Letters, April 28, part three

PUBLISHED: 11:00 28 April 2011

More sculptures should be built

SIR – The proposal to create a Heritage Sculpture Trail in St Albans is interesting as we are extremely fortunate to have associations with many prominent people over the years which can be traced back as far as Alban, the first Christian martyr.

It is appropriate that we should honour those who have made a significant contribution to the quality and heritage of St Albans and the offer by the Samuel Ryder Foundation to fund the creation and upkeep of a statue to Samuel Ryder must be welcomed.

Samuel Ryder will be remembered mainly for his sponsorship of the Ryder Cup, even now the most important golfing competition at international level and, in his working life, established a business as a seed merchant in this city in the 1890s, was a councillor and mayor of St Albans as well as being a member and captain of Verulam Golf Club. A true Albanian!

However, what are the council planning to do to celebrate other notable recent contributors to St Albans? Sir John Maple, as the owner of Maple Stores the furniture manufacturer and retailer in London and living at Childwickbury he did much for this city, donating not only a hospital but also the excellent leisure and sporting facility of Clarence Park. This facility is today used extensively and enjoyed by all groups of St Albans residents – and thanks to the benevolence of Sir John. So let us remember him as well.

Just as a footnote – when Samuel Ryder was appointed mayor in 1905, he surprised his fellow councillors by a tough and uncomplimentary assessment of the council’s lack of achievement. How we could do with him here now!

HUGH BURRELL

Woodstock Road North

St Albans

Censorship of the facts behind pool

SIR – The Lib Dem cabinet letter extolling the new Westminster Lodge still ignores a major aspect. This costs residents a possible unnecessary £20m, over a hundred affordable homes and will see the loss of the present diving and flume facilities.

It precludes the option to expand the existing pool to an Olympic 50m length and it goes directly against green principals by demolishing buildings which can be regenerated.

We heard of the existence of a detailed condition report on the existing Westminster Lodge three years ago. I would like to share this report with the press, but the council tells me that I can’t. My initial requests on this report were for quite a time unanswered, so with my professional engineer’s hat on I carried out a walk-through survey myself.

My view then was that it would cost about £2m to put it back to basic order. This included total replacement of the main mechanical plant, but the main structure, architectural and electrical elements appear to only need remediable action to relatively minor defects.

When I was shown the 2004 comprehensive A3 25mm thick report three years ago by the senior council officer involved it seemed to agree. In addition, condition reports tend to use the spot prices of repairing individual elements and therefore show higher costs when compared to carrying out all the work at once.

I now have a full copy of the report and have not changed my view. Alas the council state that even though the report is eight years old, for commercial reasons (a freedom of information exclusion) and a clause by an author that it is “only for my own use as a councillor; it may not be disclosed or copied to any other person without the council’s consent”.

I contacted the author on their limitation and confirmed their comments that they are happy for us to publically use the report. However the Lib Dem council refuses to relax their commercial censorship.

Yes we all love new facilities, particularly when paid for by others and at £25m it certainly should be excellent. But I believe definitely after the 2009 financial crisis, public projects should always be transparently valued, both financially and environmentally and certainly not at an unacceptable cost of the loss of yet more affordable homes.

MIKE WAKELY

Conservative District Councillor

Oakfield Road, Harpenden

Pollution plight

SIR – Here in the centre of St Albans there is a sense of shock that so many people’s health has been put at risk by the joint decision of the Tory county and the Lib Dem district to ignore the issue of the illegal traffic pollution at the Peahen and on the Holywell Hill for almost a decade – they hope that by doing nothing the problem will simply go away.

This has not happened. It has only got worse. Now several significant parts of the central area have had to be put on a special watch list, and others have been classified by the Lib Dems as “data not relevant”. This includes the flats that have been put on the rental market opposite the Civic Centre in Forrester Hse.

They’ve also taken another important decision to cement the policy of joint prevarication. They’ve decided to use the cuts as a pretext to stop monitoring the pollution effectively.

Now during the election campaign they’re pretending to squabble. They’ve mounted a diversion over the semi-pedestrianisation of St Peter’s Street, a scheme some say will reduce the traffic on the Holywell Hill. One of the parties is saying go, the other’s saying no.

I’m not deceived. They are mounting a charade, a pretence, of disunity to deceive the electorate. Neither of them genuinely want to do anything that will bring the pollution down to safe levels. It’s not as if there’s been an earthquake or a tsunami here in St Albans that would justify such a failure – just a coalition.

The Lib Dems pretend to believe in Europe, but when it comes to obeying directives they model themselves on certain founder states who believe that European Directives are for anybody else in Europe apart from themselves. And the Tories are just anti ANY European Directive full stop.

Some residents are considering litigation. The councils are breaking pollution laws and leaving the NHS to pick up the tab for treating patients with pollution generated disorders. The local coalition of county and district are penny wise, pound foolish. They want to save pennies now on delaying traffic control for short-term political reasons rather than looking to the long term economic advantage of obeying the rules on pollution.

TONY WAITE

Holywell Hill, St Albans

No blame game

SIR – Network Rail and First Capital Connect would like to set the record straight. There is no dispute between us.

Network Rail does not blame FCC for poor performance results and we are concerned that Network Rail’s intentions, set out in a recent letter to Anne Main MP, have been misunderstood.

The letter, from Network Rail chief executive David Higgins, described the work Network Rail is doing to improve service to passengers. Network Rail is committed to delivering a reliable infrastructure to First Capital Connect and since the letter was written we have already seen a significant improvement in infrastructure reliability.

Network Rail is investing to improve the infrastructure, such as track and power supplies, while FCC is working to improve the reliability of the train fleet and is recruiting extra drivers on this route. Only by working closely together can performance continue to improve. The £6bn Thameslink Programme is transforming the route with new, longer trains on the way – the first 12-carriage trains will enter service this December.

We would like to assure customers that we are making every effort to provide the best possible service, every day. We are working in close cooperation and in partnership.

MARTIN FROBISHER

Route director, Network Rail

NEAL LAWSON

Managing director, First Capital Connect

Culture of fear

SIR – I read with interest the article on FCC’s heavy handed approach to passengers in first class. I was on the 7.38am to London this morning, all trains were delayed due to the fire further down the line.

This train was crowded to a level that seemed unsafe, some of the passengers had nothing to hold onto as this type of train was not designed for lots of standing passengers, there was even a family with two small children crowded in like cattle.

The irony was the carriage I was in had a first class area at the end with spare seats yet with the recent response from FCC that anyone caught in that area was liable to be prosecuted, no one dared to sit there. FCC are happy to take thousands of pounds from standard season ticket holders and then sell on the space as first class, I have noticed that the new trains have three areas of first class on an eight carriage train.

At the very least FCC should declassify first class on crowded trains, but they won’t do this as I think their strategy is to make the journey so unbearable that more passengers will switch to paying the first class fare.

JAMES LATTIMER

Watford Road, St Albans

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