Herts Ad letters from the public: December 24
- Credit: Archant
‘Doff your cap’ to future monarch
SIR - Why can the Herts Ad not refer to Prince William by his proper title instead of “Wills”? I find this ‘blokeish’ reference to the future King quite inappropriate and disrespectful.
PAUL SUGDEN The Slype, Gustard Wood
SLP sounds death knoll for Harpenden
SIR - I would be so grateful if, through your pages, I could have answers, from a representative of Herts county council or St Albans district council to some questions that I simply cannot resolve in my own mind. I have lived within walking distance to the local Harpenden High Street and station for almost 40 years. This is an enormous privilege for which I grow more grateful with each passing day. Meanwhile, inside a radius of almost a mile and a half, our local streets, my own included, are clogged with parked cars or blighted by yellow lines because of commuters who use Harpenden station and who arrive in the early morning and leave in the evening, frequently blocking access to drives, often half on and half off the pavement. Harpenden High Street, Station Road and the Lower Luton Road are gridlocked for several hours each day. Parking in the centre of the town is a nightmare. Harpenden children can no longer be guaranteed a place at their local school as there is such pressure for places that the building of a new secondary school is proposed on the aforementioned gridlocked Lower Luton Road. Builders’ vans proliferate throughout the town usually parked on pavements, as people moving into the town decide that a normal family home is no longer adequate for their family’s needs. Harpenden seems to have become a suburban Kensington with its grandiose mansions. Our excellent GPs surgeries are already struggling to cope with an ever expanding population. And now it is proposed to build 1,500 new “affordable” houses in north east Harpenden. Should the people who buy these houses be forced to live in a ghetto, forbidden from entering Harpenden and from using the station, schools, and GPs surgeries so that there will be no impact to the rest of Harpenden from the likely 4,000 or more, residents and 3,000 cars that will result from 1,500 new homes? So my questions for our local representatives are: Why have there been no moves towards building a multi-storey car park at the station to relieve the pressure on the residential streets around the town? Why is the new secondary school likely to be built in one of the most congested roads in the town (As a matter of interest, no matter how hard you look online, it is almost impossible to find out how the decision was make to site this much-needed school in such a place)? Will the same number of GPs have to deal with the increased population (I bet they’re delighted at the prospect)? Are there any plans to reduce the traffic pressure throughout the town? Are local Harpenden children any more likely to be guaranteed a place in a Harpenden school near to where they live? How long will the “affordable” homes stay that way before the new owners start to extend them and take them up market, thus no longer making them “affordable”?
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If there is anyone out there who feels that they can answer any of my queries, I would be most grateful.
VICKI RODGER Grasmere Avenue, Harpenden
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Kafkaesque saga of unwanted chimney
SIR - In relation to the saga of the chimney and noxious fumes from the North Orbital Estate featured in the Herts Advertiser. It is a sad reflection on the Kafkaesque current state of our planning laws’ bias in favour of developers that this unlawful activity is able to continue for the time being. The facts of the matter are that CityGate Automotive, with flagrant disregard for existing conditions both in local planning permissions and in the conditions specified in their lease, and without any application for either building or change of use permissions until found out, came in and started an industrial activity on a site where the existing permissions (restricted to warehousing and distribution) did not allow such activity precisely in order to safeguard the interests of people living nearby. These original environmentally sensitive permissions of 1977 were reaffirmed by a planning inspector in 1993 in a case about Unit 16. In February last CityGate erected an enormous chimney which within a month was creating, albeit intermittently, noise akin to an idling jet engine and spewing out unpleasant and respiratory affecting odours creating discomfort, inconvenience and nuisance to local residents in Meadowcroft and Newbarnes Avenue. After a protracted application period, on October 12 St Albans planning (development control) committee south to their great credit rejected the retrospective change of use application and refused permission to re-site the offending chimney. There is no compelling local or national economic reason to alter the current permitted use of the property. The change of use was inappropriate and the case simply was not made. But here comes Kafka centre stage - after months flitting about the wings. Since October 12 the original offending chimney has come down but CityGate have gone ahead and built the replacement chimney proposed in the application which was refused in October. There have been a number of incidences since of noxious emissions and noise. Officers are aware of this, and have not approved it, but they are unable to enforce stoppage of activities as Citygate have six months to appeal the refusal of change of use. What seems even more absurd is that in the event of refusal again, they have the right to appeal any enforcement order that SADC may issue regarding their activity. This could drag on yet for more than a year. It should also be said that broadly speaking throughout this case (there has been occasional exceptions) the SADC planning officers have seemed more intent on finding ways of accommodating the unlawful activity than seeking to affirm existing permissions. This is disheartening, but residents are determined to fight on. It seems incredible that a firm can just come in and establish an industrial activity on a site completely ignoring existing protective permissions and without any of the necessary permissions (only sought after prompting) and that they could still be given them. Residents take a dim view of CityGate. Their CEO’s bemoaning the lack of opportunity to talk to residents in the wake of his October 12 debacle is pathetic - no attempt whatsoever has been made to inform or talk with residents. Water-based paints or not, CityGate have exhibited a not dissimilar institutional disregard in relation to emissions as Volkswagen whose vehicles they handle. The emissions experienced by residents were/are very unpleasant and have been physically affecting. CityGate’s activity is already too large for the site, being the only units on the North Orbital Estate with associated vehicles parked on the roads outside unit areas, in contravention of local signs. CityGate have been utterly self interested and inconsiderate. They spotted what they thought an opportunity, doubtless rented at warehousing rates, for creating a situation of industrial use without consulting anyone in advance and now they are still seeking to have their blatantly unlawful behaviour legitimised. To residents this appears manifestly unjust. There is something morally wrong and preposterous about a system that could retrospectively accomodate this virtual piracy and it should not be condoned by any self-respecting council. The decision of the St Albans planning (development control) committee south on October 12 is to be applauded, and I would trust that over the next months the SADC councillors and their officers, as guardians of our local community, have the courage to stand by it.
DONALD MUNRO Meadowcroft, St Albans
Living in the real world over SRFI
SIR - My first reaction to T R Williams’ pro railfreight letter of December 3 was one of amused incredulity. Surely he must be joking? Then I realised his implausible solutions were serious and deserved a factual response. Let’s try. Of course, I suppose anything is possible if there’s limitless cash to throw around (whose?) and you don’t care much about sustainability and the environment. Bearing in mind Network Rail hasn’t even costed the necessary infrastructure works to serve any depot, I suggest it is unlikely many of Mr Williams’ ‘solutions’ would have crossed their minds. Like constructing a new railway route just to solve the Kentish Town and Elstree tunnel problems. I am sure the councils and residents of Finchley and Hampstead would support that - not. All for 12 freight trains! His idea of servicing the depot only from the north is possible, but would still leave, at the least, Ampthill tunnel to be dealt with. Unfortunately, he appears to overlook the fact that the main container ports are in the south - at Felixstowe, the Thames Estuary and Southampton. This idea would mean freight trains travelling miles and extra miles around the country, often on already congested routes like the East Coast Mainline. This would escalate costs and make Helioslough’s trains uneconomic. Any link to the ‘Euston Line’ would also create problems as the West Coast Mainline from London is already at capacity, which is one of the reasons advocated for building HS2. One of Mr Williams’ ideas has been looked at: that of using existing gauge wagons through the tunnels. This would mean the use of either smaller containers or just one, instead of two, of standard continental gauge slung down between the bogies. So the payload is effectively halved. Helioslough doesn’t like this and would probably deem it cheaper to use juggernaut lorries instead. Better not go there! As for his concreting over even more land to stack lorries and trains. Sorry, words fail me. This so-called Strategic Rail Freight Interchange is in the wrong place, not properly costed, and bound to cause havoc. A thoroughly bad planning decision by the erstwhile Eric Pickles. Please, no more prohibitive pipedreams on how to serve this unwanted monstrosity. Get real!
ERIC ROBERTS Fishpool Street, St Albans
SIR - Further to previous correspondence on the subject of the rail freight terminal, it is encouraging that the county council will now reconsider selling the proposed site and maybe the whole issue will disappear. However, if the county council are forced to, or decide to, sell then someone is going to buy the site and build something on it. It is with that in mind that I have previously implied championing a Rail Freight Terminal solution, albeit with caveats attached to reduce the likely impact of such a scheme. I have previously heard of a rumour to build a ‘super sized’ hospital. Other alternatives might be a residential, retail or leisure solution, or a combination of these. All of these alternative solutions would have a negative impact on the surrounding area due to much larger numbers of people usage, placing a huge burden on infrastructure services and roads. When any developer gets into a detailed scheme design development stage, Network Rail, the Department of Transport and the planning authority will have an obligation to protect and honour their respective duties. Then perhaps a solvable solution may evolve.
TR WILLIAMS North Riding, Bricket Wood
Fundamentalist flaws expose bigots
SIR - A dearly loved member of my family is gay and has been with her partner for over 30 years. Their relationship has been a source of blessing to themselves and everyone who knows them. They are wonderful pair whose relationship is, as good as, if not better than most of the married couples I know. So what are we to make of some ‘Christians’ who assert that God is one hundred percent loving and his fundamental nature is love, yet this very same God condemns faithful loving gay couples? Can these ‘Christians’ not see a glaring contradiction here? They do this because of some verses in the Bible that they take literally. But here they are inconsistent and highly selective. In the Old Testament we do find a few verses condemning homosexuality but in the same place we find farmers condemned for planting two different crops in the same field! But I have never heard of any Christians getting annoyed at the many farmers in Hertfordshire who have large fields and plant one crop in one half and another in the rest. In the New Testament St Paul seems to condemn homosexuality too. But he also tells women to cover their heads, be silent in church and obey their husbands. He tells slave-owners to treat their slaves well but apparently has no objection to slavery. Do Christians who condemn practising gays accept these teaching too and, if not, why not? The bottom line is this. These fundamentalist Christians cannot have it both ways. If God is love he would not condemn true love in gay people. If he did condemn them he would not be good! I wonder if these ‘Christians’ realise what a bad advert they are for their religion? Decent moral people can do no other than, sadly, see them as bigots and turn away repelled. However I’m pleased to say that, in St Albans at least, most Christians welcome gay couples and have no truck with homophobia. Hooray!
LAURIE GIBSON Verulam Road, St Albans
Time to chill out over global warming
SIR - In reply to the correspondence from the Friends of the Earth I will make the following comments. Firstly, the supposed increase of temperature from pre-industrial times is 0.85c not 1c, I feel that rounding up the value seems like cheating! Secondly, the 2c limit before Armageddon sets in agreed by our leaders and betters (!) seems rather low and not that different from natural variation. We will not see any difference in extreme weather events unless the earth decides to have one of its periodic wobbles and plunges us into another ice age. Thirdly, with the CO2 level passing 400ppm, well never mind, my plants have never done so well, utilising all that CO2 to grow bigger and better than ever! I am afraid that so-called man-made climate change is another thing that we have been told we should worry about along with terrorism, crime, financial meltdown and immigration. Lighten up, stop worrying, and enjoy what you have in life, however modest, the world will look after itself.
G GOLDRING Hardwicke Place, London Colney