Letters, May 3, 2012, part one

PUBLISHED: 10:40 03 May 2012

Goal posts moved at King Harry Park

SIR – I think it is disgusting that obviously the huge King Harry Park development was granted permission as it contained a good proportion of age-related housing, which was therefore not supposed to have a huge impact on the traffic on King Harry Lane.

How strange that now the properties are being constructed, this proportion has been reduced! I wonder why this might be? Could it possibly be because it is more lucrative for the developers to sell larger units to house bigger families? Obviously this now means the already busy ring road around St Albans is going to be even more snarled up on a permanent basis because the developers have moved the goal posts.

This estate is a huge overbearing eyesore and to have incorporated a new roundabout purely to cater for it is a disgrace.

PETA MCKEON

Orchard Drive, Park Street

SIR – Is it time to launch a local on-line vote to voice widespread concern over the ludicrous decision allowing the King Harry development to reduce the number of age-restricted houses from 65 to 21?

I for one am changing who I will vote for at the forthcoming local elections. What a fiasco. What is the point of planning applications and “decisions” if they are overturned before the original homes have even been built let alone marketed.?

I am looking forward to hearing about the new bus stop and service and that there is no impact of traffic congestion on King Harry Lane. Joke.

COLIN LEWIN

Trevelyan Place, St Stephen’s Hill

SIR- Nigel Johnson’s letter (April 26) highlights the massive con that has been perpetrated on our inept planning committees by the developers of King Harry Park who, it now transpires, would find it difficult to find enough prime quality purchasers for their over-priced properties and so come weeping crocodile tears to Cllr Teare who is suckered into making massive concessions to a company that has made a commercial mis-judgment and seems to have persuaded the council to amend planning conditions so that any shortfall in their estimated profits are made good from the public purse.

Cllr Teare tells us that after a whole hour no one on his committee was able to come up with a material planning reason to reject the request for the concession. I might suggest that in those circumstances they step aside and make way for someone who can match the “shrewdness” of the developers.

In these days of multiple appeals ( Helioslough) is it too late to hope that we can get our planners to do a re-think and see justice done?

Elsewhere in last week’s issue, St Albans Cycle Campaign tell us that we have nothing to fear from cycle paths in Verulamium Park. Would that I could share his confidence on paths that are nowhere wider than six feet and barely wide enough for two pedestrians to walk side by side whereas London’s royal parks which he uses as a comparison are nowhere less than twelve feet wide. I think to allow cycling on our narrow paths was a fool hardy decision and it is naive of John Metcalfe to think that a petition of a mere thousand signatures is “overwhelming” support in an adult population the size of St Albans.

PHILIP WEBSTER

Townsend Drive, St Albans

Menace of the selfish cyclists

SIR – The plans for the cycle paths through Verulamium Park have filled the pedestrian users of this lovely park with horror. In your letters page (April 26) you published a letter from the pro-cyclists lobby, putting their case.

As far as I am aware, the pedestrian users of the park were not consulted this time.

Last time this subject raised its ugly head, it was quashed by the majority of people who did not want to run the gauntlet of ill-mannered cyclists whizzing past, knocking toddlers, adults, dog walkers, etc., sideways.

I agree that we need safe routes for cyclists, and fully support the campaign to get people out of their cars. Sadly, the majority of the people using these routes will not be as considerate and speed aware as Mr Metcalf would have us believe. I regularly dog walk through the park. In recent years the number of bikes, especially mountain bikes, being ridden on paths, at speed has escalated.

Surely, mountain bikes are designed for use off pathways? I had an incident where a lady on one of these rode straight at my dog, I stepped into her path to protect my dog. The woman wobbled and fell off her bike, shouting and swearing at me as though I had hit her. Not only was she breaking the law but appeared to think that she had every right to cycle at me, my dog, and other pedestrians.

It was a lovely Sunday morning, the park was busy, filled with toddlers on scooters, little ones pushing their dollies in buggies, dog walkers and family groups.

I understand that the cyclists will be “sharing” the paths through the park. This is dangerous for all users, including the cyclists.

Why doesn’t SADC create cycle-only paths, away from the pedestrian routes? Cyclists will be able to use them safely, and pedestrians will be safe.

Presumably, separate paths would be decreed as too expensive. I await the bye laws being changed to accommodate the cycle routes, i.e. all dogs on leads, no scooters, no dolly prams, no elderly people with walking aids and of course, no stopping to feed the water fowl.

This appears to be a fait accompli, I fear that people will be driven out of the park in fear for their children and dogs. If they would like to find a safer place to walk, please come and join us in Highfield Park. It is a beautiful park with acres of space for dogs to run and children to play.

JOYCE GOODWIN

Highfield Dog Walkers

Puddingstone Drive, St Albans

The dark side of lobbying

SIR – I am somewhat bemused by the response of our Conservative MP, Anne Main, to the discovery of secret meetings on the proposed Park Street rail freight terminal between Conservative transport minister Theresa Villiers and Simon Hoare (see “Scandal as Radlett rail freight decision is delayed”, Herts Advertiser, April 5).

As a fellow Conservative and, having written to David Cameron about the matter, Ms Main should surely have known that Mr Hoare is not only a lobbyist on behalf of developers Helioslough but a prominent Conservative Party member in David Cameron’s constituency?

I find it hard to believe that Ms Main would not have been previously aware of this Conservative connection, given Mr Hoare’s prominence on behalf of Helioslough.

A current district councillor in Cameron’s Witney constituency and a two-time former Conservative Parliamentary candidate, Mr Hoare also sits on Cameron’s constituency executive.

Alongside national scandals involving Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, concerns about this latest inappropriate lobbying activity should only serve to raise question marks about the Conservatives’ approach to transparency, influence and money when in power.

In words that could easily apply to this latest chapter in the proposed Park Street rail freight terminal, David Cameron said prior to the 2010 General Election that lobbying is “an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money. […] We don’t know who is meeting whom. We don’t know whether any favours are being exchanged. We don’t know which outside interests are wielding unhealthy influence.”

Even if the Tory local government secretary Eric Pickles reaches the right decision – to reject the proposed rail freight terminal – in the coming weeks, significant questions remain about the involvement and knowledge of several prominent Conservative politicians.

MATTHEW JONES

De Tany Court, St Albans

We’re all trying to do the right thing

SIR – For all her anti-EU sentiments, I have to thank our Tory MP for asking a question in Parliament which showed how blinkered people sometimes are to the fact that actually, whilst we may differ politically, we are all interested in trying to do the “right” thing.

I am just saddened that she won’t shout out the positives. She asked how much EU and other environmental legislation had increased our bills, and got back the response...

Actually we SAVE seven per cent on domestic bills...

But no doubt her convoluted question, having extracted the “wrong” answer, will only ever see the light of day on the letters page.

Her question was: “How much an average household would save each year by 2020 if the Energy Company Obligation, EU Emission Trading Scheme, Carbon Floor Price, Renewables Obligation, Green Deal and feed-in-tariffs were removed and electricity market reform discontinued?”

The Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change responded: “DECC estimates that energy and climate change policies will lead to average household energy bills that are seven per cent lower in 2020 than they would be if these policies were never introduced. This net saving includes the impact of the energy company obligation, EU emission trading system, carbon price floor, renewables obligation (RO), Green Deal, feed-in tariffs (FITs) and electricity market reform (EMR) as well as other policies.”

So in the interests of transparency I wish my MP would tell me the positive things so that at least the world might be a little happier rather than always focussing on the negatives.

ALLAN SIAO MING WITHERICK

Battlefield Road, St Albans

Business as usual for Herts Highways

SIR – Nice to know that the soon to be defunct Herts Highways continue to make a mess of what they do. In particular the changes to the street lighting seem to have caused difficulties.

At the beginning of April, I reported a recently converted light as “on all day”.

On April 2, I received notification that this was “Enquiry Raised”.

On April 2, I received notification that this was “Open, Ready for assessment”.

On April 3, I received notification that this was “Open, Scheduled”.

On April 13, I received notification that this was “Closed, Complete”.

As it was still on during the day, I then re-reported it as NOT having been fixed.

On April 14, I received notification that this was “Enquiry Raised”.

On April 14, I received notification that this was “Open, Ready for assessment”.

On April 16, I received notification that this was “Open, Scheduled”.

The faulty light was actually repaired on the morning of April 17.

On April 18, I received notification that this was “Closed, Work Complete”.

Then on April 26, I received notification that this was “Closed, Unable to locate”.

Clearly the new reporting system is not giving Herts Highways any better control over fault fixing.

It is also worth noting that since the wholesale conversion of street lights the number of faulty lights (not working between dusk and midnight) and the number of lights on during the day has increased dramatically. Who is paying for rectifications on this conversion programme?

The new reporting system also seems to have generated an increase in the number of faults closed as “work complete” when in fact they have (hopefully) been “noted for future reference”. Does this mean for Herts Highways successors will actually do anything about them? I suspect not.

PETER MANNELL

Aldwickbury Crescent,Harpenden

Damaging to both tourism and trade

SIR – It is disappointing to see that Cllr Frearson is endorsing two measures that will damage tourism and trade in St Albans.

As an employee of a local business that relies on visitors to Verulamium Park for its custom, I am concerned that the parking ban on Bluehouse Hill will deter people from visiting St Albans and local attractions.

Very little, if any, free parking is available in the city and the traffic problems caused by parking on Bluehouse Hill are very small. It is sad to see people priced out of parking and that a prominent local councillor supports it.

Furthermore, whilst I appreciate there is a water shortage, the splash park is a valuable and extremely popular local resource. Is it necessary to close it for the whole summer? Could it not be open every other day or when the weather is exceptionally good, for example?

I would encourage residents that agree with me to make their feelings known to local councillors and St Albans District Council.

PETER SUTTON

Kings Road, St Albans

Dad joins debate over park lake

SIR – Mr Humphrey’s letter (April 26) in response to Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles’s letter (April 19) has prompted me to write.

Mr Humphrey thinks that the Conservative Party is toxic and nasty, assumes David Cameron has not read Cllr Chichester-Miles’s letter, and also assumes that he knows Mr Cameron’s reaction if he had (does he know Mr Cameron well?).

There were no “cheap smears” in Cllr Chichester-Miles’s letter, he simply made readers aware that Mr Humphrey is not just a concerned citizen but also an active supporter of the Liberal Democrats who obviously want to do well in the forthcoming elections, and therefore he has an interest in making the Conservatives appear toxic as well as the lake.

Mr Humphrey does not refute any of the comments made in Cllr Chichester-Miles’s letter, he simply didn’t like it!

It seems plain enough that Verulanium Lake is not a threat to public health.

The commissioned report, prompted by concerned citizens, has shown this. Lakes all over the country have birds defecating in them all the time but we do not regularly dredge them, if ever at all.

I urge all voters in the forthcoming local elections to look carefully at a candidate’s track record and vote accordingly, and not to be swayed by opponents branding the Conservatives as “nasty”, or that “they all live in affluent areas” (Mr Hedges’ letter of April 26). If one looks carefully over the Hedges you will find that most of them live in extremely effluent – sorry – affluent areas.

TOM CHICHESTER-MILES

Grove Avenue, Harpenden

Planning hold-ups are unacceptable

SIR – Mr Kane is having a problem getting a decision from St Albans District Council and has been waiting 10 months, I am not surprised (Herts Advertiser, April 19).

Last August I employed a bricklayer to replace my front brick boundary wall which had been constructed some 30 years ago in red engineering bricks with brick piers one metre high. The wall had at some time been damaged and both pier caps were loose.

I rather naively assumed that as I was now replacing a wall with bricks that matched the house, albeit the piers are 650mm higher and the wall finished with wrought iron railings between, them I would not require planning permission.

Not so, a visit from the planning enforcement officer on September 2 informed me otherwise.

Plans were duly drawn and forms filled in (together with the £150 charge) and were presented in person to the relevant department and carefully perused by a member of said department.

On October 7 I was informed that my application was incomplete, a “design and access statement” being required I explained that no changes were being made to the existing access, to no avail. The document was duly completed and submitted.

On October 27 I was informed that an additional “Ordnance Survey style” site plan was required, this could be purchased from the district council office price £19.05 (A4 size!), duly purchased and submitted.

The decision would be made early in December, it is now mid April and nothing has been forthcoming, I have telephoned regularly every two weeks to be told that an assistant from the planning department would ring back. I did manage to make contact with a lady from that department at the end of January to be told that no decision had been made as she, in her opinion, thought the wall and railings were out of keeping and would I consider substituting a hedge.

I declined her proposal the outcome being that she would “have another look at it”.

Despite many more telephone calls and the promise of being called back nothing transpired until last week when I was indeed contacted to be told that no decision had been made, but the assistant was still of the opinion that the wall is out of keeping!

Mr Kane the best of luck!

JOHN CHILDS

Ash Grove, Wheathampstead

Thanks for support over festival

SIR – I would like to thank you for your paper’s support for local arts groups in relation to our inclusion in the St Albans Festival.

While the council’s U-turn on this matter is welcome, I would point out that we will not see a penny of the £170,000 which the council is spending on this year’s festival. Furthermore we are not benefitting from help in kind from the festival director, as we did up to 2010.

Indeed, we will paying the council to hire the Old Town Hall to hold our St Albans Folk Festival Day of Music and concert there on Saturday, June 30, and our whole programme of events is being run on a miniscule budget.

Like St Albans Symphony Orchestra, we book professional guests to perform alongside local performers, but our capacity to do so is limited.

We hope the public will enjoy the free entertainment we provide during the festival as well as buying tickets for our festival concert, but if you see a collection bucket, you can rest assured that any donations you may make will go towards our festival costs, rather than subsidising refreshments which you may well see dancers and musicians consuming in local pubs.

ALISON MACFARLANE

Warwick Road, St Albans

Harpenden station parking controversy

SIR – Victor Lowry’s letter ‘Too many taxis at Harpenden station’ from experience overstates the number of “Harpenden residents and general public” allocated spaces actually available for use on most days of the week given that one or more of these spaces are often taken up by cars, some displaying notices to the effect that they are station users, of the traders from the row of shops on Station Approach.

While these traders are either Harpenden residents or the general public for the most part they appear oblivious to the 20-minute waiting restriction that applies to these spaces.

MARTYN MCCARTHY

Dalkeith Road, Harpenden

SIR – I must endorse the comments made by last week’s correspondent concerning the proliferation of taxis at Harpenden railway station.

When collecting my elderly father I find it extremely difficult to turn round, to park in the 20-minute drop bays, or even to stop momentarily to find my father on the pavement, because of two, sometimes three deep parking by taxis on both sides of the road.

Why is it permissible for so many taxis to wait outside the station, flagrantly flouting parking rules, to the exclusion of local residents?

There are too many taxi bays as it is – once filled, further taxis should be required to wait in either of the two designated car parks. This could be readily implemented with rigorous enforcement of the rules by traffic wardens.

A more radical, and perhaps better, solution may be to relocate the taxi rank to the main car park opposite the station so as to free Station Approach for exclusive 20-minute drop off/pick up bays by residents.

I urge the council to sort this situation out at the earliest opportunity.

PAUL BRIGGS

Townsend Road, Harpenden


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