Your letters to the Herts Ad...

PUBLISHED: 09:30 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:30 04 September 2017

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Am I alone in feeling concerned about the increasing volume of cycle traffic using pavements in and around St Albans city centre?

I know that this is a subject likely to open a can of worms but here goes.

Clearly, in defence of the cyclist, for many years prior to the “Think Bike” campaign and subsequent high profile coverage of the issues involved, many drivers had a cavalier and frankly dangerous attitude towards cyclists. The effect of those campaigns in reducing road accidents and deaths involving cyclists and motorists is to be welcomed.

However, it does seem to me that the balance of responsibility between cyclists and other road users, particularly pedestrians, has moved too far the other way. I am aware that there is an element of discretion in the legislation covering the riding of cycles on footpaths.

Basically, to do so is a Fixed Penalty Notice offence which carries a fine of £50.

Ministerial guidance issued back in 2009 advised that police should exercise discretion in such cases where cyclists used footpaths if said cyclists were fearful of riding on the roads or when navigating difficult junctions. I have some sympathy with that.

However, it does seem to me that riding on footpaths is now becoming the default norm rather than the necessary exception.

I can understand parents with children on small bikes using the pavements in St Peter`s Street. Indeed, last Market Wednesday I observed a crocodile of three - Dad in front with two small ones behind - all wearing helmets and all riding very carefully and slowly down towards the Cathedral on their way to the park.

No problem with that but there are many more adult cyclists using footpaths and even on moderately busy days, our streets in and around town are full of young mothers with pushchairs - and senior citizens who are not always nimble on their pins -- and who, on many occasions, I have seen startled by the sudden appearance of a cyclist weaving in and out of foot traffic.

The problem is compounded when such cyclists are riding at speed and the recent court case concerning the tragic death of a pedestrian in London two years ago is sad proof of how dangerous the interface between pedestrians and cyclists can be.

Am I alone in believing this is a problem and potentially as dangerous to pedestrians as careless drivers were (and still are) to cyclists ?

By email

The recent report on vulnerable families by Action for Children comes as no surprise to Home-Start in Hertfordshire.

Last year we supported over 600 families referred to us by health and social care professionals.

Home-Start Hertfordshire CEO Lara Norris is particularly concerned that the gap between services is widening and that we should takes steps now to ensure that the children in these families get all of the help they need.

Hertfordshire County Council take their safeguarding responsibilities seriously and those children in immediate danger of harm are top of their agenda.

For families who need a little bit of advice and support the children’s centres provide a good general service. The report however looks at those families who fall between the two services.

Many of the families we support do not meet the threshold for child protection. They are parents who want the best for their children but find accessing other services difficult. Less than 30 per cent of our families across Hertfordshire are accessing children’s centres when referred by a health professional.

It is essential that we acknowledge the severity of the issues and that it is happening right here in Hertfordshire. We welcome this important report from Action for Children. At Home-Start we recognise the vital services provided by Children Centre’s and Social Services.

A recent questionnaire of our referrers found that Home-Start were in a unique position of trust with families identified as ‘hard to reach’.

Now is the time to take action and so Home-Start Hertfordshire is holding a crisis meeting open to all organisations working in Hertfordshire with vulnerable families. We have written to all Children’s Centre lead agencies and would like to hear from other organisations who would like to take part.

Now is the time to act to ensure that vulnerable families get the support they need in time to prevent escalation. Knowing that this is happening and failing to act is to let down all of the children and families in the area and will cost us as a society in the long run. We hope that other organisations will join with us to ensure that Hertfordshire is the county of opportunity for every child.

Chief executive, Home-Start Herts

Why does St Albans City not have an outdoor skate park?

Without doing any research I can assume this is due to a stigma against skating. The “gangs, crimes and violence” that comes with a skate park, the underage drink and drugs that the people of St Albans, a city well known for its high house prices, expensive rail links into London and right wing Tory voters, would rather not be associated with.

Today we are worrying about childhood obesity, video game addicts and the young people hanging out on street corners wearing hoodies.

An outdoor skate park solves these problems; it provides a safe space for young people to take part in free physical activity, teach each other and socialize without getting into trouble, because they are not bored.

If you take away the facilities for them to enjoy something for free, young people become bored leading to anti-social behaviour. Skateboarding, like other sports helps tackles physical and mental health, two key issues in young people today.

Young people do this, just like football, tennis and any other sport not especially for these positive gains, but naturally, for enjoyment and as a hobby. These side effects are purely a welcome bonus that we should honour and endorse.

Drink, drugs and anti social behaviour is going to happen on the streets among young people no matter what, skate parks will not encourage it.

However what they will do is create a space, which is designed for the interest of the young person, meaning any anti social behaviour that occurs will be contained dampening the impact. Also having a particular “hang out spot” as the skate park would be, allows parents, locals and the police to be aware of where young people are, isolating threatening incidents and making them easier to handle.

People in and around St Albans Cathedral have complained for years of the young people skating up and down the side of the building.

Young people are doing this because they want to skate and there is nowhere for them to go, other than the pioneer skate park, an indoor park charging on entry with specific opening hours (closing at 3pm on a Saturday).

St Albans Cathedral is located at the top of Verulanium Park, a huge park with a museum, lake, pub, a children’s playground including a splash park.

Verulanium has plenty of space and would be the ideal location for a skate park in an area where we know demand is already high. So I repeat my question, why does St Albans city not have an outdoor skate park?

By email

In response to ‘Musicians piping up around removal of 100-year-old organ from St Albans church’, published online August 18 [and in this issue on p12-13], I would like to pose Mr Humbert the question: for whose benefit is the church and therefore its organ as well?

St Paul’s church opened in 1910 and in the 100-plus years since then has carefully navigated a path between traditionalists and modernisers, successfully keeping up with the times.

Consequently St Paul’s, as a congregation, bucks trends elsewhere and continues to grow, welcoming 350-plus worshippers each week across three different services.

With a sizeable congregation comes a sizeable income and a responsibility to use it wisely. For example, the building work completed at St Paul’s to upgrade and enlarge its facilities not only enables the church to function for itself but also the community around it.

The church is not just open on a Sunday but throughout the week; 1,000-plus people pass through the doors to attend the many groups that use the buildings. Each week volunteers from the church provide free services to the community such as toddler groups, debt management, counselling and senior citizen lunches, to name but a few.

In order for all this to happen all resources (time, money, space, people etc) need to be carefully managed.

So the church has to consider whether to maintain an ageing, seldom used, conglomerate organ with sentimental rather than intrinsic value and niche interest; or to divert its resources to benefit the majority of its congregation and its 1,00-plus community users.

Should the church be sentimental or pragmatic? Should the church look to the past or its future? Is the church for the many or the few?


Hazelwood Drive, St Albans

I see that contributors have twice been confused in recent weeks as to how freight trains would access the Radlett rail freight depot. If you check the plans as submitted you will see access for trains is clearly shown as via a connection off the “up slow line,” that is the one on the east side heading towards London, not the fast tracks which are on the west side.

The new connection would then tunnel below all four tracks to reach the terminal. There has never been a suggestion of access direct from the fast lines.

A little further south huge freight trains carrying aggregate for Redland Lafarge regularly enter the Harperbury Lane freight depot by a siding off the same “Up Slow” line.

There are many similar freight train movements along the length of the Midland line mostly unseen and having little impact on passenger services.

Cravells Road, Harpenden

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