Letters, May 17, 2012, part two

PUBLISHED: 15:37 17 May 2012 | UPDATED: 15:38 17 May 2012

Councillor's dad makes cheap gibe

SIR – Tom Chichester-Miles’ comments (‘Dad joins debate over park lake’, May 3) are deeply insulting to my community and my neighbours. Also, making a cheap (and not very good) gibe at my family’s expense is highly discourteous. And completely inaccurate.

I invite Mr Chichester-Miles (whose son Daniel I tutored for his A level English whilst he attended the excellent Sir John Lawes school) to visit the Westfield area, where I live. He will find potholed roads in sore need of repair; social housing that is neglected and under multi-occupancy; cars and motorbikes parked in front gardens because there is not enough garage space; a community of elderly council tenants.

He will also see litter blowing around the streets and a small corner shop whose future is uncertain due to an adjacent development. He will encounter groups of teenagers hanging around outside the shop because there is no adequate play provision or teen shelter for them. I can show him our only bit of urban green space that is scheduled, if the current council has its way, to disappear under concrete and Tesco School of Architecture housing.

I shall also point out to him the three bus routes that run directly through this area. Buses do not, on the whole, pass through ‘affluent’ (sic) areas, as those who inhabit them prefer to use taxis, or possess more than one car. Buses are for the less ‘affluent’ members of our society, and for pensioners, like me.

Perhaps Mr Chichester-Miles might care to join me on a short trip aboard the 620 to see for himself what sort of areas it serves. Maybe then his remarks – like those of others of your correspondents over the past couple of years – would contain a little more truth and a little less bombast.

CAROL HEDGES

Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

(Follow the progress of Carol Hedges’ latest novel on: http://carolhedges.blogspot.com/)

Musings over missives

SIR – You really should be more circumspect with your headlines. ‘Independent traders facing eviction’ was the shock-horror story on the front page of the May 3 Harpenden edition.

But if the new landlord – who you said could not be contacted – has served the proper notices and if the tenants’ leases were, as you reported, coming to an end, that’s not eviction. That’s the cyclical phase of leases expiring and a landlord exercising his right not to renew. If I were the landlord I might be having a word with m’learned friend.

Then on page 11 you headlined a letter from a Mr Chichester-Miles of Grove Avenue, Harpenden: ‘Dad joins debate over park lake’ without a shred of supporting evidence that he’s in any way related to the small but perfectly formed Tory councillor with the portfolio for the environment, waste and duck poo.

Considering it was an overtly political letter having a bash at defenceless lib dems on the day of the local elections (who, it turns out, did indeed have their wings trimmed), should you have published it?

Now that Cllr Chichester-Miles has set a precedent with members of his own family slagging off the oppo in the local press, thus putting him at arm’s length from personal responsibility, maybe some of the others will follow suit.

Can we expect letters from Cllr Wakely’s daughters (they could hardly make less sense than his outpourings of subconsciousness)? Or will newly-elected Cllr Heritage (D) now be tasked to draft correspondence on behalf of his more senior colleague Cllr Heritage (T)? An exciting new dawn looms.

ROBERT HILL

East Common, Harpenden

Inquests should be private affairs

SIR – As a former doctor, I have always understood that the details of a person’s medical history are sacrosanct.

Therefore, it is disquieting to see excessively detailed medical information regularly appearing in the inquest reports in your paper. For example, in the latest Herts Advertiser is the story of a man who suffered a tragic and fatal accident, as a result of which we now all know that he had alcoholic liver disease. Were he still alive, he would possibly be horrified to have such private details – which are nobody else’s business but his own – made so very public. The detailed and sometimes torturous experiences of people in their final minutes and hours are private and should remain so, unless there is some public interest involved.

It seems to me that the same principle of medical confidentiality that holds when a person is alive should apply to that person after they have died. I would like to know if anybody else feels this way, and also how reporting of these details fits with the editors’ Code of Practice regarding privacy.

KATE JEFFERY

Beaumont Avenue, St Albans

Are world’s worst roads in Herts?

SIR – Herts Highways compete for the title of world’s worst roads...

At last, a success in Hertfordshire: Herts Highways have overcome all obstacles to achieve such potholes in our local roads that they may soon be compared to roads in Nepal, Mongolia, Congo and Bolivia for potholing and repair time. This despite these countries having such features as grinding poverty, landslides, monsoon rainfall, earthquakes, permafrost and landmines to contend with. We are developing Third World roads in one of the richest counties in the UK. Well done Herts Highways.

One of the methods of achieving this is competitive tendering. Instead of sending out a local authority road gang to fill in the potholes quickly, cheaply and efficiently, a person has to visit the location and paint the potholes, otherwise contractors might not notice them, and then type up and distribute a tendering document. Eventually the winning contractor will send out a road gang to fill in the painted potholes. Distance is no object, one contractor mending Sandridgebury Lane came from Newcastle, pushing costs up.

Even more fame may follow as House Lane, Sandridge deserves to be included in the new series of TV’s The World’s Most Dangerous Roads; competing with such famous examples as the Khyber Pass (reasons – landslides, chasms and landmines), and the Dawson Highway “Ice Road”, Alaska (reasons – ice, moose, arctic weather and permafrost), House Lane, Sandridge (reasons – Herts Highways’ fictional maintenance schedule). This allows high rush hour traffic flows along a narrow, crumbling, potholed rural lane, which has no traffic management, and has been made more dangerous by being narrowed further by Herts Highways putting in kerbs to bounce cars into the centre of the lane. The final masterstroke was to include House Lane on the St Albans Cycling Map, encouraging unsuspecting, vulnerable families of cyclists to venture down this lane, surely Chris Rea’s Road To Hell?

Seriously, something is wrong when a county council allows its roads to deteriorate to such a state that it leads to huge repair costs to individuals and businesses who already pay high fuel duties, road tax and council taxes to use them and have them maintained and, far more seriously, this neglect leads to dangerous accidents. Keynsian analysis demonstrates that infrastructural investment kick-starts economic growth, more than paying for the initial outlay.

What can you do? I expect you’re asking. Phone Hertfordshire Highways and report potholes, or use www.hertsdirect.gov.uk. Also report them to your county councillor and ask them to monitor progress. Those with far more skills than I have could set up a Facebook page to display photos of potholes and damaged vehicles, to embarrass HH into action. Remember potholes could kill!

DAVID WATERS

House Lane, Sandridge

Importance of work experience placements

SIR – We are concerned that your story this week about work experience students at the council will put employers off hosting such programmes.

Despite what happened to us, we believe that work experience is a valuable bridge between education and the workplace. We take the view that we should offer the district’s young people the best work experience we possibly can. We know it works, having offered such programmes to the district’s schools for over 25 years, with over 100 young people participating.

Over this period we have received excellent feedback and repeat requests show that the programme is valued. The activities for the young people are varied, structured, safe and meaningful. In this case, this included assisting with the arrangements for a civic function, conducting a survey to help us understand how to serve people more effectively and shadowing staff on front desk enquiries (to help students understand customer service skills).

At all times the safety and security of the young people who come to us for work experience is paramount. They are accompanied into and out of the building. They are supervised and cared for. We check to make sure they arrive safely when they move between areas of the building.

We expect people to behave responsibly and with dignity. We trust them to use the kitchen and toilet facilities and move between departments on their own. To provide external feedback, there is a midweek visit from the school to see how the students are getting on. This is an important step to confirm that the students are finding the experience meaningful.

We know that the vast majority of young people behave responsibly and value the opportunity presented by work experience. We will continue to invest in young people and we will continue to offer work experience in the future. We applaud the district’s many other businesses who continue to do the same.

DANIEL GOODWIN

Chief Executive

St Albans City and District Council

Sad loss of services

SIR – With reference to the headline story ‘Independent traders facing eviction’ in your edition of May 3, my initial reaction is one of sadness since, in particular, Karl Jelley, has an excellent track-record as a butcher since being in Harpenden. My wife should know as she was the daughter of one.

My understanding is that both Paul (Rollings) and Karl have been able to find alternative premises – in the latter’s case a lot further away in Southdown. However, it looks as if we are in danger of losing our newsagent which would be the loss of another important service here, and the need for further use of the car.

The prospect of a Tesco-type outlet is not encouraging but we will have to wait and see what plans the developers have in store. For those on the way to Luton Airport a drive-in takeaway would, no doubt, be very popular with a slogan of: Stop me and fly one.

RA WHITE

Park Hill, Harpenden

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