Your letters to the Herts Ad...

PUBLISHED: 08:47 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 08:47 05 December 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Pixtural

If you would like to comment on any of the stories or features which have appeared in the Herts Ad, please email hertsad@archant.co.uk

I am writing as a committee member of the Abbey Precincts Residents Association (APRA) in connection with your front page article publicising the closure of The Brickyard and your editorial on the subject.

You quote extensively from Mr Hanning who blames the attitude of residents as well as the council’s planning and licensing departments for the closure. However a glance at the Brickyard’s website shows it had odd characteristics for a supposedly neighbourhood pub: with limited opening hours (Thursday 5-11pm, Friday 5pm-1am, Saturday 2pm-1am and Sunday 2-10pm), but able to accommodate parties with up to 200 guests, indoors and out. In such circumstances it is not too surprising that neighbours were justifiably moved to complain of intolerable noise at all hours of the day and night.

A more likely reason for the announced “trading at a loss” closure is despite all his qualifications and business expertise Mr Hanning misjudged the market for a “top end hospitality business” cocktail bar/party venue in a largely residential area. Beer at £5.70 probably did not help either.

I am sure we can all sympathise that this hard-headed businessman appears to have failed with The Brickyard, and for the death of his parents. But for him to blame everyone but himself for the failure and to state that he “could not be at their bedsides when they died, because he had to be at The Brickyard to protect it from the unrelenting campaign against it” beggars belief.

And to allay the misconceptions evident in your very biased editorial, although APRA supported residents with their complaints and challenged Mr Hanning’s attempts to play the planning and licensing systems, we do welcome responsible and considerate businesses to our patch of the conservation area. Indeed they can join us too. So to describe APRA as a “cabal” is both incorrect and insulting, not just to APRA members but, because we exist to fight the residents’ corner, all residents’ associations.

Given Mr Hanning’s “trading at a loss” quote it is odd that you should state in your editorial that “The Brickyard was very successful commercially”. So unless someone is spinning a line it looks like more than a little rigour and balance would not go amiss at the Herts Ad.

APRA’s expectation was always that having developed the Brickyard to the maximum extent possible, irrespective of the impact on residents, Mr Hanning would quickly try to sell it on, so it will be interesting to see what transpires.

JOHN HEDGES

Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans

I would like to make my own comments to disappointed customers of The Brickyard and business interests, including the Herts Advertiser.

Mr Hanning has consistently portrayed himself as a victim of neighbouring residents. How can anyone who complained of disturbance in May 2015 be held to account for Mr Hanning’s distress that his father had just died – as if they would know? No-one has campaigned to have the premises closed, a false charge that he has consistently peddled. The residents are the real victims, due to the noise, disruption and stress that they have suffered.

Those who did not attend the licence review on December 4 2015 to hear the evidence of client behaviour in the next door outside areas of the premises have no right to proclaim on the behaviour of residents – they should refer to the published outcome.

The cross-party committee of councillors charged with upholding the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 found that there had been public nuisance and loss of amenity, in part due to the management’s failure to implement its own operating procedure on noise control.

As a result the rear garden and all outside doors had to close at 10pm rather than 11pm, although this condition only came into force in February 2016 after Mr Hanning withdrew his initial appeal – was he advised that the evidence was so strong that he stood little chance of overturning it? Then again, who really believes that this alone has turned a successful business into a failure in the space of six months? Can St Albans really sustain a night time economy totally dependant on high-capacity cocktail bars? The demise of good small independent businesses is something that I deplore and I have fought against.

I sympathizse with the young Brickyard staff who have lost part-time employment.

Putting my APRA hat back on I am heartily sick of The Brickyard (as your readers must be) and want to get back to supporting residents and businesses with a positive interest in sustaining what is good about our local communities and historic city.

ROBERT PANKHURST
College Street, St Albans

And so it has come to this: the battle of The Brickyard has ended. Vindictiveness has triumphed over honest industry. The financial cost to the landlord can be quantified, less so the emotional price paid.

As I returned from the market today, heavy-laden with shopping, I encountered one of the victors with his young daughter smiling a self-satisfied smile as he read the article of surrender taped to the door.

I asked how he felt about the outcome, “I can’t say I’m displeased,” he replied. I did respond politely, albeit with difficulty, and went sadly on my way.

Here is what I would have liked to say.

Now you have achieved your aim. The Brickyard is closed and unlikely to reopen other than as a domestic dwelling and with it has ended 180 years of tradition. You may compliment yourselves. The Abbey Precincts Residents Association has achieved its objective.

When you have your victory barbecue I trust you will keep it sober and decorous. I hope there will be no raucous triumphalist chanting or fortified spirits consumed. Will it be cucumber sandwiches washed down with lashings of ginger beer? I suspect not.

How soon I wonder, will the electronic gates be erected to maintain your little Stepford-style enclave free from pollution?

You claim to be custodians and guardians of the precinct. You congratulate yourselves when you compel the repainting of a Georgian portico or some other minor gentrification.

That does not make a community. That makes a theme park. Power brings with it a duty of responsibility. Your malicious campaign was an abuse of power, and from whence came this supposed power? I do not recall being consulted or notified. Was there an electoral process? If so I must have been asleep.

Ah well, a man has lost his home and his life’s savings. His staff have lost their living. That is a small price to pay for your ease and comfort.

But be content. You may now sleep soundly at night without the fear that some sneeze emanating from The Brickyard would shatter your window.

I’m intrigued as to what your next target will be. Here is a modest proposal. My secular repose is oft times broken by the tinkling of bells. Would it be possible to arrange for the campanologists in Paul of Caens Tower to be brought before the magistrate? Might choral evenson be monitored to ensure that decibel levels are legally enforced? My sadness at the outcome of your vicious and unjust war against James Hanning brings with it a feeling of great sadness that any of my neighbours could be so vindictive.

There is trouble now in my paradise. For some even the tombs it would appear would not be silent enough.

FRANK CASEY
New England Street, St Albans

Like all readers, I’m sure, we were terribly upset to read in the Herts Ad of the attack on Kimberley Reid’s young cat, Kimba, who was killed by three greyhounds

We wish to firstly express our gratitude to Ms Reid for not blaming the greyhounds, but placing the blame squarely on the owner. As regards the lack of concern from the owner of the greyhounds, we were appalled. Having rescued ex-racing greyhounds for years, we have never experienced a greyhound attacking any other animal. However, it is a sad reality that dogs of any breed might pack up together in this way to attack a weaker animal.

Any owner of more than one dog should be aware of this and be responsible enough to prevent this happening. That owner was entirely to blame for this awful incident and, as responsible dog-owners, we are incredibly disappointed that the police chose not to follow this case through. Despite Ms Reid’s wish to not take it further, that owner was in breach of the Dangerous Dogs Act as his dogs were dangerously out of control in a public place. The police, in our view, should have acted to ensure no other incidents occur with this owner.

With respect to comments by Miss MG Foster in your letters page (September 14), we feel it is vital to point out that greyhounds are not trained to kill, as she seems to suggest: chasing a lure is absolutely not equivalent to killing an animal.

Such flippant comments give a very disturbing, false, and outdated impression of greyhounds; at a time when greyhound-racing is hopefully facing its end, it is essential that we encourage people to see that ex-racing greyhounds make wonderful pets. Certainly, just as with any breed, some greyhounds have a high urge to chase: such dogs need responsible owners who ensure their dogs are kept leashed around other animals. However, like most greyhounds, our own grey friends have always been perfectly safe around kittens, puppies, screaming babies et al!

Even with this in mind, on each rescue, we always muzzle our greys until we are certain they are safe. Thankfully, none of our greys have needed to continue wearing the muzzle, but we would still never let three off the lead at once, even with two of us, as it is impossible to monitor them safely.

Regarding Miss Foster’s claim that there are laws regarding ex-racing greyhounds being walked in public fields: I have checked all legislation, including the Dangerous Dogs Act and can find nothing at all specifically mentioning greyhounds. Ms Foster may be confused by legislation in Northern Ireland, but thankfully that law is irrelevant here. Greyhound attacks are very rare, making such legislation unnecessary.

As greyhound rescuers, we consider ourselves obligated to educate the public about what wonderful family animals ex-racing greyhounds can be, and we enjoy doing so. Our own wonderful dogs are scarred physically and mentally by their time as racers.

Despite this, they are loyal, loving animals who very rarely bark and like nothing more than flopping on the sofa, legs in the air, cuddling up to mum or dad. The world has been cruel to them but our greys are never cruel in return. They make great pets – they actually need less exercise than other breeds (two half hour walks daily, with cuddles and playtime in the other rare times they’re awake!).

Greyhounds are stunningly beautiful, silly, funny, dozy, lazy, sleepy sofa-surfers, not killers. Unfortunately, this one owner’s incomprehensible actions (or rather ‘inaction’) towards his greyhounds could have done so much damage to greyhound rescue - at a time when the cause is so vital. Please follow Kimberly Reid’s example and blame the owner, never the breed.

THE TAYLOR FAMILY

Hatfield Road, St Albans

I refer to your article about the problem of aircraft noise associated with Luton Airport.

It was clear from the comments that many communities are suffering from this.

I was annoyed to read the comments attributed to Tracy Harvey who is head of planning at St Albans vouncil.

If correctly reported, she has fallen into the trap of playing one community against another, which must be music to Luton Airport’s ears.

As far as I am aware the centre line of the east west route already passes between Sandridge and Wheathampstead ie over Nomansland Common. By independently asking Luton to move it further north, it may help Sandridge but at the expense of Wheathampstead, where I live.

In our village we already suffer unacceptable over flying by aircraft which do not stick to the route, including those that routinely veer off North to get en route to Northern Europe destinations quicker than by staying on the allotted corridor longer, in order to avoid overflying communities.

As she is also concerned about over flying Batchwood, Marshalswick as well as Sandridge, it seems to me that they are doing the same over these areas in order to get more quickly en route to Southern Europe destinations.

My point is one that I have made before. The district must have a co-ordinated response on this, otherwise Luton will just play us off against each other.

As head of planning, Tracey has a responsibility for the whole district and should be more careful before representing one part at the expense of another. I don’t know how the list of special invitees to the meeting was compiled but hope someone from Wheathampstead and indeed every community that is blighted by this problem was invited because otherwise the meeting could end up doing more harm than good.

ANDREW ROBLEY

Wheathampstead

On behalf of The Salvation Army, I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those who supported this year’s annual appeal.

Once again, the residents of St Albans responded with the utmost generosity and it has been very uplifting to acknowledge the trust and confidence they place in an organisation that is committed to care for thousands of

people in this country who are vulnerable or in desperate need.

All can be assured that every single penny will be invested in the Salvation Army’s diverse programme of life-changing social and community services. These include bringing help to the homeless, running care homes and day centres, reuniting families through the Family Tracing Service and providing a place of safety for victims of human trafficking and others who have found themselves either forgotten or excluded by society.

LIEUTENANT PAUL WILLIAMS

The Salvation Army, St Albans

Further to your article by Sophie Crockett “One year on for life-changing refuge charity” (September 8)

I read with great interest your article on StAR, the St Albans refugee charity. The generosity of the people in St Albans towards refugees has been amazing and heart-warming, a welcome antidote to the shameful stories of racism and hatred of foreigners that followed the Brexit vote.

As a member of the St Albans Amnesty International Group, I would like to draw your readers’ attention to another group in Hertfordshire that has sprung up during last year’s summer, when the terrible plight of the refugees became apparent: the Hertfordshire Welcomes Syrian Families (HWSF) Group.

The group was formed with the aim to convince Hertfordshire councils to take in refugees in accordance with the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. It originally consisted of the four Amnesty International groups in Herttfordshire (St Albans, Welwyn Hatfield and East Herts, North Herts and Watford., the local Quaker community, and the Peace and Justice Group of St Andrew’s Church in Hertford.

Local churches, faith groups and the local Syrian community soon joined. By early 2016 nine out of our 10 local authorities had committed themselves to accept Syrian families and Herts county council was won over.

Now there are 10 Syrian families in Hertfordshire.

Journalist Ghiades Aljundi who found refuge in the UK 18 years ago after fleeing torture and imprisonment in Syria, now dedicates his life to helping others. He said: “When people are welcomed they feel hope – they need that more than anything. That gives people back their humanity and dignity.”

The people in Hertfordshire have started doing just that.

The St Albans Amnesty Group meets every second Wednesday of the month (except August) at 8pm at the Friend’s Meeting House, 7 Upper Lattimore Road, St Albans AL1 3UD. Please look at our website www.amnesty.org.uk/stalbans and come along if you are interested.

MARIA HARLAN

Press officer Amnesty International St Albans group

The proposed developments of the rail freight terminal and at Park Street roundabout are not the only imminent threats to Green Belt land near St Albans.

In addition, a complete new standalone settlement of 1,130 houses and a 15 pitch gypsy site is planned between Wheathampstead and Hatfield in the middle of high grade well used Green Belt land at Symonshyde Wood, close to the John Bunyan and Crooked Chimney pubs, with inevitable additional strain on local roads and facilities. Symonshyde Great Wood is home to rare butterflies, plant species and deer and is extensively used by walkers, cyclists and dog walkers.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council have not formally consulted any local people, parish or district councils but have apparently rubber stamped this site for development. Unless local people object, formal approval for development will follow.

Public consultation will only be publicised in Welwyn and Hatfield but anyone who uses this area just to the north of St Albans or who will be impacted by the development is urged to register on the Welwyn Hatfield website as a “consultee” - www.consult.welhat.gov.uk/common/register.jsp .

Find out more at www.save-symondshyde.co.uk

JENNY HARRISON

Sandridge

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