Letters, April 7, 2011, part one

PUBLISHED: 11:21 07 April 2011

Mobile library still thriving

SIR – May I note that the mobile library service in the Cunningham area is alive and well. It has not been withdrawn, as implied in the letter from Reg Law (‘Local residents not consulted’) in the St Albans edition of the paper for March 24.

The van comes to Thirlmere Drive between 11am and 1pm on alternate Wednesdays, and provides an excellent, friendly service. Also, to compensate for the closing of the Fleetville library, it has a two-hour slot from 2-4pm in the Morrisons car park on the same alternate Wednesdays, and more patrons would surely help to ensure the continuation of the service.

MARILYN SARMIENTO

Rodney Avenue, St Albans

Airport parking is not thought out

SIR – When Luton Airport abandoned the free drop-off and pick-up facility (and then charged) at the terminal buildings, one was advised to use the free bus service to the medium term car park, where one could park for one hour without charge.

Although slightly inconvenient if one was seeing off elderly relatives, it was time enough for a quick trip to the terminal building and back, accomplished within the allowed time of one hour, sometimes less. Similarly on their inward journey.

Imagine my surprise when my observant passenger sighted the sign that said free parking was now only available for 30 minutes, and for an hour’s stay I would be charged in excess of £7.

Considering that the bus operates on a 15-minute cycle, there is hardly room for error!

When leaving departing passengers, one can “dump” them on the bus, however on inward journeys, one is at the mercy of the airline, luggage handlers and immigration for a timely exit/collection.

Come on Luton Airport think of your passengers and their relatives.

The alternative is a constant stream of traffic exiting the car park, circling the roundabout and re-entering. How long before a “no return within two hours” notice?

MW COWELL

Bloomfield Road, Harpenden

Voting debate rumbles on

SIR – That the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting favours some parties is beyond doubt.

In the 2010 General Election the number of votes cast for each party divided by the number of seats won was 35,021 per Conservative MP, 33,338 per Labour MP but 119,397 per Lib Dem MP. Similar bias against the smaller parties was evident in every general election since 1945 and probably beyond. The smaller the party, the bigger the bias against them. Proportional Representation (PR) would eliminate this bias and allow minority parties a voice in Parliament.

While claiming to be in favour of choice, the Tories, with the tacit Labour support, have restricted our choice in the coming referendum to FPTP and Alternative Vote, knowing full well that PR would end their unfair domination of the Commons. Given the restricted choice available, voters should support AV since it goes some way towards a fairer voting system.

Philip Webster (Letters, March 17) is a ‘Little Englander’ who can see no little further than his own constituency boundary and is blind to the wider world. He fails to recognise that at a general election we are electing a Commons which should reflect the views of all our people, majorities and minorities alike. FPTP is least able to do this. We should vote for AV, even if it falls far short of the fairness which PR would provide.

DR DAVID LEIGH

Gibbond Close, Sandridge

Too many opticians?

SIR – In an Alan Ayckbourn play which I saw in Harpenden, one character says that his wife is continually losing glasses so that they ended up shuffling around their house ankle-deep in spectacles.

Perhaps that couple live in St Albans. That would explain the endless proliferation of opticians in the city. It seems more likely that the government payment for carrying out free eye tests is way too generous. The payment should be cut down before we are as plagued with opticians as we are with pizza takeaways.

RICHARD DURRANT

Park Avenue, St Albans

Pruning was excessive

SIR – The ford garden in St Michael’s is both attractive and well maintained, but being located adjacent to two mature weeping willows meant that eventual conflict was inevitable – and now the trees have lost out.

However, my complaint about the treatment of the St Michael’s willows (Herts Advertiser, March 24) is that the “pruning” is arguably excessive and has been applied at the wrong time of the year.

I know the willow is a strong grower and that “growth follows the knife” – especially near water – but the district council should have carried out this work early in the winter dormant period, so that in the spring that followed, visitors and residents alike could then have enjoyed at least some of the new foliage of these beautiful trees, for it is at this time that the colour is particularly rich and bright.

As things are now, the vista of St Michael’s village has been blighted just as the tourist season commences.

DAVID HAWTHORN

Hazelwood Drive, St Albans

Westfield site clarification

SIR – As a member of the Westfield Action Group, all be it a quiet member, I would just like to clarify a couple of things that people seem to misunderstand about some of the arguments about this rather small green field.

We do not object to nor disagree that there is a need for affordable housing in Harpenden, or that Mencap need a new place to build (I have a six-year-old daughter with Downs, I really don’t want Mencap to disappear). What we do oppose to is that it is built on the only green space that is easily accessible to by local residents.

This area generally has been subjected to a lot of building over the last 20 years with people selling off gardens, industrial sites being torn down, etc., and we’re tired of it.

Not everyone can get from here to the common to enjoy it so why take away what little green space there is. What’s wrong with wanting to improve it so that it becomes something we can be proud of? It’s no longer just about allotments, we are asking both councils to help us make this a place of beauty that everyone can enjoy.

OK, until now people really haven’t taken much notice of it so it has sat there unloved and uncared for. However we are now sitting up and taking notice and thinking well why not try and improve our space. So what if it took the threat of more building to get a reaction the residents are now clearly saying “we don’t want more building we would like to have a park to enjoy not a large green dog toilet.”

So please don’t keep saying we don’t want Harpenden to provide affordable housing, we do, just not in this already overbuilt area.

Now I know finding sites to build on is difficult so I would just like to throw something out there that is guaranteed to generate a lot of conversation and probably rude jokes at my expense – what about West Common? There is a strip of trees that runs along the right hand side of the road between here and St Albans that, as far as I can see, serves no other purpose than keeping a barrier between the big houses and the road. This strip of trees doesn’t seem to be big enough to ramble in or walk a dog or even play in but it does seem big enough to build some affordable housing and Mencap buildings on. Now I know you’re all screaming “what about the beauty of Harpenden” but I’m sure if it was all planned out properly it could look really rather attractive, different but attractive. I know we have to try and hang onto green space but surely that means green space that people can physically use and enjoy not something that they just drive past in their cars every day? Just a thought.

Perhaps Patrick Fisher of Mencap had a point, perhaps we do have to start looking at some Green Belt land for building on. We just have to be responsible about it. I think building on a strip of land that serves no other purpose than to offer a buffer between a road and houses could possibly be a good compromise? Just think about it next time you go along that road, it might not be as crazy as it might sound.

ELISSA BAIRD

Willoughby Road, Harpenden

Snails spotted

SIR – Further to Dr Simon Leadbeater’s letter in your March 17 issue, I have seen what I am sure are Roman snails in the grasses around the proposed Westfield building site.

They were about three or four times the size of the snails I have on my allotment or in my garden, mostly pale or white and were seen on a very wet day following a few rainy days some two years ago around the slope down from the play area.

As the old allotment site is now well fenced off, I am not sure how I or Carol Hedges would be able to find a specimen for Dr Leadbeater, but I will certainly have a good search in the nearby grass next time we have a wet, rainy period.

If Dr Leadbeater is working at Rothamsted, I will be able to contact him there if I do find a specimen or notify the appropriate person there.

DIANA BELL

Cosne Mews, Harpenden

Closure needs more data analysis

SIR – Ever since the local council collaborated with Hert Highways in spending £6.5 million on despoiling St Peter’s Street, it has regularly attempted to close it to normal traffic.

This year Cllr Donald claims that the public has told him that “we need to tackle traffic congestion”, and that this is this year’s reason to close the city centre.

I do hope that he is not basing this claim on the recent core strategy questionnaire. This questionnaire was seriously flawed in both the style of questions and the weight given to each concept, and as such is very open to misinterpretation – deliberate or otherwise.

Many questions can be interpreted to mean anything the reader wishes; for example Q2 covers seven totally distinct topics with only one answer allowed for all of them; so if you would like more schools (which is nothing to do with the local council anyway!) you are forced to implicitly agree with closing St Peter’s Street.

I see Cllr Donald found time to write a two-column letter this week. It would be very helpful if he could let us have a more precise analysis of the data: specifically, how many voters agreed with the closure of St Peter’s Street, and who they represented – “stakeholders”, focus groups, or core strategy respondents.

This is far too important an issue for the prosperity of St Albans and, to avoid even more congestion, for it to go through yet again on the nod.

MIKE BIBBY

Barncroft Way, St Albans

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