Monster hunters

PUBLISHED: 11:39 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:50 06 May 2010

SIR – In my letter of December 23, I shone a torch on two predatory planning monsters – as well as the highly visible Hel s (Helioslough s) Monstrosity, there s also the well camouflaged SAD (St Albans District Council ) Monstrosity, circling, inexorably

SIR - In my letter of December 23, I shone a torch on two predatory planning monsters - as well as the highly visible Hel's (Helioslough's) Monstrosity, there's also the well camouflaged SAD (St Albans District Council ) Monstrosity, circling, inexorably closing in...

There are also smaller, but still dangerous, cousins. One is stalking Harpenden and there's another predating the King Harry Lane playing fields.

Thus there are more predatory planning monsters circling their hapless, if not helpless, prey - the City and District of St Albans - and waiting to pounce. More than anyone thought. And there might be others that have yet to break cover.

Whilst they are normally solitary creatures, predatory planning monsters are drawn together to hunt in packs, attracted by the sweet smell of huge profits from potential prime real estate.

Individually, they can hurt their prey. But together, the grievous injury they can cause will almost certainly be fatal because they have voracious - if not insatiable - appetites.

The St Albans that we know and love could be killed. Gone forever!

Incidentally, it is now 11 weeks since I wrote to the Leader of St Albans District Council to ask exactly how many hundreds of acres would be lost to the SAD Monstrosity, and why the council continue to pursue this option when it was firmly rejected by the people of St Albans in 2007. And still I await a reply.

DR ROBERT WAREING

Claudian Place, St Albans

SIR - "Predatory planning monsters" are all around us, as Dr Wareing states, so may I add another one.

Developers Hallam Land sent me a New Year message announcing that they have just lodged an appeal against the council's refusal to grant them permission to build on that part of King Harry Lane playing fields for which they have not yet obtained planning consent.

So the seven year saga continues: it was in July 2002 that the bulldozers first barged into the fields to "conduct an archaeological investigation" which effectively ruined forever what were first class playing fields.

As previously, no solution is put forward for the huge traffic problems which this development would exacerbate even further, even though the council officers' report states (page 33) "it has been acknowledged by the applicant and the highway authority that mitigating measures will be required as a result of further development of the site".

No solutions have been put forward for 40 years for the traffic problems, despite large sums provided by previous developers such as Sainsbury's, funds which were never spent since the listed buildings and the Conservation Area precluded any traffic management measures being introduced.

How long must this go on? To allow the developer simply to buy planning permission by passing over to the Highway Authority millions of pounds with no traffic improvements guaranteed would be total folly and a betrayal of the local council and the local community as a whole.

BARRIE MORT

Chair, Verulam Residents Association

Westfields, St Albans

SIR - Re "Monsters circle...", I'm not sure if your correspondent, Dr Robert Wareing, is a fan of Alfred Hitchcock or Sir David Attenborough!

What I am sure of is that his exposé on the predatory planning monsters was very incisive, very revealing.

Whilst relatively new to St Albans, I have closely followed the debate about the planning strategy for the district but, like most others, had no idea the footprint of the SAD Monstrosity was so huge.

I've seen no reference whatsoever in any documents to the exact acreages of Green Belt that would be lost. And the only map I've seen was worse than useless. But three times the area of Verulamium Park - that really is massive!

The prospect of such a massive development is abhorrent. It's like creating an eco-village on the edge of St Albans - but without the eco. Just how environmentally sustainable is that?

St Albans District Council seem to be following contradictory planning policies in spending hundreds of thousands of pounds defending one substantial piece of Green Belt whilst quietly, if not stealthily, attacking another of equivalent size.

Also, how much money was wasted by SADC in carrying out the consultation in 2007, the results of which they didn't just ignore but did the complete opposite?

Good for Dr Wareing in the way he has tenaciously pursued this issue even though the council have steadfastly stonewalled his penetrating questions.

Politics can be a devious world and I begin to smell more than just the whiff of a done deal between the council and developer.

ANTHONY FLETCHER

Avenue Road, St Albans

SIR - Having just read your issue of December 23 I find myself in total agreement with the comments made by Dr Robert Wareing in his letter to your column.

My wife and I have returned from spending Christmas and New Year with her family in Co. Meath, Ireland. We use the N3 route which will be replaced by the M3 motorway in a few months.

This will bypass the county capital and two other towns, all notorious bottlenecks. It will provide a great easing of congestion in the towns and an easier journey for commuters to and from Dublin.

This area of the Royal County is prime farm land and there have been objections because of this and historic sites and Tara but these have been ironed out and the majority of locals greatly favour the benefits of road improvements.

In total contrast, the "improvements" proposed for our link road from the A414, together with the increased level of local traffic generated by the new housing developments, can only present us with a chaotic state of affairs at both ends of Blue House Hill.

Should the rail freight project be successful, I foresee non-depot traffic seeking to avoid the Park Street area and adding to the volume of flow along either the link road or King Harry Lane. Unless a dual carriageway were to be constructed to accommodate this increase and circumvent the north-west region of St Albans, which again would cause unacceptable disruption, the area will descend into gridlock at peak times.

Bluehouse Hill could be widened in an attempt to ease the problem, but at present, single lanes produce long queues, so doubling the measure will solve nothing.

Local Verulam residents must be aware of the dangerous and unsatisfactory arrangement of cars being parked on the grass verges of Bluehouse Hill whenever the park hosts special events. Has the fact that the present insufficient parking facilities have not been catered for, been taken into account, were the road to be widened and the verges disappear?

I fail to see any improvements to the quality of life of local residents in the proposed developments. I am also confused as to whether or not the district council is sincere in its commitment to have the Emerging Core Strategy Consultation Document adopted.

JOHN MORISON

Claudian Place, St Albans

Showing true grit

Sir - Following comments in recent weeks about how we have reacted to the exceptional weather, I feel compelled to write on behalf of the men and women at Hertfordshire Highways who have worked tirelessly since the first snow on December 15.

Since then, our salting crews have carried out 31 runs and covered over 40,000 miles of road - the equivalent of driving round the world one-and-a-half times. This doesn't include their work (and that of colleagues from the district councils) hand-clearing pavements and revisiting roads that they couldn't salt because of parked or abandoned cars. There was no Christmas or New Year for them - they worked every day over the holidays and continue to work long, anti-social hours (frequently throughout the night, which is why many people don't see them at work) in difficult conditions.

A common complaint is that we only salt main roads. In fact, we salt about 1,400 miles of high priority roads. If we tried to clear all of Hertfordshire's roads it would be a massive and costly operation involving another 1,900 miles of roads. Costs aside, the fact is that side roads are often too small for gritters to access. Also, for salt to work it needs to be ground into the ice and snow by the weight of frequently passing vehicles. Most side roads don't have enough traffic to make salt effective.

The national salt shortage means that our priority is keeping the main roads open - that's where traffic travels fastest and there is greatest risk of serious accidents. The county would grind to a halt if we didn't keep these roads accessible. Likewise, we have to make sure that, of our 3,000 miles of pavements, it's those in the areas where most people walk - such as town centres - that are cleared.

It looks like this severely cold weather is set to stay for some time and as a result people need to take great care on roads and pavements. I appreciate taxpayers' frustration, but these are exceptional conditions. Unfortunately it appears from some recent letters that we now live in a blame culture, rather than with the Blitz spirit.

I'd like to thank everyone at Hertfordshire Highways for their continued hard work in very difficult circumstances.

Stuart Pile

Hertfordshire County Council's Executive Member for Highways and Transport

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