Letters, November 14, 2013

PUBLISHED: 11:04 14 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:05 14 November 2013

SIR - With regard to the Oaklands proposed planning application for 350 new homes, I wonder where primary age children will be allocated places for school?

My granddaughter who has just started school was unable to secure a place at her nearest school which was only 483 metres from her address according to the Herts schools allocation webpage. Instead she was given a place at a school 1,121 metres away from said address. This development is not close to any schools and if a child cannot gain a place at a school at 483 metres distance where will they go and will anybody bother to let prospective parents know this when they are considering buying a new home. I doubt it!

JENNIFER DUNDON

Sherwood Avenue, St Albans

I read with interest your article about the recent changes to the Uno bus services S2, S3 and 603, all of which have been combined into the 653, and sympathise with Joan Van Straaten. I myself am a regular passenger of the (ex) S3 service 0 I use it to get to and from work in the town centre on a daily basis - yet I was not aware it had changed to a 653 until one turned up opposite The Quadrant! Nor were six other people at my stop, all of whom I often see when waiting for the bus at around 8am each weekday morning.

Clearly Mr Finn underestimated how many people regularly catch these services, if booklets were “available the Friday before the changes came into effect”. Does he honestly think that three days’ notice - with two of them being weekends and thus likely to miss the regular office commuters - is enough time to forewarn passengers, regular or not, of an overhaul to three bus services?

Although the information was on Uno’s website from July 17 (I realised this last night, having read the article in your paper), I for one (of many, it appears) did not see any notification of the change in any S3s I caught to and from town. It is unfeasible to expect passengers to check a website for such a major change, unless there is some kind of notice at the bus stops / on the bus routes themselves directing them to do so. With an (at the time) correct timetable at the stops, where no such notification of change was ever marked up - at least not outside The Quadrant for certain - who would do so?

If Uno are going to enforce any such changes in the future, I suggest they provide booklets and posters notifying passengers of the effect this will have on services, at the same time that they post it on their website.

M MCGOVERN

The Ridgeway, St Albans

SIR - I agree, like the majority of residents in Harpenden and the surrounding villages, that the area is in need of a new school. I also feel great sympathy with local parents who are worried and panicking (rightly so) about the options for secondary school education they are going to have available to them in the next few years.

However I would make the point that the very nature of this panic and worry highlights the problem that the plans for new schools have been left far too late by the HCC even though there have been calls for additional educational facilities in the area for years. This tardiness has led to a rushed proposal to find a suitable site with inadequate foresight and research being carried out and ultimately earmarking a site which in my opinion clearly has major problems (road access, road congestion, forcing a farmer to sell land she doesn’t want to, on a severely sloping plot, further away from where the greatest need is for children requiring a school... I could continue) compared to some of the other sites. So whilst I appreciate parents concern (I also have children requiring secondary school education in future years) I would also ask supporters of the school to consider the wider picture and perhaps look at some of the other proposals which were discounted and make your own mind up rather than taking the council’s word for granted that this is the best site. As we know councils, politicians, elected officials don’t always make the right decisions....

ALEX COLLINS

Salisbury Road, Batford

SIR - Shame on the county council for their slow response to what everyone else can see – the need for more accessible secondary school places in Harpenden district.

Double shame on them for secretly trying to foist a school at Batford Farm on us. Their reasoning doesn’t stack up, and those of us in Wheathampstead and Southdown come off the worst again.

Why do they think it sensible that over 75 per cent of pupils will need to cross or travel along that well known traffic-jam, the Lower Luton Road? Can you imagine 900 or more pupils trying to cross that in the morning and afternoon? It will be too far to walk for many people. Plus, as the majority of pupils will be on the town side of the river, a car trip is twice the walking distance and takes in all the best traffic jams in Harpenden.

Alternatively, can you picture the rat-run through Crabtree and Marquis lane as parents drop their children to cross Batford Ford in an attempt to miss the jams? Get real Herts County Council. Put the school nearest to the pupils that need it!.

MARILYN LEVI

Wheathampstead

SIR - I am writing on behalf of the West Herts Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society to thank everyone in Harpenden Centre and Southdown who gave so generously to our street collection for Multiple Sclerosis on October 12, and to also thank all our team of collectors. With the amazing support of you all, we raised £2,510.97 which will be used to help find a cure for this disease which affects over 100,000 people in the UK, and support to MS sufferers where help is most needed. Thank you all so much

DEBBIE FENSOME

For the West Herts Branch of the MS Society

SIR - Now the clocks have gone back and we’re plunged into evening darkness, it seems a good time to remind everyone who uses the roads how important it is to make sure you can be seen by others. Whether you’re walking (with or without your dog) on an unlit road with no footpath, cycling or riding a horse please please please wear clothing that is high viz AND reflective. Do remember that high viz can be almost invisible in the dark, only reflective clothing can be easily seen by drivers. There is a wide range of high viz and reflective clothing available for people, dogs and horses so can I just ask everyone to take full advantage of it. If wearing it makes you feel somewhat conspicuous, good, that’s the whole idea!

RHODA HARRISON

Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

SIR - I have recently received a leaflet from St Albans Labour party proudly proclaiming that “Kerry is back”. This of course refers to Kerry Pollard the prospective Parliamentary candidate for this city.

In this leaflet there is much waffle about local issues from this man. He seems now he has been selected to realise that he has to go out and meet the local electorate and puts much emphasis on the failure of the local recycling plant to facilitate cardboard. I am not surprised by this and surely if he is seeking election he should be focussing on far more important issues.

Perhaps he would like to recap on the disastrous administration of which he was part of. I would welcome his views on the economy and the dreadful mess left by the Labour government. Also it would be enlightening to hear his views on immigration, benefits and welfare and of course the EC. He will no doubt be quite happy that Mr Gordon Brown helped to destroy lots of hard working people’s pensions by cutting out tax relief on dividends paid into pension funds. Is this man standing for Parliament or is he up for the local council. I would welcome a response of where he stands and what policies if any he advocates.

GERALD STONE

New House Park, St Albans

SIR - Help! Send for outside assistance! Collective madness has gripped the city over the fate of historic Romeland: public space, tourist attraction, gardens and graveyard.

First: St Albans schoolboys - too hot to trot. Second: SADC in a tizz about whether to conserve or not to conserve the conservation area. Third: Fishpool Street Residents Association part of the plan to push buses out of Fishpool Street onto other medieval streets. Now, the good burghers of APRA want to breach the school’s natural defences (and those of the neighbours along the river bank) with a bridge over the River Ver. This would connect open parkland with school property and may or may not be in retaliation for the head’s threat to lay siege to Abbey Mill Lane with a toll gate. However, we must assume all parties mean well.

The wolf that jumped over the wall in Milton’s Paradise Lost might act as an allegory for unwanted guests, burglars and the like who hardly need catapulting into the shrubbery of this other riverbank idyll by way of a council bridge. A drawbridge might work though, or a plank for the boys to pull up after them as they arrive from the proposed Westminster Lodge or St Michael’s drop-off points.

But that means they’ve already run the gauntlet of the entire park without menace from the public or the public from the pupils! (Whichever way this fashionable argument goes, it is an absurd excuse to lumber the tax payer with a bill). Surely the pupils can manage the last two minutes of their journey by crossing the existing bridge into Abbey Mill Lane and hence the school gates?

Andrew Grant, the headmaster reminds us, quite rightly, that the school is part of local history. It is also part of the wider community. The pupils are well-mannered, well-turned out and a credit to Mr Grant. Should they wish to be dropped off at various points, already endlessly suggested around the city to “parade en masse” into the conservation area, they would make a welcome feature and PR coup for the school.

JACQUI VALOTA

Romeland Hill, St Albans

SIR - As a parent of two children at the school who use the school bus service and a local resident, I am somewhat disappointed by the reporting around the Romeland school buses issue.

It is undoubtedly the case that most residents who live close to schools suffer some inconvenience at drop off and pick up points. In my view the school makes every attempt to keep residential disruption to a minimum. Parents are actively discouraged from driving into the school and Romeland area, even for events at the school where we use (and pay for) the town car parks.

My understanding is, in the opinion of the officer from Herts Highways who was observing the pick-up operation in the first week of term, the school have the most disciplined, best-controlled and least intrusive system that he has seen at any school in the City and District. From my own observation, I do not think either the school or coach company could do more to minimise disruption and so it is particularly disappointing to find these efforts presented in such a negative way.

One of the reassuring things for a parent, when your 11 year old moves up from primary school and is perhaps travelling a reasonable distance to school, is that they will be safely delivered and supervised. I strongly suspect that if we move the coach arrangements too far from school, this supervision will be impractical and that there will be a consequent increase in cars because some parents will instead deliver their children by car.

If you choose to live near a station, it would be curious to complain about commuters arriving to take a train in the morning. I think the Headmaster is right to point out that the arrival and departure of pupils during term time should not come as a surprise to residents. Would it not be even more unfair (aside from all the safety issues) to relocate the bus drop off to an area where residents have not chosen to live near the school? In this case, the demands of one group of residents will be met, merely to move the disquiet to a group of residents for whom it didn’t exist before, whose interests conflict with what the first group want! Careful consideration must therefore be given before any changes are made and isn’t this exactly what the school has been involved in?

I really do believe the school is as much a part of the culture of the city as the Cathedral or Market Square. My impression as a parent has always been that they take this responsibility very seriously and whilst the school is actively engaged in trying to work with the council, the negative perspective to the reporting is all the more disappointing.

FIONA PEARCE

Overstone Road, Harpenden

SIR - Design is very much in our minds, in view of the recent highly successful fashion week. Classically cut or the height of current fashion, the material and colours can either suit us so raise our spirits, or if something looks plain wrong it can depress us and lower our self confidence.

Although perhaps not so obvious, the look of buildings and open spaces we use and pass everyday can influence our mood and comfort in our surroundings. This is why I remind fellow readers that Look! St Albans is ready to take its next important step with you, at Dagnall Street Baptist Church on Tuesday November 19 at 7pm.

We have spent considerable time since our March meeting carefully drawing up a constitution to enable us to become an important first port of call for developers wishing to invest in our city centre. We think our Memorandum of Understanding with the council signals a joint seriousness of intent to make this collaboration in planning really work.

Our constitution has been written in the spirit of community-led neighbourhood planning and is therefore community-rooted. Membership is open district wide as our city centre is important to all of us.

As many have come to expect from us the evening will be far from a dry AGM, Tony Burton confirmed in February by Planning Magazine as one of ‘The Power 100’ as a highly influential consultant on neighbourhood planning matters will be joining us.

VANESSA GREGORY

Tennyson Lane, St Albans

SIR - Your recent feature on house prices in St Albans lacked balance. There is a spike in prices, supply is low, demand is high and interest rates have never been lower. Moreover estate agents are herding buyers along to ‘open home days’ in order to whip up a bidding frenzy and of course they are using the ever popular “best and final” offer deadline. This latter tactic has no legal basis, is open to abuse and can cause house price inflation - far better would be sealed bids opened by a solicitor, ideally in the presence of the vendor. But coming back to whether the current spike in prices is sustainable, flip a coin. Interest rates must rise and if this coincides with a surge in the supply of property we could easily see a reversal of what has happened in the last 12 months. Prices can go up as well as down.

I HEMERY

Prospect Road, St Albans

SIR - FCC’s reaction to the recent windy day was disgraceful. All competent organisations have a robust emergency / disaster plan which is rehearsed frequently to ensure it is viable. FCC seem not to adopt best practice; those who attempted to contact FCC by App and website on Monday morning met with failure most of the time. Initially screens just displayed gibberish code, later the system packed up and enquirers were redirected to another site which did not work either.

I finally got though on Tuesday morning on an iPhone App and read “First Capital Connect are expecting to run a near normal service. Passengers are advised not to travel.”

While the FCC bosses ponder this they might light to take note of two other problems. The ticket vending machines on the large car park side of Harpenden Station are useless in the morning when the sun shines and obliterates the screen. They are also useless at night because the keypads used to enter credit card PIN numbers are not illuminated. Please fix it.

STEVE GLEDHILL

Cravells Road, Harpenden


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