Letters, February 17, 2011, part three

PUBLISHED: 11:31 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 11:31 17 February 2011

Civic Centre South planning row

SIR - I was quite surprised by your ‘take’ on the story of the refusal by the council of Antringham Verulamium’s proposals for the first phase of redeveloping the city centre south site.

To be honest I am not too bothered about a tiff between a developer and the council, as my main concern is that the regeneration of this whole site gets off on the right foot.

Your report reminds us that the developer has been trying for six years to sell us his proposals, he has failed repeatedly. Even he must get the message without the need spell it out.

I observed the referrals meeting in person, I came away reassured by the officer’s report, plus tone and contents of debate by all councillors on that committee.

It seemed my taking part, along with many others, in the city vision project had not been a waste of time after all!

I sometimes wonder if developers and some city centre landlords ever visit St Albans. Do they take an interest in what makes this place tick?

Do they take time and effort to get a feel for the place and the best of its architecture to help them put forward sound proposals that will find favour?

We, I suggest, don’t object to them making a decent profit, but what we do object to is the desire and determination to overdevelop a site and scant attention to the place or the people.

In the last five years I have attended conferences in over a dozen historic towns and cities across the country; usually to celebrate imaginative schemes or enhancements, developed in sympathy and respect for the historic environment. Economic benefits either direct or indirect have been a prerequisite.

The format has been quite similar in many cases. A walk around the area with a knowledgeable blue badge guide, a reception in the town or city centre in a museum, art gallery or in the case of Winchester in their marvellous Discovery Centre library plus; followed by a conference dinner and the following day a full day’s conference.

So what has this got to do with the above proposals?

In each case the conference hotel, normally the venue of the conference too has been in the town centre, all other ancillary venues have been within walking distance or served by a reliable and frequent bus service.

Delegates often add a day or two to their visit and spend their money benefiting the local tourist attractions and local economy.

Don’t tell me these central hotels with conference facilities don’t make money, as more often than not I have had to book early to ensure an extra nights stay.

So where are our similar facilities? Most of us know we need more hotels but why do they have to come with offices and yet more flats and look like St Anywhere?

I hear that one city centre landlord is keeping some prime retail units empty because he wants to turn it into a backpacker’s hotel. With no disrespect intended this is in my view plain daft for our main high street. This would break up our current retail offer and cut off Catherine Street. Surely this sort of offer is more suited to less costly floor areas on the city centre periphery; unless of course, he wants to tag on a few flats and offices or something similar as a so called enabling development.

Fifty years ago this year the recently late Sir Geoffrey Trevelyan founded the St Albans Civic Society because so much of what made St Albans what it is had been destroyed.

Sadly near misses and monumental follies have been relentless since that time and still continue.

As one councillor said at the recent referrals meeting, too many mistakes have been made in St Albans and he did not want to be part of yet another.

Yes we badly need more hotel space.

There is interdependence between local businesses, tourism, cultural offer, transportation and the civic heart of the city, which is at present out of kilter, our local economy is suffering and the council does need to urgently raise its game.

The dichotomy is, most developers seem to look for profits in the short or medium term, whilst we I suggest concern ourselves over what we need and how our civic and city centre will look and hopefully thrive for generations to come.

There will have to be compromises and little doubt of more city centre housing to pay for it, but we literally can’t afford to get it wrong.

VANESSA GREGORY

Tennyson Road, St Albans

Aircraft noise controversy

SIR - While I have some sympathy with those who complain about local aircraft noise, for example Mr Neil Symonds who has lived here for 15 years, I would point out the following.

For those of us who have lived here for some 60 years the noise is a lot less than it was. When Handley Page was operational we had very loud Victors and other aircraft almost skimming the roofs as they took off and landed near Park Street.

De Havilands (laterly Hawker Siddeley) at Hatfield caused as much noise with almost continuos overflights testing aircraft from the likes of Tridents to the HS 146 the so called quiet jet, which I can assure you was not quiet as it again skimmed roofs of St Albans as it took off towards the South East.

Indeed even Leavsden in its day contributed to such noise.

I have a system that allows me to track all commercial aircraft within a range of about 60 miles from St Albans.

Over a typical two day period I have plotted ALL commercial aircraft tracks below 5280ft (one mile high). None have encroached at his height over the Abbey area of St Albans. The nearest encroachments are take offs from Luton that skirt the north of St Albans between Harpenden and St Albans. All at a distance greater than 1.5 miles from the Abbey area.

I attach these “radar” plots. They show traffic into and out of Heathrow, Luton etc. While there are a lot of Heathrow departures that head our way, you will notice all the plots stop well before reaching St Albans (The plots were set to stop when the planes reach 1 Mile high). I even mark the exact location of the Abbey on the plots.

The plot colours represent brown descending, blue climbing, white flying straight and level. I can provide a further set of plots, if you like, for traffic below two miles high, but do expect to then see many flying over St Albans.

Feel free to use these images as appropriate.

PETER SWINSON

Cambridge Road, St Albans


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