Letter, March 13, 2014

Kerry Pollard: Green Belt destroyer

SIR – It has to be recognised that Kerry Pollard as a former St Albans MP has done some good work in the area over the years and he is to be congratulated for that. But where I, and no doubt others, part company with him is over his apparent enthusiasm for destroying the Green Belt with building developments, like his recent involvement in the controversial Hilton Hotel scheme for example. That is why when he proposed the idea for a much needed Park Street by-pass, but at the cost of accepting the development of a large housing estate on the Green Belt, it received little support because Park Street residents are passionate about protecting the Green Belt. Shortage of housing is a problem but protecting and retaining the natural environment is much more important. It’s patently obvious that we cannot go on destroying all of our green spaces and urbanising the natural environment without it continuing to degrade our quality of life and contributing to the sorts of consequences, like the flooding and mass extinction of other animals, that we are now beginning to see happening. I think it is a pity that the local Labour Party took a backward step in re-selecting Kerry Pollard as their Parliamentary candidate whose attitude on the Green Belt belongs in the past and didn’t instead choose someone whose environmental credentials are more progressive and in keeping with the current situation.

PAUL WILKINSON Watling Street, Park Street

Green Belt needs to be reviewed

SIR – Re: The sanctity of the Green Belt. What was, possibly, sacred in 1947 is merely a shibboleth now! The Town and Country Planning Act successfully halted the urban sprawl of London – appropriate when there were 50 million of us; now we are 13.7 million more and a rethink is well overdue. The NIMBYs will deny the right for young couples to own homes locally, condemn our children and grandchildren to a lifetime of renting – or to live in a home so distant from their work that they will lose all community. Or they will assist their children to buy with equity release on their overpriced homes and condemn themselves to an old age of debt. Of course, local politicians will support the NIMBYs; there is no political mileage in new thinking. Our city and district council has no Strategic Plan because it was in review when the new planning law came into effect and much that it contained was in conflict with Planning Act 2013. (Modern thinking!) Sustainable development (sound drainage and planting plenty of trees) on Green Belt land would bring jobs, prosperity and more local government revenue – improved services and a better quality of life for most of us – at the cost perhaps of reduced house price inflation. Or is that really the NIMBYs point? – “Really, I am worried what building will do to the value of my home.”

JIM WARRILOW Tippendell Lane, St Albans

Park and ride for airfield site

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SIR – In response to Mr Pollard`s letter, I suggest a park and ride system would be a suitable and highly desirable, alternative use for the Radlett Airfield site. The system would cover the south side of St Albans and, if needed the west side of Hatfield. Congestion is appalling in St Albans and will become worse as more housing and retail developments are built. We all breathe in polluted air, even those with no access to a vehicle. Tinkering with traffic lights or easing junctions, achieves nothing even in the short term. The only solution is to reduce the volume of traffic. The objection will of course be cost but we already own the land and any future developer of the remainder of the airfield site would be required to kick start the scheme and underwrite it for the next 10 years. Given the political will this will be possible. Other cities, even old Roman ones, already have park and ride systems.

PHILIP REA Watling Street, St Albans We’re drowning in a sea of coffee

SIR – Reader! Put down that cappuccino, and pay attention. Yes, those rumours were right. That anonymous Change of Use Notice outside the old Monsoon shop announces that Café Nero’s hoping to come to town, and wants to turn an elegant retail space into a two-storey coffee emporium. Oh no, not another one, I hear you cry. So what to do about it? Wipe that smear of froth off your cheek, and get writing. Who to? Oh, your grammar! Write to the Head of Planning, Civic Centre, St Peter’s Street, St Albans AL1 4EQ, or email planning @stalbans.gov.uk. Quote the Reference Number: 5/2014/0228, and send a copy to the Chief Executive, James Blake: address as above, or email james.blake@stalbans.gov.uk What do I write about? It’s the Change of Use, stupid. That’s the whole point. So object to it. Café Nero wants this Change of Use at 30/32 Market Place from Class Ai (retail) to mixed Class A1 and Class A3 (restaurants and cafés). If this is refused, the premises can’t be set up for selling coffee. So object, and again I say, object. If this wretched plan goes through, don’t forget the possible fate of our much-loved independent coffee shops. Nero could well fiddle while Barrissimo burns. And think how the city’s coffee saturation is affecting St Albans’ image as a good place to shop. The council has no real retail policy – just a vague 90 per cent/10 per cent shops and eateries ratio, which must be way unbalanced by now. So what could go into this lovely listed building – something that St Albans needs? How about a quality art materials and craft store (remember CRA?), or a haberdasher’s (think Great British Sewing Bee), or even a modest veggie restaurant and shop (like Planet Organic)? Send in your comments as soon as possible. The case could be decided by the council’s Planning Committee on Monday, March 31, at 7pm in the Council Chamber. To confirm, phone the council on 01727 866100. Do come – we need a good turnout! There, that feels better, doesn’t It? Plenty to write about. Oh, your cappuccino’s gone cold. Shall I get you another one?

MARION HAMMANT West View Road, St Albans

SIR – Where have all the little retail shops gone? Gone to coffee shops everywhere. When will we ever learn? I understand another large chain is to take over yet another retail unit. These multi-national coffee chains must be having an effect on the profits of smaller local cafés that have been here for many years. I am off to do my shopping in the small, interesting shops of Hitchin. The car parking too is much easier than in St Albans!

MRS D WHEELER Hillside Road, St Albans

No need for delays in lights repairs

SIR – I am writing to express my concern at the dangerous situation on London Road and the junction with Drakes Drive. I understand that the traffic lights at this junction failed on the morning of Sunday, February 16. This has meant long delays for motorists especially at the weekend and has also posed potential dangers for the pupils of Samuel Ryder Academy. Why has it taken so long to address this problem? I drive past this area on a daily basis and see little or no activity. The workforce involved seem to spend little time working and a lot of time on their mobile phones. What little effort that takes place does not last more than a couple of hours. This problem should have been sorted out rapidly, but there does not seem to be any urgency. How many more weeks will this situation be allowed to continue and at what cost? This needs to be addressed and urgently.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Don’t take away bus passes lifeline

SIR – Ken Surbaws writes in your February 27 issue that “most pensioners do not use the buses” as a basis for withdrawing their bus pass entitlement, yet offers no evidence whatsoever to support his dubious claim. My own experience, as a non car-owning pensioner, is that on many bus services the vast majority of passengers are pass holders, without whom these services might well face closure. Mr Surbaws appears to be unaware that bus operators receive an agreed amount from the county council for the number of pass holders recorded as travelling on the specific service; and hence bus routes receive financial support based on actual ridership levels, rather than an arbitrary amount. Issuing a bus pass to a pensioner incurs no cost unless it is actually used for travel. Mr Surbaws also states that “the cost of bus travel is prohibitively expensive for our young people”, although many of these will in fact be wage earners. Why does he assume that the cost would not also be a deterrent to older people if deprived of their bus passes, which are a lifeline to many for shopping and social purposes? Not to mention the fact that every bus passenger represents one less car on Hertfordshire’s over-crowded roads!

ROGER PENNELL St Stephens Hill, St Albans

Time to tackle our litter problems

SIR – This is a picture of rubbish collected on a half mile stretch of country lane recently. Dare I suggest that healthy young people on Jobseekers Allowance do litter picking to earn this money?

PAT LEISHMAN Carisbrooke Road, Harpenden

SIR – I have reported this before, but nothing ever appears to be done. The litter comprising of general rubbish and the blue disposable gloves which have been discarded from the Sainsbury’s garage in Barnet Road, London Colney, is absolutely disgusting, it is an eyesore and totally environmentally dangerous, and I am surprised a global company like Sainsbury’s which prides itself on being environmentally friendly allows this sort of contamination to continue. How much does it take to litter pick? This used to be a nice clean village, until these global corporations including McDonald’s flexed their muscles and moved in, and pretty much destroyed the local shops and environment. Please would it be possible to send a litter picking team urgently to this area to clean up the mess which has initially been caused by these greedy global corporations who really do not care about anyone apart from themselves.


Grateful thanks

SIR – I would like to say a big thank you to the people in Barnfield Road who came to my help on Sunday, February 9, when I fell over. Many thanks to you all.

JOAN STANLEY Hughenden Road, St Albans

Caught out during recent rail chaos

SIR – So S Beaver had problems with the bus operators on January 11 relating to the rail chaos of that day (Your Views, February 20). He was lucky that a Uno Buses driver accepted his rail ticket, I was not so lucky. On the day in question, I bought a travelcard from Radlett to London not realising there were no services, I was advised by the clerk that it was valid on bus services to Borehamwood or Watford (Uno 602 or 655), as there was no replacement bus service from Radlett Station to London. I decided to travel to Borehamwood, then to Edgware by a TfL service, where I would use the Tube service into London, unfortunately the 655 driver did not accept my Travelcard, forcing me to pay another £3.50 to do this. Although the Travelcard was used I have been advised to try and reclaim the £3.50 bus fare from FCC, which is hardly worth the effort, having heard tales of how long it takes to be reimbursed by any rail operator.

R JAMES Frogmore, Park Street Not a black and white world

SIR – “Obviously there’s a God. Now stop your worrying and enjoy your life” – Matthew 6... Once again as I travelled by bus into town I saw this very public announcement displayed on a large hoarding outside of a local church, albeit looking a little dog-eared since its last appearance a while ago. Oh that it were that simple I thought as I contemplated this glaring statement. Should we then, I asked myself, on thinking about this proclamation, not permit ourselves to dwell on the aspects of this sad, corrupt and uncertain world that we live in lest it stops us from enjoying ourselves? We would have to be completely devoid of intelligence and feelings not to get caught up in all the turmoil around us. The Bible also states “there will be wars and rumours of wars” which is more in keeping than the feeble quote that this person chooses. The one responsible for this very public report outside his or her church obviously lives on Cloud Nine in Cuckoo Land, and needs to start living in the real world. There are people out there with real sadness in their lives who couldn’t possibly appreciate this very insensitive announcement so publicly displayed..

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans Recycling rudeness

SIR – Despite many assumptions, not all of us, for a variety of reasons, have the ability to access the main recycling centre. For example, those of us, of a certain age, who do not drive. As a result we tend to rely on the efficiency of the local recycling collections in order to do our bit for the planet. We have already had to adapt to the restrictions on cardboard collection and I have recently discovered that there appears to be restrictions on plastics as well. Last week I included in my plastics box one five-litre plastic bottle and one three-litre plastic bowl. On collection, the operative rejected both of these items. I queried this with him and was told that they were both too large! I politely said that I was unaware (according to all the recycling literature) of a size restriction, especially as both items fitted easily into my box together with assorted cans, milk bottles, etc. To my comment he responded by telling me to “get a life” and continued on his merry way. I thought this quite an unnecessary and rude remark to make, especially to someone old enough to be his grandmother. However, on reflection, perhaps he is right and I should get a life; that is, to stop spending time sorting out my waste into a variety of boxes, containers and bins, only to find that some of it will be rejected, not collected and go to landfill anyway. Is it me, am I being unreasonable or just mutating into the proverbial Grumpy Old Woman or is anyone else out there in St Albans getting increasingly frustrated with the kerbside recycling service?

MRS E. DAVIES Church Street, St Albans

Mayoral misfoot over hotel

SIR – How very sad to see our Mayor capitalising on her part in the demolition of the Glen Eagle Hotel in the same edition as the main headline shows Harpenden is to lose its last hotel. Perhaps she ought to think through what wagon she jumps on for self-publicity – I think this one was an own goal.

LINDA SHERIDAN Bury Green, Wheathampstead

SIR – As an out-of-town reader of your newspaper and a Harpenden resident of some 40 years past, I thought what sad reading your February 20 edition made. The impending closure of the Harpenden House Hotel must have come as a severe shock to many. Then to see on page three, Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of St Albans, gleefully driving a demolition machine to start tearing down the Glen Eagle Hotel almost beggars belief. In the space of three years the central area of Harpenden will have lost two of its most valuable assets. They can never be replaced. The Mayor says she is looking forward to seeing the outcome of the redevelopment(s). I can tell here there will be no hotels to enhance the town – only two of what will be very expensive housing schemes.

T A GRAY Folkestone, Kent

67 is not elderly

SIR – I wonder if I might be permitted to take your otherwise excellent newspaper to task over something which appeared in the February 27 issue. On page four a 67 year old man was described as “elderly”. Now I appreciate that to your cub reporters someone of that age must appear to be extremely ancient – and at one time they would not have been alone in that opinion – but as they will one day discover, if Government legislation continues along its present path, they will still be working flat out at that age in order to qualify for their state pension.

MIKE MARTIN Lattimore Road, Wheathampstead