Letters, December 13, 2012

PUBLISHED: 11:35 13 December 2012

Colts controversy won’t go away

SIR – I write in support of the views expressed by Ian Hunt in your edition of November 29.

The draft plan presented by Harpenden Colts shows imagination, excellent use of green space and is in the spirit of the Olympic legacy – which we were told would encourage development of sport and skills among young people. The Colts have no home ground and surely should be supported by their local community rather than being attacked by so many Harpenden residents.

If this plan is not pursued, the most likely eventual fate of the space would not be Green Belt but further extension of housing development and more very expensive houses.

JENNY SMITH

Wells Close, Harpenden

Too many sacrifices

SIR – The recent exchange of views on the subject of “developments” planned for London Colney exposed the dilemma that local residents now face.

The parish council has a duty to protect the interests of inhabitants of all political persuasions, within its limited remit, while higher agencies have to toe the official line and force decisions upon those who may reasonably object.

Sometimes a series of events may coincide within a given area and for varied purposes but we fear a cumulative impact which could damage our village ethos, which reflected historic pride and achievements. This is not mere nostalgia on our part.

Older people remember the hard times as well as the fun we often had here but the giddy whirlpool of progress is now draining the life from our beleaguered community. What will the future be if we do not protest?

Just look at the publicity for Christmas shopping at Colney Fields, on our doorstep! Many are delighted with the prospect of extended opening hours and some free parking.

Certainly this facility is tempting and no doubt very profitable; but such convenience comes at a price to us, as traffic pours in from all directions, parking overflows into nearby residential estates and any remaining local shops lose vital trade to the fierce competition.

Our complaints about the consequences of attracting so many vehicles into this area (with weak controls over speeding, parking and congestion) are met with a delayed response when danger and disturbance are pointed out at intervals. Yet we are asked to surrender ever more land to make even more profit.

Do we benefit or is it always at our expense?

So we must rely on a few unruly “activists” in the local authority or on those with no political agenda but a sense of civic unease due to the lack of adequate representation or power.

But what if we insist on a fair hearing? Not just a public consultation to tell us our fate and a form to give some contrived permission to proceed? Perhaps we really do feel that we have sacrificed enough already, to need to given even more to some grand cause, or to save other areas from pain? Must we have more dodgy waste depositories/incinerators/digesters/landfill pits near habitation or fragile river valleys? Do we want a giant road/rail depot jammed between crowded villages with no escape route for the lorries? Must we build yet more houses here to satisfy a national need caused by a failure to manage a population explosion? Who will provide extra services? Why close down schools, banks, post offices, pubs, police stations, if we still need them to cope with more people. Does this make any sense at all?

KEN PEAK

Leader, London Colney Village Concern

Bring back El Vince!

SIR – I fully agree with R. Spriggs’ letter (Herts Advertiser, November 29) headlined ‘Disappointed by Christmas Lights.’ I too went to the St Albans Christmas Market and I enjoyed the market but apart from the choir, it was absolutely rubbish just like the lights.

When they had my hairdresser El Vince to entertain two years ago, crowds gathered round the stage to see him. He stopped the people and the town centre was rocking. As for the lights, there’s a house in Beech Road that puts on a much better show for charity.

MISS MG FOSTER

Dalton Street, St Albans

Fond memories of postie-loving pooch

SIR – Reading about dogs which attack postmen and women brought back memories of my late little dog Chloe.

She loved our postwomen (Jill Pugh and Brenda) and became very excited when she heard the sound of the post van engine (which she could recognise even when it was out of sight).

When indoors she would rush to the front door, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the post.

Jill and Brenda always carried a box of biscuits and they always saved her favourite one.

If we were out for a walk and the van passed us, Chloe would drag me back to the house to get her biscuit. If we did not get back to the van in time, the girls would leave a biscuit on the kerb for her!

Jill Pugh used to play hockey for St Albans and did her round at a fast run and early in the morning.

Chloe loved all posties and they loved her. I am sure that not all dogs don’t like postmen and women.

LORNA BARWELL

Old Watling Street, Flamstead

Green Belt review row breaks out

SIR - As a Redbourn resident, I am I am very concerned that our Green Belt is at risk following the recent St Albans District Council decision to shelve their draft Strategic Local Plan. Instead they voted in favour of a “Green Belt Boundary Review” which is another way of saying “Where can we build houses in our Green Belt?”

I appreciate the need to create new homes, but I also believe it is essential to protect our precious Green Belt from inappropriate development. It could be years now before an up-to-date and robust local plan is in place, and at great extra cost to the local taxpayers. In the meantime developers will be able to submit planning applications for Green Belt land with every possibility of getting approval. They must be laughing all the way to the bank at the district council’s impotency.

DAVID MITCHELL

Lilly Lane, Hemel Hempstead (parish of Redbourn)

SIR - It is quite bizarre that last week the Lib Dems blocked the creation of a Green Belt-protecting Strategic Local Plan, citing that more homes should be built in Harpenden.

For years the Conservative group have tried to build social housing and flats on the Westfield site in Harpenden, and been blocked by the Lib Dem group and the Lib Dem PPC for Harpenden (2005)’s mum, and her small “community group”.

This comes from the same political party that takes pictures of themselves protesting against the opening of free schools, then campaigns about a lack of school places!

I think they also once said something about tuition fees?

Some would use the phrase “two faces”, but I can count six faces at least.

MATTHEW PECK

Hadleigh Court, Harpenden

SIR - Cllr Gaygusuz (Letters December 6) bemoans “playing politics” in the recent council debate of the proposed Strategic Local Plan, but then appears to engage in an extended exercise in doing exactly the same.

He (rightly, to my mind) criticises the previous Lib Dem administration for failing to bring a 1994 document up to date during their lengthy time in power.

He states that “central government [Conservative-Lib Dem, when I last checked] directs that we have to build new housing every year for the growing population”. So who is playing politics in that statement? Or is there no local housing need which is actually driving this?

The proposal before council was not based on a full review of the existing Green Belt, yet it targeted for development sites such as Oaklands and the BRE which are in the Green Belt. In 2009, during the dying days of the previous administration, the council had received clear advice in relation to Green Belt development in a Planning Inspector review of the draft core strategy. It advises that:

“The exceptional circumstances that require this course of action should be stated. Any suggested location should be sustainable, and have as little effect as possible on the Green Belt. To adequately analyse and justify this, there would need to be a study of the existing Green Belt based on a consistently applied methodology.”

Cllr Gaygusuz criticises the Lib Dem administration for failing to carry out a Green Belt review during their years in power – so why did the incoming administration (of which he is a part) similarly fail to act on this advice? The Planning Inspector clearly indicates the risk then being run: “policies must be justified – that is, they should be backed up by robust, convincing evidence. Otherwise they are unsound and will be struck out or (if major) the whole plan might fail”?

Those councillors who insisted that this administration acts on robust evidence rather than take piecemeal shortcuts on a matter as important as Green Belt development and risk a failed plan are to be congratulated.

In saying that, I start from a position of accepting that local housing need will require tough choices over releasing some Green Belt land for housing.

But the need is acute, and currently around 81 per cent of the district’s area is designated as Green Belt. It is not all land of outstanding natural beauty, and releasing just one per cent of that land could make a significant contribution to alleviating local housing need and to boosting our local economy.

IAIN GRANT

Cambridge Road, St Albans

SIR - Conservative Cllr for Marshalswick South, Salih Gaygusuz’, 22 paragraph incoherent rant about planning (Herts Advertiser December 6) is riddled with inaccuracies.

On one point alone he is clear: he strongly supports the proposed massive Oaklands development off Sandpit Lane.The overwhelming majority of local residents we have met definitely do not!

In his desperation to identify scapegoats, he claims the Lib Dems led the district council for 12 years. Wrong. It was seven years from 2004 and 2011. Before that it was a shared administration with, lo and behold, a Conservative holding the planning portfolio! Never let the facts get in the way if there is a biased rewriting of history to be peddled.

On the highly contentious proposal to include the 350 house Oaklands development in the Strategic Local Plan, Cllr Gayguzus states that the Lib Dems included it in the plan.

Wrong again. The Lib Dems cabinet in April 2011 removed it because no case had been made for its inclusion. Never mind, it’s convenient for the Tory ruling group to claim otherwise.

The Oaklands scheme had to be rejected at November’s full council for two principal reasons. In planning terms, it would be an enormous loss of Green Belt in an area which has already seen so much development over recent years. Do we really want to see the vital gap between St Albans and Hatfield narrowed still further?

Nor had any thought been given to the impact of this scale of development on the already over-stretched infrastructure. Sandpit Lane is heavily congested at peak hours now. Our schools are crammed to capacity. Of course, Oaklands College is right to seek better facilities. Regrettably, the college lost out because of the catastrophic mishandling of further education capital spending by the last Labour Government, but as a means of funding their redevelopment, this is a Green Belt sacrifice too far.

Secondly, the Tory council had failed to inform, let alone consult, local people. Despite making repeated efforts to find out what was going on, as local councillors who are not members of the Tory ruling group, we were kept completely in the dark. Why, for example, were six meetings of the key council committee looking at the Strategic Local Plan cancelled between August 2011 – March 2012?

And then just two months ago the council leader and planning portfolio holder, both Harpenden councillors, presented their Strategic Local Plan proposal with Oaklands included and, surprise, surprise no new development sites anywhere near Harpenden. We were told that to reject it courts retribution from developers.

This is planning policy by stealth and blackmail. Quite rightly, local residents were not prepared to accept such a deceitful approach. This is the worst example of local councillors being deliberately side-stepped and frustrated in carrying out our duties that either of us have experienced in many years of service on the council. The Tories have shown total contempt for the way in which local decision-making should be conducted.

At least the full council vote against the Oaklands proposal and establishment of an independent review restores a degree of democracy and dignity to the process.

ANTHONY ROWLANDS

Liberal Democrat, Ashley Ward

GEOFF CHURCHARD

Liberal Democrat, Marshalswick North Ward

SIR - Interesting letter, “protect the Green Belt at all costs” from Cllr Gaygusuz in last week’s Herts Ad.

He starts his letter by saying the “Conservative administration” tried to update the Strategic Local Plan, (SLP), cat out of the bag early on in a very long letter, it should be the council’s plan not a Tory plan, perhaps this political arrogance set the scene and sealed the fate of the Tory SLP at Full Council on November 28.

He then moves on to comment on the Lib Dem’s failure over a dozen years to bring a plan to Full Council when they ran the Council - I will not intrude on Cllr Gaygusuz’s spat with his coalition partners, but what I will repeat is that Full Council - is soverign, all parties have ownership over the SLP.

It is true that central government, (the Tory/Lib Dem government) expects local councils to formulate a plan as to how many houses they should build within their boundaries- but they do give councils room to set their own plans.

This Tory SLP dictates that all the new housing for the district takes place in the south of the district, around St Albans/London Colney - the area that is under the greatest strain. The Tory SLP leaves Harpenden virtually untouched - deliberate, as most of the Cabinet members and the planning portfolio holder Cllr Heritage live there or is that the way the cards have fallen- I will let your readers decide.

What Cllr Gaygusuz omits from his letter is that in his list of councillors who voted against the SLP, a principled Tory councillor, Gordon Myland voted against the SLP to look after his ward from development on the BRE site.

He then goes onto make a cheap jibe about the “so called non-political Mayor” using her casting vote against the SLP - his conclusions as to whether she should have used her casting vote at all or the other way she voted are not recorded- it’s easier to knock someone rather than analysis why they did what they did.

It is unusual for councillors to criticise the Mayor publicly even via the letters page of an august organ like the Herts Advertiser, it perhaps says alot about the central theme of Cllr Gaygusuz’s letter- a total misunderstanding of how council works.

When Cllr Myland was Mayor he regularly voted on everything as a Tory councillor, none of the opposition parties sort to criticise him or drive a wedge between him and the rest of council- nota bena Cllr Gaygusuz.

The rest of Cllr Gaygusuz’s letter can only be described as a Tory rant ala Alan B’stard and not worthy of response.

If Full Council is to have a SLP to last the next 20 years the Tory group will have to come in from the cold and work will all parties and residents of the district and not expect the St Albans area to be built upon whilst Harpenden remians an oasis in the Green Belt.

CLLR MALACHY PAKENHAM

Batchwood Ward, Labour spokesperson Plans Central Planning Committee

Shame on non-disabled drivers

SIR - I am a wheelchair user and a driver, with my husband accompanying me as a carer. I just read the Herts Ad article on misuse of the parking bays for disabled users.

I am sick and tired of trying to park opposite Boots/NatWest in the parking bays because they are often filled with non-disabled drivers.

I have stopped by them, to remonstrate, and they just say they’ll only there for a little while! I alert the parking officers who do go straight there and catch those who they can. I have called and written, so many times, to St Albans Council to tell them that the road marking ‘DISABLED’ has been worn away, but to no avail; they have done nothing. The parking officers tell me they have done the same.

At the weekends it is worse, far worse. I was told by one car owner, who I shamed in returning to his car, that I wasn’t friendly to a visitor to Harpenden and he should be allowed to park where he pleased! The parking officers caught a huge Mercedes a few weeks back, the driver had parked and they had duly issued a ticket. When he returned, he told them he might as well stay since he was going to have to pay anyway. They took copious notes, while I waited for the spot.

The parking slot outside Hairline, opposite the Co-op is very bad too. Workmen in vans, people popping into the Co-op, you name it, they all park there. At least a van driver did move, I caught him crossing the road to the Co-op, telling me he’d be five minutes, but I waved my BB at him and he did go back to move the van: with bad grace I might add.

I get extremely upset, I hate being disabled after 56 years of being able to do and go where I want, I need to be able to park safely in enough space for my husband to be able to extract my wheelchair from the trunk of the car.

I also have huge issues in the Sainsbury parking lot in London Colney, where there are disabled bays but they are often full. I cannot park in a regular bay because my husband cannot bring the chair to my door, due to lack of space in those bays. Some bays should be wheelchair only.

Anyway, rant over but hoping that something gets done. Those who have working feet and legs are very, very fortunate; spare a thought for those of us who do not.

ANNE CROFTS

Hawthorn Close, Harpenden

SIR - I felt terrible when I returned to my car a few weeks ago in torrential rain, to find a traffic warden planting a ticket because I had parked in a disabled bay.

Truly the white lines on some of the bays in Bowers Parade are such bad repair that, especially given the weather, it was not possible to distinguish them. I expect the majority of us would never consciously encroach on these bays so I paid up without appealing.

But perhaps the simplest way to get the bays noticed is to make them obvious by keeping them properly painted!

G GWINN

Kingfisher Close, Wheathampstead

No place for politics in FCC comments

SIR - I am no great fan of FCC, but the reported comments (Further misery for FCC passengers) here are simply opinionated. I have just read the comments of Sandy Walkington on page two of yesterday’s Herts Advertiser, and mine is a non-party comment.

I would take most politicians or potential politicians a little more seriously if they could comment on the real issues accurately rather than reverting to extreme rhetoric – “the pits” – and that may be hard to justify if ever challenged. I am also very sympathetic towards the frustration shown in Mike Crosby’s comment; and sometimes share this frustrations. However the reported comment is again highly questionable. How can he know if FCC are “blatant opportunists”?

I would proffer that FCC is probably being wrongly maligned this time and that they are no more impressed by a train (which they do not own) breaking down than any of the rest of us. It certainly will have caused huge problems for their decent and normal employees in rectifying a highly complex schedule. In fact I would suggest that this sort of misleading and damaging reporting may be what makes many of us form wholly disingenuous opinions. Service delays – yes; poor communication – perhaps; blatant opportunists – no!!

JOHN DAVIE

Tassell Hall, Redbourn

Hunt for school class photo

SIR - I am writing to ask for your readers’ help or to be honest, help on behalf of my older brother Bill Woffenden, who is now 76.

Bill cannot type and until a couple of months ago when he came to stay with me for a holiday, knew nothing about the workings of email.

Even though he couldn’t type, he was entranced from the first moment and little by little, began to grasp the miracle of the internet, something so many of us now take for granted.

I knew he’d begun to understand the basics of emailing and how easy it is to cross the globe in an instant and “talk” to people in other countries faster than one can walk to the front door when he suddenly asked me to “look up Aylesford House School” in Hertfordshire as he boarded there from 1944 to 1945.

Bill now lives in New Zealand and his sister, me, lives in Brisbane in Australia so on this matter, I am totally dependent on trying to get the sympathy and help I need from strangers from a distance and via email.

Well, here I am and I cannot tell you how much it would mean to my brother and therefore to me, if you could ask your readers if anyone knows how I may obtain a photograph of the class photo of either 1944 or 1945.

I am happy to pay for this or at the very least, for its postage. I have emailed many sources over the past 12 months asking for information on Aylesford House School itself and have a couple of really tiny black and white photos of Sandridgebury where AHS moved to but none of them show the school but I am digressing. My main request concerns the year photo.

Looking forward to hearing if you can be of any help in this search – across the miles so-to-speak, 12,000 of them. It would make my Christmas and most certainly would make my brother Bill’s.

SARAH FLANDERS

sarah_flanders@hotmail.com

Better late than never at park

SIR - I would just like to thank the council for the lovely new picnic table and bench they have put up at Westfield Park. It was worth the two years wait.

I’m sure the “greens” inspector was truly impressed with the care and attention the council is taking with our green area when he came for the public inquiry.

ELISSA BAIRD

Willoughby Road, Harpenden


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