Letters, September 13, 2012

PUBLISHED: 10:55 13 September 2012

Support for Rose Garden campaign

SIR – Having been a member of the Rose Society for many years, I appreciate your support of the Society in obtaining car parking facilities. The planning consent is imperative if we are to exist as a Society. I trust the council gives its approval.

M FLETCHER

New House Park, St Albans

Changes needed to pool cleanliness

SIR – This morning (Saturday, September 1) I paid a visit to Westminster Lodge swimming pool and I have to say that I was disgusted with the filthy conditions that I found in the changing area where the showers are.

Clumps of hair, together with large dirty patches, were everywhere and the cubicle that I occupied was particularly grubby. It was quite obvious to me as I looked around that no cleaning had been done for some considerable time and I was dismayed to see hordes of children with their parents having to use this dirty place.

When you consider that only a month ago I had spoken to someone in authority about this very same thing and had come away assuming that this issue would be resolved, it makes it all the more serious.

Unfortunately, during the interval between my former complaint and the present time, I have been incapacitated so can’t speak for the intervening period but I do know that if ‘Health and Safety’ had decided to visit the swimming pool this morning, they would have had a fit!

Do the people in charge of running of the pool think that the maintenance of it doesn’t matter very much now that the new swimming pool will soon be opening? I can tell them that it matters very much to me and probably to a lot of other people.

I have been swimming regularly at the pool for the benefit of my health but realise now that I have probably been putting myself in more danger because of the unhealthy state of this section. Will this serious issue persist when we all start at the prestigious new pool once the novelty wears off or can we be promised more responsible action being taken?

Maybe because of my outspoken stance I will be banned from the pool! Does this bother me? No, it doesn’t! I can always go somewhere else that presents a more healthy environment which would be to my benefit and not to the detriment of it.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON

Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Searching for the lights

SIR – Following the decision to switch off many street lights in Hertfordshire between midnight and 6am, I have observed a substantial increase in lighting faults – both of lights not working between dusk and midnight, but far more being on during the daylight hours.

I have been reporting as many of these faults as I can using the online fault reporting system.

When I found it necessary to report a faulty light near my house on several occasions, as Herts Highways had consistently failed to repair it, it transpired that the reason it had not been repaired was that the fault reporting system identifies a large number of street lights in Aldwickbury Crescent incorrectly, so causing confusion for the contractors sent out to fix the faults.

Also when attempting to identify a street light, one can often be given a list of two, three, four or five lights to select from. In some cases, the alternative selections listed are nowhere near the actual street light which needs to be identified. In one case a street light at the Aldwickbury Crescent roundabout is identified as being in “Aysgarth Road, St Albans”. The nearest Aysgarth Road is actually in Redbourn approximately five miles away!

It would appear there could be major errors in the Herts Highways street light database/mapping system. This is causing workmen to go to repair faults which they are unable to identify from their job sheets, which of course include the information from the faulty database. This, along with the substantial increase in faults and the number of lights left on during the day, is no doubt, costing taxpayers dearly.

No wonder our council taxes are so high!

PETER MANNELL

Aldwickbury Crescent, Harpenden

‘Ludicrous’ Post Office closure

SIR – Whose ludicrous and idiotic idea was it to close the Royal Mail Harpenden Collection and Delivery Office?

Up until the end of this month, if you have an undelivered package, you have to go to the main Post Office in Harpenden. As if the counter staff haven’t already got enough work to do they now have to go and search for undelivered packages. You can’t even collect early morning like you used to be able to as they don’t open until 10am.

After 24 September you will have to trek all the way over to the other side of St Albans to collect any packages. Tough if you haven’t got a car – never mind it will be a nice day out as it will take the best part of a day to get there and back by public transport. Mind you if you have a car it will cost you £3 or £4 in petrol for the approximate 20-odd mile round trip!

If you have a computer you can go online and arrange for your package to be delivered to your local Post Office (if you are lucky enough to have one!) This will only cost £1.50 per item for the privilege.

How many ‘Something For You’ cards do Harpenden postmen and women leave each day? In a population of around 30,000 people I imagine it to be well over a hundred and more – all these folks will soon have to trek over to St Albans adding to the congestion on the already overcrowded St Albans roads to collect their packages.

Couldn’t a small collection office have been set up somewhere in Harpenden or is that too simple a solution?

The postmen and women of Harpenden have provided an excellent first class service over the years and I’m sure they are as disgusted as the rest of us about this closure.

I suppose the Royal Mail has to try and save as much money as possible so they can pay those extortionate salaries to their Chief Executive Officer and her team. Never mind about providing a service.

TONY DAWSON-HILL

Mons Close, Harpenden

Hitting back over parking ticket

Sir – I found Liz Bennett’s letter particularly offensive, patronising and parsimonious regarding the issuing of a parking ticket to disabled driver George Brown and wish to offer my own polemic in response.

We all know that wardens or PEOs (Parking Enforcement Officers as they are colloquially known) are, apart from the Government who tax motorists to the hilt, the very gutter rodents of all cities’ roads. Yes, we need free flowing traffic and yes, these Jobsworths do have a job of work to do... of sorts, but it is precisely the bigoted and prejudiced attitude shown in missives of the kind proffered by Ms Bennett that does a disservice to those unfortunate enough to have a disability as well as a pat on the back to the blue-coated vultures who hide in shop doorways and prey on innocent, ignorant (and yes, sometimes even guilty) drivers.

To be honest, if I were to have such an illustrious job as a TEO (maybe you are or were a warden in a previous incarnation Ms Bennett?), I’d probably be one of the most successful ticket collectors out there and would cash my commission with pride.

However, I have a brain and a heart and would apply common sense in the case of disabled motorists. Some have mental issues which do not allow them the same capacity as the more able-bodied to understand often complex parking rules.

Maybe, as in the case of a first-time badge user, confusion means a simple mistake is easily made. However, there is not a shred of Hitler in me that would make me give a Blue Badge holder a ticket unless of course I detected fraudulent misuse of that privilege.

The Browns aren’t seeking to blame “everyone else” as Ms Bennett states. However, they are victims of a Jobsoworthian system that is as ruthless in its penalisation of a minority group who have enough personal and financial struggles to face without Naziesque traffic wardens.

So Ms Bennett, it would appear that you really are short-sighted as stated by yourself, not only literally but also metaphorically, in your apparent prejudice against the disabled motorist. Next time you park your car and get a ticket, although you may take it on the chin and chalk it up to experience, many readers who I am sure will be incensed by your words will have a warm and effulgent glow of satisfaction at another particularly deserved £60 in the council’s greedy coffers. I thank you!

Barry Cashin

Green Lane, St Albans

Troubled bridge over village waters

SIR – As one of the many local residents who are regular users of the Mill Bridge in Wheathampstead, I have noticed that the wooden base of the bridge has become very worn and uneven, so I was pleased to hear that the footbridge was to be resurfaced.

The bridge is rightly in the village conservation area and part of the heritage trail, on one side is the tree-fringed river Lea where you can spot shoals of fish, ducks, swans and other wildlife, on the other side is the historic mill which contains interesting small shops.

I was mismayed to discover that this rural footbridge on such a sensitive setting has simply had strips of nasty green plastic-type material screwed on the uneven wooden surface. Already this surface is becoming bumpy and beginning to lift, making the footbridge more of a trip hazard than it was before.

This letter is copied to Wheathampstead Parish Council, as I understand from Parish Councillor Derek Hills that they did not actually vote to agree that the highways department could use such horrible material to resurface the bridge, and also the the highways department to ask them to look again at selecting a surface and laying it in a manner that will not only be hazard free but more compatible with a rural footbridge in the centre of a conservation area.

SUE WALFORD

Kingfisher Close, Wheathampstead

Planning for better housing

Sir – We hear much about the chronic shortage of housing. But we hear less about permission being granted to knock down perfectly good modern three or four-bedroom houses with en-suite bathrooms and double garages.

Planning law allows such houses to be replaced by huge five to seven-bedroom mansions squeezed on to the same-sized plots with 20cm gaps from their neighbours. The upkeep of such mansions will soon become unaffordable and then these enormous properties will have to be sold off at a great loss.

This happened in the thirties, forties and fifties, when many mansions were pulled down because they were too expensive to maintain.

Was planning law not introduced to prevent this profligate waste of good buildings and sites?

Katharine Sutton

Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Development left high and dry

Sir – I refer to the report in the Herts Advertiser of September 6 regarding the refusal of planning permission for the Spen Hill/Tesco site on London Road.

According to the developer’s planning adviser, the site has been identified in SADC’s ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ as suitable for 100 “high density… dwellings.” Yet the Council complained, in its planning report, that the proposed housing was a couple of storeys too high causing both aesthetic and amenity clashes with the adjoining houses in Inkerman Road and Alma Road. If an eighty-house sized development is too dense for this site, can the Council please explain why they ordered the owner to attempt to squeeze one hundred houses on it? Have they plans for high rise on this site?

The same adviser states that professionals from both the Council and perhaps the developer as well wanted a ‘car-free development’, but that ‘members’ intervened to prevent it and to bring about a total reversal of policy from zero per cent provision to 110 per cent provision. I would like to know which councillors intervened and why? I’m assuming that the officers intended that the new residents wouldn’t be able to buy residents or visitors parking permits.

I can tell you, and so can anybody else who has trained or practised for any length of time in housing design or procurement, that it is car parking, and its associated vehicular circulation, that limits the design capacity of any housing site.

Also, the costs associated with undercroft parking undoubtedly exacerbated the problem identified by the developer and corroborated by the Council’s own consultant, that with 35 per cent affordable housing, development on this site isn’t viable.

In other words, had the councillors not intervened, the architects would have been able to reduce the height of the scheme, and to provide an acceptable ratio of affordable housing.

Personally, I’d prefer to see less cars and more affordable housing. However the Tory led government has just intervened to ensure that on this site, at least, cars are put before people.

Tony Waite

Abbey Court, St Albans

Belt up over hotel scheme

Sir – As a reader who particularly welcomes this newspaper’s general defence of the Green Belt, I am baffled and disappointed by your encouragement and support for the Pegasus 51 Hotel plan in Chiswell Green.

This land, which you persist in unfairly describing as “run down”, is a prime Green Belt site within our district which deserves no less protection than any other.

The whole point of the Green Belt is that it is to be shielded from development so that we can permanently maintain a mix of urban and open green space in our communities. For us humans, this means we maintain our access to a more natural environment, clean unpolluted air and water, while for animals, birds, insects and vegetation, it means their homes and habitats are maintained.

Your newspaper’s position of purporting to defend the principle of the Green Belt but periodically singling out bits of it to be sacrificed for whatever building project happens to be in vogue is simply not credible. It represents a policy that can only lead over time to the eventual complete eradication of our open spaces and total urbanisation of our district. It may take some time to reach that ultimate outcome, but it is not a prospect I want to see for younger generations any more than for my own.

It is of great comfort to me that we have many local councillors and other supporters of the environment who are determined to prevent irresponsible planning applications such as this from going ahead. I only wish the Herts Advertiser would represent the community it serves and get behind them.

Paul Wilkinson

Watling Street, Park Street

Disappointment at mosaic cover up

Sir – I wish to express my disappointment that this year’s programme of places to visit during Heritage Open weekend didn’t include the City Centre’s Roman Mosaic (pictured above). It is a sad fact that although the mosaic is situated in the very heart of the town centre, very few people have ever actually seen it.

Interestingly, when the mosaic was put on show last year, many residents were surprised by its size and to learn that the council had to cover it up shortly after installing it, in order to protect it from people walking over it.

However I understand that there is a move to reveal the mosaic on a more frequents basis, which I hope would include such events as our Heritage and Residents First weekends.

Peter Wares

Ramsbury Road, St Albans

Take advantage of film society

Sir – For all the reasons and more given by Nick Sutton in last week’s columns, a number of volunteers got busy and set up Harpenden Film Society.

We show films twice a month at the Harpenden Memorial Halls and on Tuesday had another complete sell-out for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. How we would love to see more of the younger local residents and we are only a bus or train ride from St Albans if no other transport is available.

Our prices are modest, £3.50 for a member (membership for the year is £10) or £5 for non-members, there is a bar for a pre-show drink, often savoury indian snacks on sale and the most friendly welcome from all involved. Alright, the seats are not anything like those of The Rex, we have softened the seats with some cushions, and we are not in competition with The Odyssey.

In fact, we welcome the ressurection of the cinema in St Albans – the more films are available to all, the better for us, them and the economy.

This country produces the very best when it has the funding and wins accolades and income from all over the world. So do make a journey up the road and come and see one of our films, introduce yourself as a local enthusiast and if you are keen, why not join us and help with the choices, the fund-raising, the promotions and even putting out and collection of the cushions at the end of the film. That is a wrap.

Mrs Diana Bell,

Harpenden Film Society Committee Member

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