns.

I am not sure Mr Walkington would appreciate it, if I was to judge him for views expressed by other members of his family.

Locally there has been husband/wife combinations from all parties on St Albans council, and we have respected that each individual has their own opinions regardless of family connection.

Perhaps Mr Walkington, who lives in the Welwyn/Hatfield constituency, is not aware of how we operate here in St Albans and imports a more peevish attitude to politics that St Albans residents will find offensive.

Mr Walkington should go after the ball, not the man, so to speak.

Mr Walkington defends the Lib Dem record in Government with their coalition pals, the Tories, which I am glad to see, as his party will be judged alongside the Tories as one side of the same coin, be it on rail fares, student fees, rail freight development, and the economy in general.

Perhaps come the general election, Mr Walkington from Welwyn will try to blame Anne Main’s husband for some of his coalition partner’s failings, we will have to wait and see!

On his current form Mr Walkington should stay over in Welwyn, because he will not get the honour to represent either of the Leachs or indeed St Albans in Parliament.

MALACHY PAKENHAM

Batchwood district councillor

Etna Road, St Albans

Charging prisoners controversy

SIR – Thank you for publishing my letter on January 10, many people agreed with me.

However, the suggestion of David Lloyd to charge prisoners for their temporary accommodation surely is similar to German Nazi policies? And further evidence of the growing humanity industry?

They made the Jews they were transporting to the concentration camps pay their own fares. They also robbed them of their valuable possessions as well as their lives.

Perhaps Mr Lloyd could pay for such criminals out of his fat salary?

In every aspect of British life nowadays, one is made to pay: perhaps Mr Lloyd plans to make people pay for the police to investigate crimes?

Officers of the Crown are supposed to serve, not impose thug rule and line their own pockets.

MISS L BARWELL

Old Watling Street, Flamstead

SIR – I must apologise to Ms Thornton with regard to her rather emotional letter to your columns (January 31) where she points to my error of her gender.

In spite of her forceful opinions on the matter in question however, it doesn’t change my views that our beleaguered law-abiding taxpayers should not have to pick up the bill for these offenders; be they drunks, thieves, drug-pedlars, whatever, and as I have already said, if they are mentally ill, then I’m sure that this is taken into account.

I’m sorry that she has had poor service from the police, but this shouldn’t cloud her judgement on crime in general.

I also, by the way, am involved in the magistrates courts in a small way, but you have to try and remain impartial or you are no help to anybody.

Now here, I fear is something else that will make Ms Thornton hot under the collar. That is, I have always believed capital punishment should never have been abolished, especially with regard to child and police murder, or premeditated.

Crime in general now is rife and prisons bursting at the seams. It seems to have no fear for some, with its television and afternoon tea. The insurmountable cost of all this falling on the already over-burdened taxpayers’ shoulders.

We just can’t afford to become complacent with regard to crime Ms Thornton.

Let up on it, and the threat to our already precarious society could be dire! I bet there are quite a few who feel as I do.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON

Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Enraged over Caroline Sharpe House

SIR – I am unclear about what is going on with Caroline Sharpe House.

Sheltered housing for the elderly is not the right area for accidently-on-purpose delays.

I’m really, really angry, and I bet I’m not the only person to be angry.

Why don’t the developers pull their fingers out?

DAVID SAUL

Kings Road, St Albans

Keep it quiet at city’s new museum

SIR – The proposed relocation of the city museum to the Town Hall presents an opportunity to provide a reading room – a quiet area, stocked with thoughtfully selected books, for the benefit of those who find the public library, which is also a community centre, not quite the tranquil oasis they seek.

JONATHAN KIEK

Woodfield Way, St Albans

Tighter rules needed for cyclists

SIR – Could you please let me know what the law is, for retailers, on the sale of bicycles? For example, does the bike have to have a bell or to have lights?

Can a bike be purchased by anybody without having passed a cycling proficiency test?

When I was at school some sort of governing body was sent to teach us how to ride a bike properly. To teach us the Highway Code all geared up to pass the proficiency exam.

In those days you were not allowed to ride to school without having passed your test, also having a band of colour around your top half so as motorists can see you in the dark.

Should bike riders wear suitable clothing, so as to be seen? Far too many parents these days tell their children to “stay on the path” when riding their bikes, but do they tell them that this is against the law? No!

The pedestrians have the right of way on the pavement and I do not see why we have to move for the like of cyclists who do not have the respect to consider the elderly and other pedestrians.

Parents should be more responsible in the nature of their children’s cycling habits. Maybe a fine could be served for riding on the pavement, then we might be able to bring back the good old bobby on the beat.

DOLLY SAVAGE

Ladies Grove, St Albans

BANANAs-rama

SIR – Reading your newspaper I am faced with a plethora of campaigns against a variety of projects.

The access way alongside Westfield Road, the rail freight depot at Park Street, the Harpenden Colts playing fields, the Ariston site in St Albans and last but not least the Luton Airport proposed expansion.

Why is there so much opposition to change and why do the negative views always seem to come to the fore?

It must be the numbers of BANANAs in our midst - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

STEVE PRYOR

Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Benefits of Hilton

SIR – I write in response to Paul Wilkinson’s letter in last week’s Herts Ad. For his benefit and anyone else who might be interested I get no benefit at all from the St Albans Hilton except the satisfaction of 100 jobs in the construction phase, an equal number to run the hotel, the provision of a hopper bus service to take people into the centre of St Albans, the building having the benefit of PV generation, recycled water, more trees on the site after construction (and there are already buildings on the site , an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Oaklands College and an estimated £4 million extra spending in St Albans – a good deal for my home city!

I am passionate about housing, where are our sons and daughters to live if we don’t build more homes? What about the many hundreds on the council waiting list if we don’t build more affordable homes and finally we need to provide a ‘Rent to Buy’ scheme for those young first-time buyers who want to get on the first rung of the home ownership ladder? Building homes creates jobs, gives security and will bring us out of recession.

KERRY POLLARD

Cottonmill Lane, St Albans

Do the maths

SIR – Have just read the article on the front page of last week’s Herts Advertiser – they say there will be 130 new car parking spaces, then they say 150 new jobs will be created ?

Surely that means that in actual fact there will be 20 less car parking spaces?!

KEVIN HULL

Ripon Way, St Albans

Thanks for generosity

SIR – Thank you, Harpenden. Once again your response to the Harpenden Trust’s annual Christmas Appeal, even in these difficult times, has been beyond belief. Your donations totalled yet another record at £36,000.

As more Harpenden families and individuals feel the impact of the economic ills so the trust’s resources are being stretched. Your donations this Christmas, which account for nearly half our annual spend, will go a long way in helping to maintain our support of the town’s disadvantaged.

A big thank you also to the 212 voluteers who collected the Christmas Appeal envelopes.

GRAHAM WESTWELL

Appeal Organiser

The Harpenden Trust

Alban Way is in a dismal state

SIR – For the past 20 years I have used what is called the Alban Way before and after it became officially part of a National Cycle network. The Act establishing the original railway line has the short name of the “Hatfield and Saint Albans Railway Act 1862”. There is no connection with Alban himself.

More fundamentally it is the Hatfield end of the route which respects the need to maintain a cycle route in a fit condition for use by cyclists. So from Smallford eastwards the route is in reasonable condition. from there westward once we enter St Albans City and District Council’s domain the poor condition of the track makes it worse to cycle on than before it was resurfaced.

Whether I’m using my Brompton, mountain bike or road bike the ride is unpleasant in a way that say Ayot Greenway in un-metaled condition isn’t.

The name Alban Way is unmerited given the poor condition of the route through St Albans, which matches the general lack of any constructive approach to cycling provision in the city compared to our towns in Hertfordshire. Perhaps a field trip to Cambridge for local decision makers would be beneficial.

JONATHAN DEVEREUX

Barnfield Road, St Albans

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