Letters, December 6, 2012

PUBLISHED: 11:05 07 December 2012

No excuse for filthy floors at pool

SIR – We went to the new swimming pool on Sunday, November 25.

Besides the 15 minute queue to pay to gain entry, we found the pool very pleasant compared with the older Westminster Lodge, which was showing its age.

Among the remarks we can make, the floor in the changing area was filthy. There was a person cleaning it but as it is not too clear where you can get the overshoes, people do enter the area with their shoes on. Worst I would say I saw a women talking with a guard, in the pool area, with her shoes on and no protection. When you exit, there is no bench where you can sit and put your shoes back. Beside this, we did not have issues with the parking.

When we went back on December 2, the floor was clean, there were two chairs in the entry/exit room where you can sit and put your shoes back on, and three shoe-protection dispensers, so they’re getting there.

JEAN PAVAN

Claudian Place, St Albans

SIR – With reference to your article on the child slipping in Westminster Lodge.

My daughter started swimming lessons two weeks ago and also slipped on the tiles.

Shoes are supposed to be covered, but my wife saw someone walking in muddy boots. It seems that the operational management of the pool needs to be tightened up.

MARK WOODYATT

Brookmans Park, Hatfield

Colts planning row continues to run

SIR – I am writing in response to your coverage on November 11 of the proposals to find a home for the Harpenden Colts football club. These are important proposals and a healthy, informed debate is what we need – for the benefit of our environment and community. It is this which compels me to write.

Let me declare that whilst a resident of Harpenden for over 10 years (and 25 years in Hertfordshire) I do not live near to the proposed scheme. I should also say that I have first-hand experience of the Colts and the work they do in our community – with unpaid commitment from many volunteers and to the delight and wellbeing of many children in Harpenden and nearby villages. No one from Colts has had a hand in my letter today.

My son is aged nine and is one of the many children who love to play football with the Colts, and I have found myself drawn in as one of three “father-coaches” of a team.

Week in, week out, it is volunteers like the three of us that take 70 children out to run, train and play competitive football against all sorts of other clubs – from St Albans to Ware, Welwyn to Broxbourne. And that’s just nine-year olds. There are groups of children all the way through to 16!

Why tell you this? I’m not trying to pull heart-strings here – this is about some facts.

Week in, week out, Colts “make do” with whatever and wherever we can. We carry goals, kit bags, bags of balls, first aid kits across the county. We run training sessions on the slopes of public parks. We get changed on touchlines. We beg, borrow and pay for land from other clubs and schools – often being told to stay off certain areas of pitch, or if it has rained then we are the first to be cancelled as we come a clear second to whoever’s land it is.

In all this, it is as a club of unpaid volunteers – whose only reason for being is for children to enjoy an active, sporting childhood – who pull together and “make do”.

I’m sure our nine-year olds don’t notice really. Or mind. We do too good a job making it look seamless and always making it fun. Maybe the parents who drop their children off don’t notice either. Or the dog walkers who stop to watch us. Or the people in the street who smile at grinning, mud-spattered kids in Colts shirts, carrying their boots on the way home.

I know what a difference a “home” set of pitches would make. I don’t mean the logistics for all us parents and volunteers; I mean in making the experience of growing up in the Harpenden community so much more accessible and enriching. A place to meet; to practice; to change; to team-talk; to cheer; to compete; to welcome and congratulate opponents. A place to feel like home for a club that existed long before I came to Harpenden and I am confident will outlive us all.

Some people reject the proposals on the basis that “no child misses out today”. Well if that is true (and I do not think it is given our waiting lists) then it is achieved only with hard graft and effort from many, many others. Some say that the site can’t be viable without revenue generated there. Well, Colts do pretty well today thank you. Some say there is a benefit of traffic spread out across town. A benefit, really? On top of the local traffic and more importantly town parking capacity this seems an illogical argument. What about those who say house prices will fall? Because of football pitches? In Harpenden of all places? Unlikely.

This isn’t a story about Green Belt or a field or parking. Ultimately a football field still looks like a Green Belt field. It’s a story about how we want to use our land and our environment. And I’m not alone when I say that I believe a place for children to play sport is a pretty fantastic use of the land we have been gifted in and around Harpenden. Let us safeguard this use against possible alternatives, for the merits of this I believe stand strong.

Two weeks ago a local builder saw my son in his Colts shirt and excitedly came up to talk to him about his own experience as a Colt.

It wasn’t long before my son was proudly sharing his match result and comparing notes on their football experiences. We pride ourselves in Harpenden on remaining a “village” despite our size. What better examples have we than stories like this?

The merits of Roundwood as the location I will leave for the open day and consultation, and I know the Colts themselves have been keen to hear all views. All I will say is that that such space near Harpenden is rare and worthy of fair inspection and also introspection about the community we are.

Harpenden Colts is not a “mega-corporation” trying to get its own way in a beloved Green Belt area. It is a sport-loving club made up of volunteers and parents, looking for a home. Looking for a space.

A space to play.

JOHN PETEVINOS

Carisbrooke Road, Harpenden

SIR – As a parent with children who have been members of Colts for the past seven years, it is with interest that I read about the proposed development of New Farm.

Whilst I understand the desire for a permanent home for the club it is with increasing frustration that I read and hear from Robert Trevor as chairman about the facilities that are needed, the sustainable materials, parking requirements, what an excellent facility this will be but it he is strangely silent when I have both emailed him (three times) and spoken to him in person at the consultation meetings on how this lovely facility is to be paid for.

I am extremely concerned with the fact that this facility is estimated to cost between £1.5 and £2 million and yet there is nothing forthcoming from Robert Trevor as to how these funds are going to be raised and he will not give me assurances that it will not involve hefty hikes to our boys’ yearly subscriptions.

What concerns me is that Colts is currently a community club that has 750 boys from Harpenden as members and Mr Trevor has informed me that there is no waiting list, those that want to join can, so what I do not understand is the need for a facility that is likely to push membership of Colts out of the reach of some families, particularly those who have more than one child who are playing with the club.

I think it is extremely important that we put the best interest of the boys at the centre of this and that means allowing the club to continue to be accessible to all who want to join, not just those who can afford to subsidise the lovely new playing fields, pavilion and car park with both the extremely high up-front costs and what is likely to be hefty annual running costs.

Interestingly in the flyer handed out to the those attending the consultation evening there is a heading ‘Financing of New Farm’, where Colts speak about ensuring the project has transparency with regard to finance regulations and guidance and that the elected officers for Harpenden Colts FC have the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of, and in the interests of the club.

By Robert Trevor’s own admission this development will not service all the needs of the club and they will still have to use third parties as they do now. So what about how the club is run now is not working? Why is it really necessary to spend up to £2m on a facility that only partly services what is alleged to be “needed”. Is it really in the best interest of the club?

Let’s put the boys who play in the club and their families at the centre of this – so can someone please enlighten me how this is going to be paid for, as Mr Trevor as chairman of Harpenden Colts is unusual silent on this matter?

ELAINE NORWOOD

Roundwood Park, Harpenden

Traffic wardens provide vital service

SIR – December is barely upon us and already our old friend Barry Cashin can’t wait to spread his particular brand of Christmas goodwill to all men. In his latest outpouring of bile and bitterness (Letters, November 29), he lambasts what he refers to as a “TEO”. Actually I think he means a traffic warden.

Well, Mr Cashin has excelled himself in his rant against this particular individual, referring to him as a “sub-species”, “vulture”, “snake”, “assassin” and “rodent”. Doesn’t this worthy letter-writer know that they eat babies too?

All this for a public servant who is simply doing his job, a job that is vital to our city.

In the past few years, I have been given parking tickets on a couple of occasions and I have paid the fine (promptly!) because I was in the wrong and merited the penalty. Like most people, I have sufficient sense to recognise that traffic wardens are a necessity. Regrettably, while carrying out their difficult duties, they have to contend with abuse and even violence, extreme behaviour that is encouraged by intellectually-challenged people such as Mr Cashin with his outrageous and despicable language.

From his regular contributions to the Herts Advertiser letters columns, steaming with anger, despair and contempt, it is obvious to everyone that Mr Cashin is deeply unhappy with the present state of our fair city. So may I suggest that he moves elsewhere. In fact, I have just the place for him, Aberystwyth in Mid-Wales where the residents will be able to enlighten him about their traffic wardens. In that lovely town, the council gave in to a vociferous minority and sacked all the wardens, allowing a parking free-for-all, with absolutely no restrictions. Mayhem ensued.

Within months, the demands to bring wardens back were deafening and the council had no option but to bow to public opinion.

So happy packing, Mr Cashin. And my best wishes for a happy Christmas and a pleasant, peaceful New Year to all St Albans’ traffic wardens. Keep up your excellent work.

JIM ELLIS

Mayne Avenue, St Albans

SIR – I write in response to Barry Cashin’s letter (Herts Advertiser, November 29) in which he describes St Albans traffic wardens in language which, in my opinion, has no place in a newspaper devoted to factual, mature reporting.

His humorous (?) writing style does not excuse words like “sub-species” – “vulture” – “rodents”.

If these words were used to describe a group of people from another country they would be condemned as unforgivable racism.

Personally I believe the St Albans traffic wardens do quite a tough job and they do it well.

I am often in St Albans city centre and have spoken to several wardens who all seem to be reasonable people who, periodically, have to suffer verbal abuse from members of the public – usually because they have been given a parking ticket.

Of course it is annoying but the traffic warden is not to blame.

Generally speaking motorists cause their own downfall. For example, I park regularly on the St Peter’s Street disabled bay (outside Waterstone’s bookshop), and yes, I do have a Blue Badge.

On several occasions I have been unable to park thanks to a thoughtless individual (without a Blue Badge) blocking the bay.

These inconsiderate drivers often return to their cars and find a parking ticket on their windscreens – hopefully they will learn not to be so thoughtless in the future.

Traffic wardens are paid to enforce the rules which we, through our elected councillors, have created… they deserve our support.

GRAHAM REED

Hobbs Close, St Albans

A ramp is not the answer at bank

SIR – I have every sympathy for Mr Bang’s plight (Customer receives apology over bank disabled access, November 29), and it highlights the difficulties faced by wheelchair users.

However, I also use this bank and I can see that the problem may not be as simple as it appears.

The doorway is not wide, so all entering the bank would have to walk up a ramp placed there. As the step is quite high, the angle of the ramp would be steep, and slippery in wet weather, not good for those wobbly on their feet and/or using walking sticks or similar. I think that grab handles would have to be fitted too.

Even today, it’s just conceivable that some don’t have access to the internet, and I, using that bank for many years, had never heard of ServiceCall or seen anything relating to it advertised in the bank. Surely this information and where and how to get the transmitters should be prominently displayed in the bank? If it is there it’s too small to see!

ANN HORNIGOLD

Hopkins Crescent, Sandridge

Protect the Green Belt at all costs

SIR – How does one pretend to protect the Green Belt while playing politics?

I never thought that I’d see a day like last Wednesday. At the full council meeting St Albans District Council’s (SADC) Conservative administration attempted to update the oldest local planning policy in the country. This meant the council agreeing that our Strategic Local Plan (SLP) be submitted for a pre-submission consultation, the first phase of submitting the SLP for Government Inspection. However, it was rejected on the Mayor’s casting vote. Even the Lib Dems who originally put it together rejected it!

The previous Lib Dem administration of SADC had failed to bring our district’s local plan up to date. The risk of not having a new local plan is that it leaves our Green Belt open to invasion by developers.

During their time in the office the Lib Dems came up with excuse after excuse to cover their failure, for 12 years. They never had the nerve to submit it for approval assuming it would cost them votes.

And it’s true, any local plan will have unpopular elements to it but having no updated plan has far worse consequences. Instead the Lib Dems seemed to take the decision to delay the submission of the SLP until the Conservatives took control.

In this way, as demonstrated at Wednesday’s full council, they could appear to be protecting the Green Belt whilst accusing Conservatives of allowing buildings on Green Belt in order to score brownie points from residents.

Now, they are pretending to be the protectors of Green Belt even though they are fully aware that we have no escape from building houses on some Green Belt.

Central Government directs that we have to build new housing every year for the growing population.

In fact it was the Lib Dems who originally included Oaklands, BRE and Harperbury Green Belt sites in the local plan. Now the irony is that whilst they object to the proposed sites for housing, they fail to suggest alternative sites. This is no time to play politics, regardless of your party allegiance. We must unite in the name of protecting this district from inappropriate development and fight to protect our Green Belt for the generations to come.

All due consultations were carried out during the Lib Dem administration for the SLP document as a whole which included all three Green Belt sites at different times.

At full council last week, the Conservative administration submitted the document in its present form which is almost identical to what the Lib Dems produced. There are very few additions or deletions. So, why do they now object to it?

Only a month ago many Lib Dems, including the previous portfolio holder for planning Chris Brazier, were proudly shouting: “This is our plan, it’s our baby!”

We will support it, especially the housing number which we feel is fit for the district (250). What on earth has made them change their minds now?

Please, please councillors, come clean with our residents. Make sure they know what the alternatives are before you object to our last chance to make sure we are able to defend our district against developers’ appeals and Green Belt invasion.

Make sure they now know that without a proper, sound local planning policy in place, we cannot defend our district from inappropriate development. We cannot defend our Green Belt, we cannot defend appeals effectively.

The truth is, those who voted against the SLP at the November 28 meeting included Labour, Lib Dem, Green and independent councillors, including the so-called non-political mayor of this city and district. They will need to answer to the residents when we start losing fights against planning appeals in the Green Belt. Who are they going to blame then?

In one breath the Labour group wants to protect the Green Belt, but in their next breath they want more houses (360 per year) – far more than the 250 per year that the Conservatives have proposed. How on earth are they expecting to achieve that without even more invasion of Green Belt? They aren’t trying to protect the Green Belt as what they want is more affordable housing.

The motion which defeated the SLP has also insisted upon three independent reviews, including a Green Belt review.

This can only result in more Green Belt sites to be identified for building affordable housing, as Oaklands, BRE and Harperbury won’t provide sufficient land to meet 360 dwellings each year. These reviews will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds. How is that consistent with Labour policy?

Why didn’t the Lib Dems carry out a Green Belt review during all those years in administration? Why has it suddenly become important to them now?

Why do they expect Conservatives to do everything in 18 months which they failed to do in 12 years?

Stop lying to residents, get on with the job, think of St Albans and the district and not about short-term popular votes.

CLLR M SALIH GAYGUSUZ

Marshalswick South Ward

Come to Harpenden for Christmas cheer

SIR – I read Mr Spriggs’ letter in this week’s paper (November 28) about his disappointment at the Christmas lights event this year.

Do we presume he is referring to the St Albans lights-on event, which happened the previous week, as it doesn’t actually say?

I think people may think that he was talking about Harpenden’s event which was last week and I would like to put the record straight on this, as our event (despite having the cancellation of the farmers’ market which was a decision taken by Harpenden Town Council due to high winds), did have entertainment, a colourful procession and lotS of Christmas cheer – and there are lots of Christmas lights that were on!

All in all, many people commented it was a great start to the Christmas festive season. Maybe next year Mr Spriggs should travel that little bit further north to get the experience he had hoped for!

HARPENDEN Christmas Carnival Committee

Divine providence?

SIR – There are some who believe the cause of cancellation of the farmers’ market at the Christmas Carnival was an act of revenge against county councillors’ efforts to excise the retail heart of the town.

Either that or a clever distraction from Synod’s own goal in the rearguard defence of male supremacy.

ROBERT HILL

East Common, Harpenden

Thanks for help after fall

SIR – I would like to thank all the passers-by who helped me when I fell in Griffiths Way on November 4 and especially for their jackets which kept me warm until the ambulance arrived.

My injury required surgery and the treatment I received from the moment the ambulance arrived was exemplary. The staff at Watford General Hospital in the A&E, AAU Level 1 and AAU Level 2 departments were all very efficient, sympathic and friendly and when I was allowed to eat I even enjoyed the food! Seasonal greetings and my sincere thanks to all concerned.

SHIRLEY HUMP

St Albans

Trees not as vital as children’s futures

SIR – For every tree that they remove at Samuel Ryder Academy there will be two more planted to replace them. This area needs this school badly. Surely our kids’ futures are far more important that some old trees? I think the council officer should look at the bigger picture and the whole of St Albans should be behind the school plans 100 per cent.

JAMIE MCGRATH

St Albans

Fire alarm farce

SIR – Last Thursday morning, November 29, I was in Morrisons when the fire alarm bells went off.

There had not been an announcement to say that the bells were being tested so I presumed this was the real thing. For a few moments no-one did a thing. I looked at staff who muttered to each other and slowly started to move but none that I saw approached customers to ask them to leave.

Customers continued to shop and as I went towards the tills several were still in use with staff pricing shopping and customers loading the conveyor belts. I asked a staff member “Are these the fire bells” and he answered “yes”. I said that I thought their fire drill appalling and he mumbled “yes sorry”.

As I went to the door some customers were lurking around the entrance both inside and outside the doors blocking the exit for any others who may have decided to leave. Maybe 99 times out of 100 fire bells ringing are a false alarm but if this had been the real thing there could have been several casualties in Morrisons. This time they were lucky – but what about the next time?

HELEN BASSILL

Villiers Crescent, St Albans

Praise for services after loft fall

SIR – I would like to have the opportunity to make a public thank you to all of those that helped in my rescue on Saturday, November 24 (Man, 80, is impaled on metal desk leg after falling over in loft).

I have seen some negative tweets on Twitter and would like to comment. One tweet remarked on the length of time taken for the rescue. As the person in question was not there to witness the rescue, they have no idea how “delicate” the operation was and how very lucky I am to be here writing this letter.

I would like to put the readers in the picture and crush negative thoughts regarding our emergency services.

First on the scene were my fantastic neighbours. Their 17-year-old son was a tower of strength supporting the table that I was impaled on until the medical services could take over. This was a most unpleasant sight, not something anyone should see let alone a young man, his parents should be incredibly proud of him, and no doubt are. Their daughters were wonderful, making tea and keeping my wife calm until the rest of the family arrived.

I have no idea how many people were in the attic but I believe there were always about 10 people looking after me. I was treated with the deepest of respect as was my home and family. The conduct of all was truly magnificent.

Due to the nature of my injuries, I was sedated a lot of the time so do not recollect who was on site. However, I would like to extend my sincere and genuine thanks to all involved, I cannot praise the emergency services and the staff at the hospital (St Mary’s, Paddington) highly enough. At no time was I treated badly, or with lack of consideration. They are a wonderful bunch of people who deserve all the thanks and respect that can be given. Please don’t criticise, especially if you don’t know all the facts. One day, you may need them yourselves.

With the deepest of gratitude.

JOHN NAILARD

Westfields, St Albans

Town council’s fight looks suspicious

SIR – On Monday, December 10, the Westfield public enquiry starts in order to gain town green status for the recreation ground.

This fact was covered by an article in last week’s Harpenden edition (Campaigners are braced for the battle of Westfield town green), however in this article Harpenden Town Council gave a totally misleading view of the situation.

The article mentioned that HTC wants to “preserve the existing rights of use of the recreation ground for the benefit of the local community”. If that was true, HTC would not spent vast amounts of money and time opposing the application for town green status.

The designation to town green status would ensure that locals would be able to use the land and would ensure its availability for future generations.

Town green status would not (as suggested by HTC) restrict use of the playing field, but rather secure it.

On the contrary these restrictions will come to force if HTC is allowed to go ahead with their plans to build affordable housing on the adjoining wlldlife site. On top of that, the probability of houses going to Harpenden families are slim, as HTC have given the nomination rights to St Albans.

HTC gives the impression, that they are helping us, the local community of Westfield by opposing Carol Hedges’ application. Yet not a single member of this community has stated that they do NOT want the field to get town green status, on the contrary.

Furthermore HTC has appointed a specialist barrister (at taxpayers expense), when they could have used the free locals services at SADC.

What budget is this money coming from and who sanctioned this decision (we will investigate this in a lot more depth before the next election – rest assured)? Vast sums (£46k just in FOI requests over the years and rising) are being spent upon opposing the wishes of local people.

The refusal of HTC to listen to locals and back down in the face of eight years’ opposition is now beginning to look very suspicious. Is there some hidden agenda here, to why HTC and their cabinet collegues are fighting us – the locals?

At what point will the electorate say “enough is enough”. Soon is not soon enough in my opinion!

TINA KENT

Hyde View Road, Harpenden


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