Time to stop

PUBLISHED: 12:13 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 May 2010

SIR, - How long do we the council tax payers have to go on putting up with the ever-escalating costs of originally well-intentioned but ill-conceived road schemes for the centre of St Albans. We had the one-way system in the 1980s that brought traffic to

SIR, - How long do we the council tax payers have to go on putting up with the ever-escalating costs of originally well-intentioned but ill-conceived road schemes for the centre of St Albans. We had the one-way system in the 1980s that brought traffic to a complete standstill and killed off business. We have now suffered months of city-centre safety improvements, environmental beautification, dangerous cycle lanes and yet the leader of St Albans District Council, Cllr Robert Donald, says without any consultation let's go for a full closure of St Peter's Street. Before we go any further with off-the-hook, costly decisions, let's think everything through and be realistic. Pedestrianisation has been a Utopian goal for decades, particularly for those who hate the motor car. It is a policy nationally pursued by Two-Jags Prescott and a Government that condemns those who dare to persist using their cars and stand in the way of politically-correct, sustainable, pollution-free transport systems. Drivers must put up with a future of bans, complex traffic systems and even more restrictions. Drivers are the enemies of society. What the idealists forget is that the car, for better or worse, plays a vital role in modern urban as well as rural life. Let's be realistic - the car is here to stay and has been for decades. An integrated transport system with good public transport is a very worthy aim but drivers simply should not be bullied off the road. There are so many other implications to consider. The problem for St Albans is that it is a very old city with a great history but narrow streets, totally unsuitable for adaption to a new-town, purpose-built, pedestrianised centre. Dreamers and planners should face up to the inescapable conclusion that it cannot afford the environmental luxury of a totally-pedestrianised centre. To make such a centre viable would require an inner circle road with more car parks and the demolition of hundreds of houses - a rebuilt city. The danger is that any ill-planned scheme will have the exact opposite effect to what dreamers want - that is kill off the city centre. Just look at what happened in Edinburgh. A left-wing council tried to impose a total ban on traffic in Princes Street. The effect - a 30 per cent drop in trading takings, even worse congestion and pollution in the side roads. The scheme is now in reverse. Common sense prevailed. Any half-way scheme for St Albans - and it could only be half-way - would involve buses, taxis and delivery vehicles being allowed to proceed through St Peter's Street all the time. Even at 20mph that's even more dangerous to pedestrians as well as meaning traffic jams in the side roads. Now in the latest Retail Report by G.L. Hearn, the district council are recommended to reconsider a new shopping development by pulling down the police station and surrounds. It is hoped that there would be an anchor department store in it - but what store could ever be attracted there before we have sorted out our existing congestion and parking problems - and more to the point, will the pedestrianisers or the planners consider the full implications of another shopping precinct in the city and how it links in with their scheme? Some might say why should a Harpenden resident be so concerned. I have lived in both St Albans and Harpenden for 40 years, for 35 years as a retailer and a member of the St Albans Chamber for all that time. St Albans is a very natural draw for Harpenden residents but we are deterred by the difficulties of parking and the traffic congestion of recent months. One of your writers stated there had been hardly any inconvenience to shoppers recently - not surprising as we all went to Watford, Welwyn Garden City, Brent Cross etc and gave St Albans a wide berth, except on Sundays. I wonder why. It was also said shoppers like pedestrianisation. You can always get the answers you want if you word your questions carefully. Criticise me for not putting any new positive proposals forward but let's think twice or even three times before making yet another crackpot mistake that will impose even more burdens on the council tax payers. Nothing is impossible in life if we approach this all realistically. Up to now this has been tackled with respect in a rather amateurish way encouraged by an anti-car lobby that does not pay sufficient attention to commercial realism and the way we actually live. Nearly all of us use cars and we need our shops to survive. If they do not, the centre will die and we will then all be forced to drive to out-of-town centres using the car even more. Full-scale pedestrianisation is not the answer for St Albans. MICHAEL WEAVER, Harpenden Town Councillor.

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