Letters December 20 2012

PUBLISHED: 09:54 21 December 2012

Nothing has been done Cllr Lineacre!

SIR - In response to my letter of September 24 suggesting that Harpenden Town Council had washed its hands of the problems of parking at Station Approach, Cllr Lineacre responded the following week claiming surprise at my opinion.

She went on to list meetings she has had, professed a “keen interest in proceedings” and said that she would “continue to press for a satisfactory outcome”.

Well it is good to know that Cllr Lineacre recognises there is a problem. It is good to know that Cllr Lineacre is concerned about it. I am sure that she has had many a comfortable meeting to talk about the situation. Alas Cllr Lineacre NOTHING HAS CHANGED. It is really about time that Cllr Lineacre got a handle on the situation and brought more pressure to bear on behalf of those that use our train station. Jaw-jaw is all very well but occasionally we need leadership and action too.

BOB GUNNING

Field Close, Harpenden

Leave the Mayor alone!

SIR - With some disdain I read a personal attack on the Mayor of St Albans in your letters pages of December 6. The Mayor was attacked on by a Conservative councillor for voting with her group on the Local Plan, but no mention was made of the fact that the Deputy Mayor, a Conservative, also voted with her party.

Mayor Harris is a good and decent woman who has not brought party politics to the Mayoralty, indeed she even selected a Conservative as her deputy. It is untrue to say otherwise.

The spin and vitriol directed at everyone opposed to the Conservatives is bad for local politics and bad for St Albans.

JANE CLOKE

Spencer Gate, St Albans

Thanks for support

SIR - May I through your letter pages thank everyone in St Albans and Harpenden who contributed to the Gaza Emergency Appeal made by the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians street collections on December 2 and 5, which raised £403.00 and £393.62 respectively.

St Albans Friends of Husan, a group twinned with the village of Husan in the West Bank also responded to the Emergency Appeal and raised £1,300 at a coffee morning.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip means that vital medical supplies are desperately short. MAP is the only organisation permitted by the Israelis to send medical supplies into Gaza but what gets through is limited. Spares parts for medical equipment are subject to severe restrictions on the grounds that they could be adapted for military purposes. As a result, some patients with treatable ailments either die or are left with permanent disabilities.

Husan is isolated from the rest of the West Bank by the Israeli separation wall. Access to schools and hospitals is restricted by checkpoints controlled by Israeli soldiers. Its water supply has been polluted by illegal Israeli settlements. Friend of Husan are raising funds for play equipment for Husan’s kindergarten.

Anyone in the district wanting more information about MAP or St Albans Friends of Husan can contact me on 01727 861247 or by email at dave6637@aol.com.

DR RD LEIGH

Gibbons Close, Sandridge

Councillors at odds over review

SIR - I want to first make it clear to you that I never lived in Harpenden. I have always lived in St Albans; late ‘70s in Marshalswick North, early 80s to date in Sandridge Ward. Neither of them are in Harpenden or anywhere near it.

Then I want to respond to last week’s front page article. On the front page of December 6 you repeat the small minded attempt by Labour and Lib Dem Councillors, in particular Cllr Leach, the leader of Labour group, to divide our city, town and villages. Why do they want to set those who live in St Albans against those who live outside it?

When one makes accusations, he or she must have some evidence. Where is the evidence of the council Cabinet keeping buildings away from Harpenden and only working for Harpenden? It is pure ignorance from a man who obviously hasn’t done his homework.

The Strategic Local Plan covers proposals for building wherever it might be in the district. It’s a document the minority Conservative administration inherited from the defeated Lib Dems in May 2011. No sites in the Green Belt have been added in to the document and no sites have been taken out.

Was the previous Lib Dem-run council ever accused of not wanting to build in the Green Belt around Harpenden? They had the best part of 20 years to do so if it was so easy. The answer is the current administration took control after the Strategic Local Plan was largely completed.

The Lib Dems concluded development in the Green Belt at Harpenden was inappropriate. However the Lib Dems are not accused of favouritism towards Harpenden because of it.

Does everyone realise why Labour are so keen on a Green Belt Review?

Dear readers, Green Belt Reviews are carried out in order to identify locations when large amounts of housing are planned in the Green Belt. Labour want large amounts of new housing. But if a Green Belt Review was really essential, surely it would have been recommended by the team of planners and lawyers involved in producing the plan? Surely a review would have been done by the then Lib Dem council?

Sir, is it so bad that the leader of the Conservative group selected capable councillors to be his cabinet members? Those with whom he can work and deliver the quality of life we all deserve in this district. Why does it matter where they sleep overnight? We have a great hard working leader and a Cabinet with a passion to deliver what the previous administrations failed to deliver. They are not working just for Harpenden, they are working for the WHOLE District.

Sir, furthermore I want to consider the facts with your readers.

What has St Albans council delivered for our city in only 18 months?

We delivered a great new improved version of the Westminister Lodge sports complex, on time and on budget. We have kept live theatre at the Maltings. We have completed a new cycle route in Verulamium Park. We have provided much needed free on street parking in the city centre and more to follow. We have made progress to redevelop derelict garages as affordable houses. We have substantially reduced the cost of running the council. We are working to deliver modern up to date sports/tennis facilities at Batchwood. We have taken over a poorly managed planning department and achieved huge improvements resulting in 90 per cent of planning applications being decided within the statutory time (from around 50 per cent). We are looking to move the St Albans museum to a more central location to create more foot fall to the city centre.

I can’t think of a similar list for Harpenden. If anything it’s the people of Harpenden who can question that so much time is being spent sorting out St Albans.

All councillors should wake up to the importance of the Strategic Local Plan to the future of the district. Are they unable to look beyond the elections due in about six months’ time? Divided we fall and large parts of the Green Belt will be lost.

CLLR M SALIH GAYGUSUZ

Marshalswick South Ward

SIR – Cllr Gaygusuz’s accusation (Letters, December 6), that Labour “aren’t trying to protect the Green Belt as what they want is more affordable housing”, shines a light into the local Conservative mindset. And it ain’t pretty.

Whilst we’re determined to help local people get access to decent housing at a price they can afford, he seeks to protect the Green Belt at all costs.

Whilst we want to test the evidence to discover which – if any – sites can be released from a Green Belt last reviewed in 1985, he seeks to avoid a Green Belt Review in 2013 and simply nominate sites.

And whilst we are strong enough to address difficult decisions in a mature way, he seeks to side with the very worst aspects of NIMBYISM.

The council statisticians tell us that 81 per cent of our district is Green Belt and just one per cent of that could provide all the housing we need for the entire life of our next Local Plan. We think protecting 99 per cent of our Green Belt whilst building more affordable homes is the right balance for our district, and urge Cllr Gaygusuz to moderate his views and his language.

The biggest shock about your front page story of December 13 concerning Hatfield’s expansion towards St Albans, is that it came as such as shock. It should have been no such thing. We should all have been made aware of this proposal by our planning department.

In September, Cllr Heritage hosted two public meetings at which she promoted the inclusion of a new housing estate on Sandpit Lane – ie on open Green Belt land that provides a buffer between St Albans and Hatfield. At no point did she indicate that she had any idea of what Hatfield council was planning which begs the following question:

Either she didn’t know what a neighbouring district was planning and so failed completely in her essential duty to co-operate, or she did know what Hatfield was planning and kept it quiet in order to avoid public debate over the obvious problem of coalescence.

Which is it councillor?

CLLR MARTIN LEACH

Leader of the Labour Group

St Albans and District Council

SIR - In response to the article by Debbie White last week (“Councillors told to get their act together”) I wanted to clarify the purpose of the website mentioned in the piece - www.whathaveyoudone.org.uk - which is to:

1. Ensure accountability and transparency to the general public, of those individual councillors, who voted for the motion to enable residents to ask ‘why’ directly.

2. Maintain pressure on ALL councillors to work together to find a better way forward than the one voted for on the evening of full council.

3. Provide proof that the concerns being raised are not scaremongering, but very real. The website will aim to highlight any local taxpayer money wasted or St Albans Green Belt lost because of this decision - and continue to urge councillors to find a better way forward.

4. To ask all councillors who voted for the motion - hand on heart - is this the result you really wanted?

If it was not. Then let’s ALL work together, politics aside, to protect our Green Belt. Which, we all know, once it has been developed on will be lost forever.

I realise I will be mocked for saying this, and letters may be written to the contrary, but the foremost side I am on is that of St Albans. Some may find it hard to hear from a politician of any hue - but it is true. All I know is I would rather risk being attacked and ridiculed now, if there is a chance to change things, than to look back from a concreted over green belt in 10 years time and think ‘if only I had tried’.

Let’s please act now to avoid what we may regret later.

CLLR DEAN RUSSELL

Topstreet Way, Harpenden

Another fine mess

SIR - “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.” So said Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel, and he’d surely be saying the same now about our councillors and the political bunfight over a Strategic Local Plan (SLP) and the Green Belt.

The crucial SLP is put on ice whilst a time-consuming and expensive review is commissioned to meet Government diktat. There’s even the added frisson of St Albans versus Harpenden in the air which is not really helpful. This impending conflict was evident at the October 17 planning referrals committee decision when certain councillors disregarded their own draft SLP. Not only did they ignore the advice of their own officers but they promoted and approved a hotel on a site that was to remain designated Green Belt.

Meanwhile, St Albans and its residents are caught in the crossfire of political sniping. No wonder developers are clapping their hands and enjoying some extra Christmas cheer. Why? Because, in the absence of any SLP, there will be a presumption in favour of building in the Green Belt to meet those imposed Government housing targets. Developers are well aware that it will be first-come first-served, so the district is facing a deluge of applications and costly appeals. It is ironic that the delay now caused by our local council threatens to destroy the opportunity for localism here.

Next year, 2013, will be eventful for us and have profound implications for our fair city and its surroundings. Come on councillors, get your act together. Bury your differences before developers bury you and the people you represent.

ERIC ROBERTS & PETER TREVELYAN

Editors of Civic Society Newsletter

Consequences of tactical blunder?

SIR - While the St Albans Green Belt Association respects the difficulties the city and district council has in determining the Strategic Local Plan for the next 15 years, our members are extremely concerned, not to say horrified, that the process - in particular in relation to identifying sites to meet due housing targets - has become stymied by a tactical blunder, by debating an inappropriately worded motion.

As a result of which the Strategic Local Plan has apparently been set back by up to a year, risking a challenge free “presumption in favour” of development in the Green Belt, when in NPPF terms, no adequate District Plan is in place.

Our association acknowledges the democratic right to make such objections but also that our elected representatives are empowered to make decisions for the benefit of the community as a whole. It does seem however that the issue has descended into an unfortunate faux pas, where a campaign’s success may prove a pyrrhic victory.

If it is determined by a majority that there is no validity in the draft plan, and that it deserves a radical new approach to develop a satisfactory alternative that will stand examination (and yet still be unpopular to many), restructuring should start from first principles, not from a disaffected standpoint.

The regrettable impact of the evident delay should be clearly acknowledged, not least the very real threat to the Green Belt, nevertheless recognising that compromise is inevitable between conflicting views.

This association is planning a weekend of community action in the New Year in seeking further protection of the St Albans Green Belt. To join the association, visit our website at sagba.org.uk

DOUG NEVELL

Chairman, SAGBA

Awake and fighting!

SIR - I noted the quote from the Civic Society in your newspaper today exhorting St Albans’ residents to “wake up” to the threat of expansion. The organisation said: “It seems that we are sleep-walking towards the greater St Albans-Hatfield-Welwyn linear city. Wake up!”

For the past several months the No Oaklands Housing Action Group has been attempting to do just that! The issue of coalescence with Hatfield was a major factor in our paper supporting the petition against the inclusion of Oaklands as a strategic site for housing in the local plan.

For any local plan to have a chance of success it must be based on up to date evidence, consider the district as a whole, and take account of what its near neighbours are planning. In other words it must be sound.

It is a great pity that Oaklands have decided to go ahead with an application on the basis that developers, “are much better placed than the college to understand the planning and transport issues surrounding a proposed application”. We have been criticised for being enablers of development by our opposition to the inclusion of large scale development on Oaklands in the local plan.

Yet, Oaklands is putting the developers firmly in charge, instead of engaging with the local community.

Where residents are involved in plans, the results are often better (for example, Caroline Sharp House, and the Milehouse in St Albans. There was also the redevelopment of a large house in the Avenues, Harpenden, where residents eventually supported the redevelopment because the plans would be such an asset to the local community).

Some of us have not been sleep-walking, but there are those whose narrow political views have obscured the facts and prevented a proper, open and democratic debate on this issue. It is time for local groups, (this doesn’t just affect residents near Oaklands) and politicians to work together in the interests of our whole community, including those who need housing.

GAYNOR CLARK

No Oaklands Housing Action Group

District is close to tipping point

SIR - In your edition of November 29, Tony Waite, who represents a consortium of landowners and developers, calls for our district council to adopt “real policies” in its Strategic Local Plan as opposed to “smoke and daggers (sic) and dodgy compromises”.

His consortium seems to believe that our district council should build more than three times the number of houses proposed by either the Conservatives or the Lib Dem parties in our district council.

I have attended virtually every meeting of the district’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel (PPAP) meetings for the last five years and have witnessed at close hand and in detail the whole tortuous process that ended in the draft plan being kicked into touch by a divisive district council at an acrimonious meeting on November 28.

There is simple and “inconvenient truth” which has to be faced by us all .

This district is nearly “full” and at a “tipping point”. We see it in the shortage of school places whether one lives in (say) Marshalswick or Harpenden, the increasingly congested roads, trains and in stretched medical services. We see it in the recent report to our district council about forthcoming water shortages.

It would be just wonderful if Hertfordshire County Council had the funds to improve our infrastructure but it does not.

A HCC funding gap for much needed infrastructure of at least £2.5 billion was in fact not infrequently mentioned by district Cllr Chris Brazier when he was chairing PPAP but his comments never seemed to be given the importance they warranted.

The fundamental issue is that the district is “full”. You can decide to build 200 or 300 houses on Green Belt near Marshalswick or around Harpenden but both places would, for example, become impassible with congestion on the roads and have schools that really could not take any more pupils.

Perchance Mr Waite would now like to take the opportunity to submit an alternative Strategic Local Plan for consideration by both residents and St Albans District Council.

If he has £2.5 billion in his back pocket to help us out on infrastructure, his plan will make interesting reading.

But I don’t think he has the money either.

DAVID RANKIN

Bloomfield Road, Harpenden

Where’s the democracy?

SIR - In reply to ex- councillor Matthew Peck’s unpleasant letter in last week’s Herts Advertiser (Green Belt review breaks out), I should like to make the following points: firstly, the Lib Dem group did not block the Tories from building on the Westfield allotment land - they LISTENED to local people, something the Tory councillors on the Westfield Allotments Working Party refused to do.

Secondly, my daughter may indeed have been selected to be the LibDem PPC for Hitchen and Harpenden in 2005(quite a long while ago) So what?

If Mr Peck knows for sure which political party I am a member of, which is what he is snidely insinuating, let him prove it. If he has no proof, I suggest he does not throw unsubstantiated allegations around in the public press.

Finally, his attempt to denigrate Westfield Action Group speaks volumes. Are we not allowed to form a community group? Can we not express our objection of the way local people are trampled on and ignored by those who purport to represent them?

It’s called democracy, Mr Peck. A concept neither you, nor the rest of your party seem able to grasp.

CAROL HEDGES

Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Faith in public opinion?

SIR - I was interested to hear the method by which Anne Main undertook a broad-based scientific survey of public opinion on gay marriage through asking religious organisations for their views (Herts Advertiser December 13).

A short while ago I fancied going out with some mates on a Saturday night for a few beers, and to round the night off with a visit to a local strip club. However, when I asked their wives if it was a good idea, I was shocked that they all said no.

In future, I’ll be sure to follow Anne Main’s foolproof system of asking only those people from whom I can guarantee to hear the answer I want.

TOBY O’DELL

The Ridgeway, St Albans

House’s lights beat city centre’s

SIR – I have just walked up Beech Road to see the Christmas lights that the house puts on in that street to collect money for charity.

This year they have excelled themselves. They have put on a wonderful show; their lights put St Peter’s Street lights to shame.

It is well worth going out on a cold dark night to see them, they are beautiful.

MISS MG FOSTER

Dalton Street, St Albans

A grim message on fuel consumption

SIR - On Monday December 5, I was caught up in the monumental traffic jam caused by closure of the M1. It took me all morning to travel from St Albans to Watford by bus. There are clearly far too many cars on the roads in the London area.

Looking at the Green Party manifesto on the internet, I noted the inane pledge “we will make electric cars”. Perhaps they meant to say: “We will make electric cars compulsory”. The mind boggles at the thought of politicos doing actual physical work. The fact is that they are as frightened of drivers as the rest of them. Fuel consumption to generate electricity to charge electric cars will grow, as will the consumption of petrol.

To compensate, trying to meet ridiculous targets set by the unelected European Commission, the carbon dioxide output of power generation must decrease rapidly. So we have the deployment of astronomically expensive and unreliable wind and solar generation.

This can be done behind people’s backs and without their consent. The use of smart meters will enable them to be partially disconnected when wind and sun power fails to deliver. Politicians of all hues noted Tony Blair’s cowardice in the face of lorry driver anger.

The destructive effects of the world’s payments for oil can be seen in the Middle East every night on our TVs.

My opinion of the global warming theory can be seen on Google by entering “Global Warming; Richard Durrant”.

RICHARD DURRANT

Park Avenue, St Albans

Tragedy could have been prevented

SIR - I was so shocked and sad to read of Christine Barrett’s death at Bardwell Court. In 2006 I was selected to be her volunteer carer after her discharge from hospital where she had undergone major surgery and chemotherapy and I was to provide support to help her gain confidence.

The situation at Bardwell Court was bad then with a noisy neighbour who was housed in a basement flat partying and drug-taking till the early hours.

Christine visited the council and was told to monitor the problem – the council house points system was not in her favour even though she had bad health and many flights of stairs to climb. No lift was available.

The police was called frequently and eventually after many months the perpetrators were evicted.

My time with Christine ended in Christmas 2006 and I saw her occasionally in St Albans and earlier this year she mentioned that things had got worse at Bardwell Court.

She was so unhappy but always put on a brave face. If only she had been moved she might be alive today.

DEE HOLMES

Spicer Street, St Albans


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