Readers letters from Herts Advertiser of September 10 and 17

PUBLISHED: 15:35 18 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:27 06 May 2010

A rich past in need of celebration SIR - Further to your recent articles I agree that St Albans certainly has several past residents to celebrate in a new museum and to attract visitors. There is Nicholas Breakspear, the only English pope, the eminent Fra

A rich past in need of celebration

SIR - Further to your recent articles I agree that St Albans certainly has several past residents to celebrate in a new museum and to attract visitors. There is Nicholas Breakspear, the only English pope, the eminent Francis Bacon and from the present, Stephen Hawking the famed scientist. We also have key Civil War battles, the monastery, early film studios and Verulamium.

Speaking as a structural engineer I note there is a prime central location for such a museum over the present Civic Centre car park. This could be built with columns constructed through the car park to new foundations and costing perhaps £10m.

It could include a cinema. It never made much financial sense for the earlier proposed new cinema project to demolish the car park to build another albeit lower car park.

But it would be shame if it were to go the way of the Westminster Lodge sports centre. Residents will have less sports centre for more cost as the Council have rejected possible regeneration suggested in an earlier detailed report and gone for a complete rebuild costing probably £10m more.

MIKE WAKELY

District Councillor

Oakfield Road

Harpenden

SIR - Having been a resident in St Albans for the last 40 years and an avid reader of the local press for some time, I am astounded by the wealth of historical interest that we have overlooked here in St Albans - certainly after reading recent editions of your paper I am disappointed that the issue of our museums has not been addressed sooner.

St Albans rivals all the historical landmarks in the UK - with heritage dating back to the Romans it's vital that the local authority addresses the deficiency of suitable, accessible, modern exhibition space for the city to flex its historical prowess for the world, yes the world, to appreciate.

The main topic of conversation seems to currently be what should the museum facilitate - well, shall we all go on a jaunt to the capital and assess what's currently on offer and what we need, not replicate but improve on!

I think we can all agree that we need 21st or should I be so bold to suggest 22nd century technology, clear flexible exhibition space, a cultural hub with auditoriums, cinematography, interactive exhibitions, venue and performance arenas, good catering facilities to accommodate huge state banquets (having dined at some spectacular locations it can be a sight to behold).

The development should be a centrepiece to St Albans of Cathedral-esque proportions, to rival the Uffizi and the Guggenheim with historical, environmental, architectural and practical design the paramount considerations of which Prince Charles could approve and the Queen could open.

The venture is not for the faint-hearted and requires a visionary approach. This opportunity should be a considered one - historically, aesthetically and commercially viable.

It has to achieve this status and not be just another municipal building that is foreboding, drab, unwelcoming and ultimately a failure.

The current site of Hatfield Road has a great deal to offer and gain from redevelopment, being a five-minute walk away from St Albans City Station.

In light of the Victoria Street development proposals, this opportunity could invigorate the entirety of Bricket Road and create and parallel High Street that could have huge benefit for the proposals of the hotel, retailers and residents alike.

As for additional parking, rather than putting a cinema on the Bricket Road car park, let's add several levels to cope.

Hatfield Road has been overlooked in recent years and finally has had some invigoration with the college development (however belatedly), three new restaurants and clear links to the station. Where else would we want a considered, feasible, 21st century museum to go?

I just hope that this will all come to fruition rather than another grandiose scheme that fizzles away and leaves us with a pitiful reminder of what we could have achieved.

Let us not lose this opportunity. St Albans was once the Roman capital of Britain and let us raise our aspirations and compete on a global level worthy of the historical depth that St Albans city has right under its Roman nose!

GEORGE POKER

Marshalswick

St Albans

Long-lost brother

SIR - I came across a recent article in the Herts Ad which featured by younger brother, Rob Whitton. The feature was about his recent win in the Bakewell County Show for his horse and dray.

My brother and I became estranged shortly before I moved to Australia 19 years ago. I've been unable to contact him despite many forays on Google, Facebook and even contact with the Salvation Army, and am hoping you can pass my details on to him.

I understand from my father that Rob is interested in making contact with me however, do to the acrimony between Rob and my dad, the connection has never quite come about.

I appreciate your consideration and hope that you will be able to help me.

DENISE WHITTON

(denisewhitton@hotmail.com)

Melbourne

Australia

Mystery of path to nowhere is solved

SIR - I am writing in response to the letter in your edition of September 3 about the gravel path alongside the Hemel Hempstead Road which appears to lead nowhere.

In fact this path provides the missing link between the rights of way across the fields from Verulamium Park via Mayne Avenue and the path through the Gorhambury Estate past both Old and New Gorhambury houses. This attractive circular route has been publicised in several books of walks including a recently published book of Literary Walks in Hertfordshire and early editions of "24 Footpath Walks Around St Albans".

Recently the verges along this road had become completely overgrown and this route could only be completed by walking in the carriageway which was very dangerous. The county council cleared the verge but this still left a very uneven and hazardous surface for walkers. The new hard surface should make this route fit for use in all conditions.

PHIL ESCRITT

St Albans Footpaths Secretary

Ramblers Association

Rail freight capacity row continues

SIR - Eric Roberts is, somehow convinced that I am overly optimistic about rail freight capacity on the railway through St Albans.

I doubt it, at present there is sufficient capacity between passenger trains that Network Rail are able to run 40mph track machines through St Albans just after 10am.

However if Mr Roberts had bothered to read the East Midlands RUS and the freight RUS that Network Rail have produced he would know that a few months ago the number of freight paths on the Midland Main line increased from one to two every hour by reinstating a few miles of track between Wellingborough and Kettering.

Further work is planned for the near future involves a south bound freight loop between Leicseter and Kettering and another just south of Bedford to allow the weight of freight trains to be increased from 2000 tonnes to 2,500 tonnes.

Further work to create a third freight path involves relaying the fourth track between Kettering and Sharnbrook, double tracking Kettering to Corby and Manton junction (north of Corby) and freight loops between Manton and Syston.

In fact I believe that this works will also allow a fourth freight train path to be easily added. Apparently only five extra freight trains need to be run to make these works profitable for Network Rail.

Nowhere is there anything about capacity issues for freight trains south of Bedford other than the loop for longer heavier trains just to the south of Bedford.

The low cost of implementing these works are why rail planners are looking at this line to provide increased freight capacity between the Midlands and London.

If Mr Roberts really believes that there is a problem then perhaps he should write to Network Rail and point out how they have failed to correctly appreciate capacity issues nearer London rather than give residents in this area false hope that the freight depot plans are not practicable.

ROSS MIDDLETON

Berkley Close

St Albans

SIR - In a recent letter to the Herts Advertiser, Mr Ross Middleton supported the proposed road/rail freight terminal but also stated that direct access to the M25 was a "must".

When I pointed out that this was a strong argument against the proposal because direct access had been ruled out by the Highways Agency and the developers, who had not included it in their plans, he replied that what he really meant was that everything should be done to mitigate the impact on the local community.

It seems that Mr Middleton's "must" has now become an, "it would be nice if".

RF COLLINS

Fiveacres Avenue

Bricket Wood

Hospital horrors remembered

SIR - After reading about the trauma of Professor Leslie Vaughan (Herts Advertiser, September 3), it brought back very sad memories of my mother's horrific time in hospital five years ago at Watford General Hospital.

My mother was very poorly when she was taken into hospital.

She had a stroke aged 87 and since then her mind had deteriorated so that when she went into hospital at 93, she was suffering from dementia.

It was a catalogue of disasters from start to finish. On our first visit, her meal was at the end of the bed when we arrived.

We were then approached by a member of staff who said they were just going to feed her. Her meal was congealed and cold and was only fit for the bin.

After that a member of the family was there at all meals so that we could feed her.

Once or twice I tried the meat and it was so tough that even I couldn't chew it but they expected a 93-year-old lady to eat it.

The food was definitely not suitable for the elderly. Unfortunately that wasn't the worst problem and I will just give a list of the other problems:

1. She was written up for a dose of zopiclone that was far too high. I was told that she was never actually given that dose;

2. The wrong name tag was on her wrist;

3. Tablets were found under her bed. Tablets were left on her table for her to take;

4. She was being verbally abused in front of the whole ward just as I walked in to visit her. The abuser wasn't by my mother's bed but was shouting from the window;

5. My mother was able to wander from the ward;

6. The ward was not clean and nor were the bathrooms;

7. My sisters were just arriving as my mother was dying and they were told they couldn't be with her.

I had to get an advocate in for one lady who was rarely visited.

She had some nasty bruises and was told not to be a nuisance at night when she needed a bed pan.

I believe, but was not told by the staff, that someone was accused of the maltreatment.

I did complain and had a meeting there and was told that things would improve for the elderly.

Have things really changed? It would seem not for although Professor Vaughan was at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and my mother was at Watford General, they are part of the same trust.

All of us will be old and vulnerable one day - is this the way we should expected to be treated?

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

The shape of things to come?

SIR - This week, it was announced by Bristol City Council that it was 'binning' the area's 150,000 240 litre wheelie bins used for non-recyclable waste in favour of more eco-friendly, smaller models.

For families, that means down-sizing to a 180 litre bin and for couples and singles, a pint-sized 'bonsai bin' of just 140 litres capacity. If residents fail to comply, they risk a not-insignificant £5,000 fine... guess what for, fly-tipping!

The frightening thing, and it is only rumoured at the moment, is that the smaller bin scheme is planned to be rolled out across the country within a year.

If the number crunchers and pen-pushing eco-warriors at SADC get their way and feel the need to impose this Mad Hatter's waste disposal system upon us, I say rise up, rise up and challenge their madness!

I have a family of four. We consume an average amount of food, produce an average amount of waste and are diligent in recycling what we are allowed to recycle - but even with the best will in the world, our current 240 litre wheelie bin lay brimful of waste every fortnight, attracting vermin, flies, maggots, rats and other associated nasties, not because it smells like a sewer (even though it does) but because it is simply not big enough to cope with an average family's waste.

To downsize it by a further third would pose serious logistical problems, not just for us but for everyone in St Albans notwithstanding the elderly, infirm or less manually dexterous - who have all had to learn the art of pouring a gallon into a pint glass in order to make their waste fit within the existing, ineffective 240 litre bins.

2009 has already seen tremendous change in the way we dispose of our waste and this further Draconian step, if adopted, will be the straw that surely breaks the camel's back.

In addition to the piles of refuse that will inevitably and inexorably clog the streets of Bristol, I can see anarchy here if the full impact of this madcap scheme is ever introduced.

So, an early warning salvo to St Albans Council. Threaten the people with punitive £5,000 fines, makes us use bins which are totally inadequate for our needs and dictate to us how we should find ever more ingenious ways to create black holes for our rubbish - but expect a backlash.

It is called people power and if the council rides over us roughshod, it may just rue the day that it went one step too far!

BARRY CASHIN

Green Lane

St Albans

Too many homes

SIR - I was horrified to read the headline in last week's paper regarding the possibility of 1,200 extra homes being built west of Verulam Estate.

It will be like a mini town being constructed and a bypass road as well that will merely transfer traffic from Watford Road and King Harry Lane through an extra estate that will create more traffic to sit in queues.

1,200 extra houses with potentially two cars per household to start with will add an extra 2400 cars on already overcrowded roads. When any children grow up and have their own cars, there is a potential for maybe up to 6,000 extra vehicles on the roads. Where are they all supposed to drive? Could Herts Highways handling of the roads cope with this extra potential traffic? I doubt it!

Some people may dismiss these comments as nimbyism however, I believe that the potential development could be similar to lumping Verulam Estate, St Julian's Estate and most of Watford Road and its associated estates into one small area. It is such overdevelopment of a few acres of land and impossible to invisage without a comparison area.

Where are these extra people supposed to find work? Where will they park? Where are the shops that can cope with possibly an extra 6,000 mouths to feed? Where will the extra lorries come from that will be needed to deliver extra food to feed the extra mouths? Where will the children go to school? Where will these possible residents find health care? Our emergency departments in St Albans and Hemel Hempstead are closed - what happens if there is an emergency? Watford is a nightmare any day of the week.

Where will the water supplies come from? Where will the rubbish be taken? We are constantly told the landfill sites are almost full!

The questions keep arising and I feel very angry that somebody who does not live in the area has made a decision that St. Albans has to have so many extra properties attached to it, without any thought for the infrastructure of the town and the facilities within the town centre.

It feels like the area is to be swamped with housing, with the Crown Estate wanting to build 6,000 extra homes next to Buncefield and beyond, developers wanting to take more Green Belt to join St.Albans to Harpenden and Harpenden to Luton boundaries. Before long St Albans will be regarded as part of London and the M25 will no longer be an orbital road around London, but a road that goes through the middle of London.

What about the protected species of animals and birds that live on the land? Are they just to be got rid of to suit developers? Before long there will not be a blade of grass anywhere if these type of developments get the go-ahead.

SUSIE BEE

St Albans

SIR - I would like to voice my total opposition to develope on Green Belt land in the Bluehouse Hill area.

The failure of this government to control immigration numbers in this nation has led to pressure for accommodation and to tack onto this city further population this way is a cheap way to deal with the result of their lack of forsight. The city cannot take this expansion.

PETER BYERS

Toulmin Drive

St Albans

SIR - Your front page says it all (Herts Advertiser September 10) - a further 1,000-1,200 houses being proposed on Green Belt land adjacent to the Verulam Estate.

Last week you gave us news of 75,000-107,000 additional houses proposed for Hertfordshire 2011-2031.

Next Monday September 21 at 7pm residents will be at the council offices opposing plans for a further 150 houses on the King Harry Lane playing fields site, where permission has already been obtained, against the wishes of the council, for 65 houses, 61 flats and a 40-bed care home.

The council's own Housing Monitoring Report 2008 referred to this site as possibly capable of sustaining 120 houses. Yet here consideration is being requested for an application which, if approved, would result in a total of 215 houses, 61 flats and a care home crammed into a 20-acre site next to a road which is already bursting at the seams with traffic.

There are two traffic bottlenecks, one at Bluehouse Hill and one at the King Harry pub junction. Turning Bedmond Lane into a bypass will not solve the Bluehouse Hill problem and as for the King Harry pub junction, this is a Conservation Area where any changes must preserve or enhance the area and there are no such changes possible as has been evident for many years despite much money and time being thrown at the problem.

I shall be dead by 2031, probably by 2011. But what sort of a community are we going to leave for succeeding generations How human greed has changed a delightful country town which I came to in 1972.

We are ruining the very attractions which bring people to the area. How many houses and how much traffic gridlock has to be created before we say "enough is enough".

If one says it is due to unbridled immigration into this island, then one is branded as a racist. In fact it is a matter of sheer numbers of people and nothing at all to do with the colour of their skin.

BARRIE MORT

Chairman, Verulam Residents Association

St Albans

Town's future

SIR - I would like to draw to the attention of residents of Harpenden that on September 26 2009, an event is being held at Park Hall, Leyton Road, from 9.30am to 2.30pm, to gather their views on transport and highway matters in Harpenden.

The information obtained will be fed into the development of the Harpenden Local Transport Plan which the County Council will use to inform the improvement of all transportation issues in Harpenden and to identify funding for future projects.

COUNTY CLLR

TERESA HERITAGE

Deputy Executive Member Highways and Transport

SIR - Make I make an appeal to all residents, particularly those living in the north of the district, in Harpenden.

St Albans District Council is currently consulting on important issues in its Emerging Core Strategy - this consultation 'Shaping our Community' will influence the way Harpenden and St Albans District will develop and change up to 2026.

Your views are important and will be taken into account in the production of the Core Strategy Publication Document.

The consultation questionnaire can be found on www.stalbans.gov.uk or visit your local council offices or library to see the full strategy for details of the policies and the implications for Harpenden.

The consultation covers a range of issues, such as the provision of more local employment opportunities, shopping, schools, youth facilities and much more.

One contentious issue which I need to highlight, is the proposed development of 300 homes in the Green Belt in North Harpenden (Area of Search 8), which if it goes ahead will obviously have a significant impact on Harpenden, not least in the increased pressure on the local roads, schools etc.

It is important that you respond to the consultation expressing your concerns, otherwise failure to respond will effectively signify to the district council your agreement to the strategy.

The deadline for submitting your comments is September 28.

CLLR BERT PAWLE

Harpenden North Ward

SIR - I was with Town, County and District Councillors at the weekend in Harpenden raising awareness of the important issues in the Emerging Core Strategy upon which St Albans District Council is currently consulting.

On the Concourse I met with a wide cross section of the public on Saturday. Residents of Harpenden overwhelmingly expressed dismay at the prospect of development of Green Belt land to the north of the Ttown, known as Area of Search 8. The other issue which was raised as a matter of concern included schools and school provision.

This strategy, 'Shaping our Community', will influence the way Harpenden and the St Albans District will develop and change up to 2026. It is important that people understand that this is their chance to give their views. The district is consulting on policies they have drafted on such critical issues as; housing, schools, shopping, leisure and recreational opportunities, infrastructure, employment, gypsy and traveller sites and more.

The strategy proposes building 300 houses on Green Belt land in northern Harpenden which would increase traffic congestion and put extra pressure on schools.

The town council is campaigning against this. I urge residents to complete the consultation questionnaire which can be found on www.stalbans.gov.uk and not waste an opportunity they have to express their views.

For people who do not have access to the internet the questionnaire being used by St Albans is available at the Town Council Information Point.

CLLR ROSEMARY FARMER

Harpenden Town Mayor

SIR - I went to www.stalbans.gov.uk. in order to have my say by September 28 which states "The easiest way for you to respond is to register, or login if you have already registered... A travelling exhibition will be touring the district during the summer and early autumn".

The first flaw is the travelling exhibition now over! It was September 1 to 12, eight locations only with a maximum time of six hours. The ONLY one in St Albans was September 12 10am-4pm at Maltings Library, Harpenden was spread over two days, smaller village populations had the same amount of time. Hardly an extensive local consultation suitably scaled?

Why were we not all sent the dates ? Maybe they came with junk mail, not addressed personally to us residents ( unlike Tesco who manage to do that!)?

The reference document '01 Emerging Core strategy 2009 Summary Leaflet' is slick, containing many photos. To print and make sense of the maps it must be printed in colour, yet has a dark blue background, this wastes ink and is energy intensive to print. More worryingly are the generic maps which leave much open to interpretation.

So how can we get involved and have our say? The limited opportunity has passed to see the exhibitions. Why were all households not all sent the summary document ?

Then I looked at 'Emerging Core Strategy 2009 Full Document', 108 pages, not screen friendly again.

A copy will cost me £50 to order or about four hours to print the material and energy intensive document. How much were the consultants paid per council taxpayer to craft this? I suspect it became too costly to print and distribute to the consumers of the report (us)? Are those without access to the internet, printing material, or skills and finance to do this now disenfranchised?

The only plus is it is easy to register on the portal and register your views (which you all must).

So when is a consultation not a consultation? When it is initiated in the summer holidays, most consultees are away and not actually sent the material?

Where have our councillors been ?

SANDRA MILES-TAYLOR

Kings Rd

St Albans

Call for answers

SIR - I fear that arrogance appears to be endemic in our LibDem Cabinet portfolio holders. Some years ago we had Cllr Robert Donald with his fatuous claim that despite the huge ovespend evident by the halfway stage of the St Peter's Street "Enhancement" scheme it was up to him (and him alone) "seizing the moment" to authorise it proceeding to completion.

And later we had the-then portfolio holder for resources telling us (subsequently corrected) the council was spending £10million on refurbishing the car parks in Russell Avenue and Drovers Way. Now along comes Cllr Sheila Burton with the blatant inference that she and her committee know far better than anyone else what is best for Westminster Lodge. If Cllr Burton is as certain of her ground as she implies then could she answer the many cogent points put forward by Alan Strong in his intelligently reasoned and comprehensive letter (Herts Advertiser August 27), plus one from me viz.

How many different designers were consulted? She cannot escape that duty by hiding behind her implied "the council knows best!" attitude to the exclusion of so many of the concerns of her electors. But above all she should refrain from taking any irrevocable decisions without far greater consultation than the charade we have had so far.

PHILIP WEBSTER

Townsend Drive

St Albans

Museum campaign polarises opinions

SIR - I have no problem in principle with campaigning newspapers, but surely the piece "Give city a museum we can be proud of" was a touch one-sided.

I have lived in St Albans for most of my life, and I think the Museum of St Albans is an excellent attraction housed in a sensible, central location, in a very nice building.

I'm sure it can be improved (it could certainly be publicised and promoted better), but I really do shudder when I read the architectural society's Professor Michael Cooper calling for a new "landmark" building housing "other cultural resources and equipped throughout with IT".

I think we all know what that means - out with the boring, fuddy-duddy brick-built museum with its old-fashioned exhibits, and in with some awful modern metal and glass monstrosity filled with computers no-one can work out how to use.

I am not particularly old, but I have seen in my time many very nice old buildings lost in St Albans. I do not wish the museum to become another one for the tally.

B WILKINSON

Alma Road

St Albans

SIR - I am sure that all my colleagues on the group who propose a new museum be built devoted to the history of St Albans in the post-Verulamium period will be encouraged and delighted by the decision you have taken to put the full weight of the Herts Advertiser behind the campaign.

It may assist your readers if we take this opportunity to remind them that they can find out more by visiting our site on the internet at www.newmuseum4stalbans.org.uk or by writing to the Campaign Secretary, 12 Church Crescent, St Albans AL3 5JD.

It seems clear that your involvement has convinced the district council that there is strong public support for this idea whose time has come.

DENNIS OWEN

Fishpool Street

St Albans

Allotments alliance

SIR - There have been articles and correspondence in the paper concerning the Westfield Site and its proposed development.

Whilst the discussion is healthy, there is a danger that residents could be given an erroneous impression regarding allotments in Harpenden and the town council's approach and support to them.

It is not my purpose to join the debate on Westfield beyond stating some basic facts. The Westfield Site, except for four plots adjacent to Willoughby Road, was surrendered by East Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society to Harpenden Town Council about eight years ago as it was under-used and subject to vandalism.

The due process of requesting permission from the-then Secretary of State for the Environment, to remove the land from allotment use, was carried out by the town council.

I have had confirmation from East Harpenden that they do not envisage the position arising where they would want to return the Westfield Site to allotments.

Harpenden Town Council have a total of about 577 plots on 15 sites, which are managed by two societies - South Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society (nine sites with 410 plots) and East Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society (six sites with 167 plots).

The South Harpenden relationship with Harpenden Town Council goes back 40 years when the society was formed to manage the nine allotment sites on behalf of the council.

We celebrated the anniversary this year with a very successful fete which was attended by the town mayor, town clerk, the officer responsible for allotments and the town warden. The town mayor, Rosemary Farmer, expressed warm support for the society and for allotments in Harpenden.

A trustees agreement between the society and the town council sets out the responsibilities of each party and is renewed every four years.

Under this agreement, we pay a small rent which is more than covered by a grant from the council in recognition of our role in managing the sites.

The application for the grant is formally presented to the town council each year.

The council provides other support including: organising maintenance to be carried out on the sites (which has been agreed with the council, following the annual inspection), answering queries promptly, providing information about national initiatives and helping with emergency repairs throughout the year.

This is accomplished through an excellent day-to-day working relationship with the officer responsible for allotments backed up by well-established links with the town clerk and councillors.

This year Harpenden Town Council have acted to provide 12 additional plots at Cross Lane, and we in turn have acted to clear vacant plots over-run with weeds and strengthened our procedures to ensure that our plots are cultivated and not neglected.

Currently, we are 99 per cent let and our waiting list is 50. This should not put off a resident from applying, as long as they are not wanting a particular plot on a specific site.

We are lucky in Harpenden to have a good supply of plots and to have a supportive town council. Whilst I speak for South Harpenden, I am confident that East Harpenden share the same view.

For information, a standard plot is five poles, which is equivalent to 151 square yards.

CLENNELL COLLINGWOOD

Chairman, South Harpenden Allotments and Gardens Society

SIR - Clennell Collingwood has written to you expressing his Society's view of the relationship they have with Harpenden Town Council in providing and maintaining allotment sites in Harpenden.

As Chairman of East Harpenden Gardening Club I concur with his views as to the relationship and working practices which the allotment societies have with the council.

I confirm that the explanation as to how the Westfield site was handed back to the council is correct and in taking back the majority of that site relieved the society of the responsibilities attached to looking after that site. Before handing back the site we worked together with the council to ensure security of allotments to the plotholders in Willoughby Road and for the transfer to another site of the one remaining plotholder.

We have held open days at our main Batford site for the last two years and have had the council's support and help with the production of posters and advertising.

The council also help promote the allotments with the articles etc that regularly appear in the Harpenden Forum magazine which is distributed quarterly to all householders in Harpenden.

JACK LONGDON

Chairman, East Harpenden Gardening Club

City's future

SIR - Walking through St Albans last week, I was disheartened to see yet three more closure notices to add to the many empty shops in our town centre.

It is obvious that the last thing St Albans needs is a further attack on its attractions as a shopping centre, yet our council has budgeted to spend £200,000 (Herts Advertiser March 19) on its latest attempt to ban cars from St Peters Street.

It would therefore be wise to take great care when responding to consultation questionaires - expressing a desire for "reduced congestion" could very easily be misunderstood as a vote for closing St Peters Street.

MIKE BIBBY

Barncroft Way

St Albans

Crucial decisions on district's future

SIR - Your readers will be aware of the district council's ongoing 'Shaping Our Community' consultation, which ends on September 28.

The results of the consultation will be vitally important in determining planning policy for St Albans over the next 15 years and I would encourage as many people to take part as possible.

For the residents that I represent, there are a number of important issues that will be influenced by the results of this consultation.

For instance, my ward colleagues and I have strongly opposed Tesco's plans for a supermarket on the Eversheds site.

Ensuring that this site is earmarked for housing or a new primary school will make it doubly difficult for Tesco to achieve success with any revised proposal.

Other issues addressed in the consultation document include the need for affordable housing, whether a park and ride scheme could reduce city centre congestion, hotel provision in the district, the city centre shopping mix and a new cinema.

And we need to ask ourselves if these developments are desirable how can they be implemented in an environmentally friendly and energy efficient manner?

To discuss these issues and how city centre residents can make their voices heard in this process the councillors for St Peters and Clarence wards will be holding a public meeting on September 14. The meeting will take place in the Council Chamber in the Civic Centre at 7pm. All are welcome to attend.

CLLR MICHAEL GREEN

St Peters Ward

SIR - This could be 'a Tale of Two Sites', rather than two cities. In response to the government call for new houses, the St Albans District Council has been preparing an 'Emerging Core Strategy Document' to identify possible sites, some of them in the green belt, for such accommodation.

One of these sites, labelled no. 8 by the planners, lies to the north of Harpenden, and was excluded from the original plan by the district's professional planning officers, on the self-evident grounds of likely traffic congestion, shortage of school places and other amenities, and the possible peril of coalescence with the promised building of 2500 housing units in the Luton and South Bedfordshire area.

Without any reference, as far as the public record shows, to planning precepts and principles, Area 8 was then included in the strategy document by political decision.

As in the ancient game of Crown and Anchor, 'put one; take one', this has conveniently left room to remove another site to the south of St Albans which, for sound planning reasons, had originally been included.

The clue to this mystery may lie in the stricken cry of a councillor from the southern part of the borough at a meeting of the Policy Planning Advisory Panel on June 12 2007: "Harpenden must share the pain!"

In brief, the inclusion of the north Harpenden site appears to be a politically-motivated knee-jerk reaction rather than a rationally determined planning decision.

A district council ambit is just about the smallest area in which to assess and judge the development and impact of new housing. Trying to 'share the pain', sticking some houses to the north because some have been stuck in the south, is cabbage patch politics. It might lead, in logical extremis, to building a new house in every street or even obliging every household to take in lodgers...

For Harpenden is an integral part of the District Council of St Albans, not some hapless colony where separate rules apply. It is the embolden duty of all district councillors to agree a plan that would bring least detriment and most benefit to the district as a whole and not to indulge in any playground-style swapping that has little or no justification in regard of sensible planning.

This would be easily rectified by the removal of Area 8 from the schedule. Should it not be, and should the matter ever reach as far as national adjudication by the planning inspectorate, advocates of the original decision will make merry with that strangled shout of 'Harpenden must share the pain'.

ERIC MIDWINTER

Address supplied

Hospital tragedy

SIR - I write with regard to your front page story about Professor Vaughan (Herts Advertiser September 3). In 2005 my mother died at Hemel Hempstead Hospital in similar uncaring circumstances.

My feelings go out to Professor Vaughan's family. I pursued my mother's case for over a year, but to no avail.

I made complaint after complaint and went to meetings. All I ever wanted was for the powers that be at Hemel hempstead Hospital to admit there errors and to do something about the untold problems - so that similar circumstances didn't happen again. They admitted face to face that "there were issues that needed to be dealt with", and a very unsincere apology with regards to my mother's death.

They never put this in writing, no-one was held to account and my family were left without our mother and no answers.

Obviously since 2005 nothing has changed - they will tell you that the issues raised will be dealt with, but they never are. They will also close ranks to cover over any wrong doings, believe me I know, as I visited my mother for hours every day - I watched the problems going on, to such an extent I was disgusted - if only i could have done something!

I would just like to say that prior to my mother dying, my father had died at Hemel Hempstead hospital, funnily enough they were both under the same specialist, who shall remain nameless in this letter, but he will know who he is - if he reads my letter

I urge Professor Vaughan's family not to give up and am disgusted to find that four years on the exact same problems are happening. Somebody has to do something.

GILL CLAYTON(without prejudice)

Roestock Lane

Colney Heath

SIR - Having read your story on Prof Leslie Vaughan and his last few days at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, I would like to show my support to Mrs Van Der Welle and would appreciate either you printing my story or passing this on to her.

My dad, Salvatore Garofalo was 76 when he died in Hemel. After weeks and weeks of being in hospital and doctors not knowing exactly what was wrong with him, he did on May 15 2006.

Had it not been for my mum arriving to visit him, as she did every single day, he would have died on his own.

She arrived on the ward to be met by the usual hostility by staff who thought she was interfering and would be asked to wait in the day room whilst patients had their lunch. Curtains were closed around him and it was obvious he was deteriorating fast. When my mum called the nursing staff she was told that my dad was sleeping. She argued that he was not sleeping and they should call a doctor. By 3pm that afternoon, my mum called the family to tell us dad was dying.

By them monitors had been placed by his bed and his blood pressure was dropping fast. He died at 7pm that evening on a ward with six other old men eating their dinner! It was not until I started to scream and shout at staff that they vacated a side room and placed my dad in there for us to say goodbye to him.

I don't remember what the ward was called but I know it was full of elderly people. My dad was not fed unless my mum was there. When he was first moved onto the ward, we noticed how dirty it was. My mum did not like to complain as she did not want to antagonise the staff and jeopardise their willingness to let her come and go from the ward. I remember her telling me that she used wipes to clean dry blood splattered on the rails around the bed.

My dad was not helped with personal hygiene and was not given medication unless we asked (ie antibiotics etc). I know there was one particular nurse that did not like my mum or my dad sisters' being there as they were asking too many questions.

I have often thought about the way my dad was treated and how he died. I wish I had made other people aware of how the elderly are treated. I should have lodged a complaint and I take my hat off to Sian Van Der Welle, but at the time I was dealing with my own trauma, I had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was waiting to start chemotherapy. I did not feel strong enough to deal with a complaint procedure. But, I know I made myself loud and clean on the night my dad died as to how I felt about the care in that ward. Doctors, nurses and patients all heard what I had to say.

MARIA MAURO

Glenlyn Avenue

St Albans

Nurses penalised

SIR - You recently printed a letter praising the nursing staff on Sopwell Ward at St Albans Hospital (Herts Advertiser August 6). Are you aware that these same nurses are now having their staff car parking permits withdrawn. NHS staff there are now expected to either pay the rather exorbitant daily parking rate of £12.50 or attempt to find a parking space in surrounding streets.

Our highly thought of but lowly paid nurses are therefore facing the choice of being financially penalised for coming to work or placing themselves at potential risk when parking some way from the hospital. Those working shifts will be either parking their car or returning to it in the hours of darkness. It was not that long ago that a nurse was stabbed whilst walking to the hospital. I believe this to be a deplorable state of affairs. The hospital car parking rates are exorbitant when compared with commuter car parks (eg double that of St Albans City rail car park). The fact that NHS staff are being expected to pay is itself wrong. Is this how we reward our 'angels'?

STEPHEN LOVELOCK

London Road

Markyate

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