Letters, April 25, 2013
A spiky comeback
SIR – I have to take issue with your story ‘St Albans’ Verulamium Park spikes pose hazard to cyclists’ (April 4). It only highlights the H&S police are out and about on cycles as well as intruding on almost every other facet of human life.
The undeniable fact is that metal spikes are sharp and can, if they come into contact with soft human flesh, cause serious injury.
However, this has been the case for centuries ever since we learnt how to forge metal and there didn’t seem to be too many incidences of metal impalement in Victorian times; a period where metal spikes were a very popular home and residential park adornment.
Of course, going back further in medieval times, metal spikes or ‘pikes’ as they were called back then were routinely used to impale criminals’ heads and jolly efficient they were too at their job! I have looked back over recent decades to find instances of cyclists impaling themselves on sharp metal spikes and have been hard-pressed to find many.
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In fact, although there have been a few cyclists injured, in the main and in the vast majority of cases, incidents of metal-spike-meets-flesh mostly appear to happen to idiots falling off tall buildings, out of trees when they shouldn’t be climbing and window cleaners leaning too far to the left to clean a Crittall crevice with only the rare incident of a cyclist veering off of a pathway, going airborne and impaling themselves on said spike.
The Herts Advertiser did report in November a man who impaled his leg on a metal object but this was an accident in his own attic!
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Perhaps it is a sign of the times that the thought police would wish to sanitise, control and safety protect every aspect of modern life and have even considered a row of notices along these types of pathways warning cyclists of skidding on leaves, losing control in wet rain, watching out for sticky sap falling from the trees which can affect braking, the dangers of death from toxic dog waste if one falls into a pile of doggie doo-doo, spent syringes from druggies using woodland pathways too out of their box to worry about passing cyclists, the possibility of collision due to an absence of light during the hours of darkness, the equal possibility of sudden blindness caused by cycling into a shard of light penetrating a forest thicket, a sign warning cyclists of the danger of gathering speed because one is entering an angle of decline and one on the other side advising of a slow down due to an incline.
If the pathway in question is signposted as a pedestrian only pathway, then if an idiot chooses to cycle along it at speeds more becoming of Sir Bradley Wiggins before doing a human canon ball into a spike, unfortunate as it may be, the cyclist will only have themselves to blame for ignoring the warning and shouldn’t come cap in hand via some personal injury claims company to sue the council – because METAL SPIKES CAUSE INJURY. This statement is, for the avoidance of doubt, as obvious as asking Dracula if he would like to become a phlebotomist!
Green Lane, St Albans
SIR – Your correspondent, Richard Durrant, in his letter of March 28, believes that “there is no reason to think that the recent slight climatic warming will continue.”
I’m not sure which I find more depressing: the apparent scientific certainty of global warming and its dire consequences on life on Earth, or intelligent people thinking that global warming means that temperatures will simply increase linearly around the globe with little impact on local weather.
Global warming is real. The most recent month for which data is available, February 2013, was, globally, both the 28th consecutive February and 336th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-Century average.
The problem is, of course, one of perception: we don’t experience “climate”; we experience “weather”. And as we all know the British weather is notoriously variable and difficult to forecast.
Let’s look briefly at some of the factors that affect our weather:
1. Moisture – increasing global temperatures mean more moisture in the atmosphere and hence more precipitation (be it rain or snow).
2. Wind – the prevailing westerlies, driven in part by the meandering jet stream, bring warm, wet air from the Atlantic.
The jet stream also moves weather systems across the British Isles. But the jet stream is weakening, probably due to the warming of the Arctic region at a rate above that of lower latitudes, which means that sometimes (as happened in 2012) it gets stuck, and we end up with months of one type of weather.
In the winter months, we are more likely to get easterlies bringing excessively cold weather from eastern Europe and beyond.
3. The Gulf Stream moves huge amounts of heat, in the form of warm water, from the Gulf of Mexico to the north Atlantic – this conveyor is a result of differing levels of salt in the massive volumes of water concerned.
As the Arctic ice melts, releasing millions of gallons of fresh water, there will be a disruptive effect on the relative amounts of salt in the water, which may affect the rate of flow of the Gulf Stream and hence the air temperatures we experience.
4. The extent of Arctic sea ice was at a new record low in September 2012. Worse, it was only half of the 1979–2000 average at the annual September minimum.
Less ice means less heat from the sun will be reflected back into space, further increasing local Arctic temperatures and increasing the rate at which the ice melts. The melted ice will also have a cooling effect on the north Atlantic waters, which will inevitably affect our weather.
All of this means that our weather will become more and more extreme and harder to forecast. It also means that, globally, there will be more devastating events like those experienced in the last couple of years: Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in the US, droughts in the US and Russia, floods in Thailand, heat waves and floods in Australia; I could go on.
The most recent forecasts for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season are that it is likely to be 50 per cent above average both in terms of the severity and number of storms.
But I could be wrong and we are actually at the beginning of a new ice age.
Fishpool Street, St Albans
SIR – Further to the letter entitled ‘Speedwatch works’ published in the Herts Advertiser on April 11, I would just like to respond to some of the points raised by the author Jean Gatehouse.
Community Speedwatch has been piloted at limited locations across the county since 2011 as an initiative for local people to work with Hertfordshire Constabulary to tackle speeding in communities.
Volunteers who have taken part in this pilot scheme have worked extremely hard to make Speedwatch a success. We have been very impressed with volunteers’ dedication to Speedwatch and thank them for their ongoing commitment and time.
The success is such that as Police and Crime Commissioner, I want to raise awareness and give more local groups the opportunity to take part in volunteer speed checks. I know speeding is an issue of real concern from speaking to people around the county and I am really pleased to be able to support an initiative that is really meaningful to the public in Hertfordshire.
I would like to reassure all Speedwatch members that while DriveSafe is slightly different in terms of how new groups will be set up, current Speedwatches will be able to simply transfer across to the new initiative and processes for established schemes will remain the same.
The crucial difference is that DriveSafe will help residents to set the priorities for the police more directly.
If people are prepared to step up, I will ensure that they are backed up by police action.
The rebranding of the scheme gives us an opportunity to launch it countywide, to raise awareness and to encourage more residents and business owners to get involved.
DriveSafe gives the public the power to say where they want schemes to be. If volunteers submit a petition containing at least ten signatures from local householders or business owners and there are three volunteers to actively run a scheme, the Constabulary will facilitate it, subject to a police safety assessment.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to clarify this detail and I also would like to encourage people to get involved.
You can find out more about DriveSafe by visiting http://hertscommissioner.org/news/campaigns/drivesafe.aspx
You can also ring the Commissioner’s office by calling 01992 556600.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire
SIR – With reference to shared use pathways in Verulamium Park, I have in my possession a copy of the original drawings showing the layout and details of the proposed new shared pedestrian/cycle pathways in the park. They clearly indicate a minimum width of 3m in all locations.
So why is the entire new pathway from the museum to Westminster Lodge, now close to completion, only slightly in excess of 2m wide?
Who authorised this drastic reduction in width and how can it possibly be justified? Not only is the reduced width at variance with the original drawings but in addition fails to meet minimum health and safety requirements and is not even close to matching the east/west route already completed.
Corinium Gate, St Albans
What a service
SIR – As the utility companies usually get criticism for their responses and actions, I want to commend Affinity Water for very good service and a prompt response recently.
We had a fairly small water leak into the road that seemed to be coming from the stopcock at the edge of our property. We reported it to Affinity Water and they sent someone to check it the next day. A team arrived the day after to make the repair and found the leak was actually in the mains. They completed the repair within the day and also replaced the section of our drive they had dug up. The following day Affinity Water repaired the pavement and removed the bulk of the mud that had spread over the road.
A supervisor then came to report what they had found and done. Some days later they came back with a power-hose to clear the mess from our drive and the road. We are near the end of a cul-de-sac and the disruption was kept to a minimum throughout.
I should like to record my thanks and appreciation for the efficient, timely and courteous service Affinity Water demonstrated on this occasion, especially as we were told they had a lot of leaks to attend to in the area.
Westfields, St Albans
SIR – I have over the past few days received leaflets through my door from prospective council candidates. I find their focus on local issues beyond belief.
How can they put so much emphasis on grinning at potholes in local roads, which obviously do need repairing as a result of recent bad weather. Do they not have anything else to put forward to the electorate?
I would have thought in these difficult times that they would be far more concerned in balancing budgets and trying to encourage businesses to locate in the town centre where there are an increasing number of empty shop premises.
These people seem to come out of the woodwork in the hope of getting elected, but what will they do? They can make a lot of noise when it comes to polling day, but what do they accomplish. Not a lot when it comes to the nitty gritty of running local affairs.
As far as I am concerned they are not interested in doing the things that really matter, but much more interested in looking at a few potholes.
New House Park, St Albans
A question of priorities
SIR – Whilst flicking through the paper on April 18 I came across the Court Watch page. I couldn’t quite believe what I saw.
For the possession of large quantities of class A drugs, the person concerned received a fine of £150 and costs of £105. However for travelling without a ticket on a train the person concerned in this case received a fine of £700 and costs of £190. TV licence evasion and having a dog it seems are also deemed more despicable offences than drugs in the eyes of the magistrates.
Am I the only one who thinks we may have our priorities wrong here?
East Lane, Wheathampstead
In defence of Lady T
SIR – David Allan (Letters, April 18) cannot be allowed to get away with spouting his claptrap about Lady Thatcher, which appears to come straight from the fantasy world pages of Socialist Worker. While he is entitled to his political beliefs, his key arguments, if they can be called that, just do not stand up to even the lightest scrutiny.
What he fails to mention in his diatribe, perhaps deliberately so, is the appalling state of Britain when she took over from Labour in 1979 – it was a country riven by industrial disputes, thanks to unchecked union militancy, and one which had a basket case of an economy that had forced her predecessor, Jim Callaghan, to go cap in hand to the IMF for a humiliating bail-out.
Mix into this sorry state of affairs the dead hand of nationalisation in key industries coupled with over-manned, poorly equipped factories in the private sector turning out shoddy goods that few people wanted to buy.
The sick man of Europe, Britain was crying out for much-needed change. By the time she stood down 11 years later, the country was in a far, far better shape to compete on the world stage.
It is quite incorrect to say her deregulation of the financial sector was the root cause of today’s financial crisis, as anyone with even an elementary knowledge of recent world economic history must surely know.
The antiquated financial services sector that was in place until the 1980s was in desperate need of reform, and her Big Bang changes still make clear sense today, despite the current economic situation.
The crisis, which started 18 years or so after she left office, can be largely blamed on changes that took root in the US and were allowed to take hold in the UK, thanks in no small part to the lax financial regime of Gordon Brown.
Contrary to what Mr Allan implies in his reference to her so-called “malign influence” on industry, industrial output actually increased by 7.5 per cent during her 11 years in power (source: the Office of National Statistics) and by another 4.9 per cent by the time the Conservatives were defeated in the 1997 general election.
However, when the nation finally came to its senses and booted out Gordon Brown, the output figure after 13 years of “New Labour” was actually lower than when it took office. Some achievement.
Lady Thatcher is castigated for killing off mining, but pits had been shutting for decades before she even came to power and the industry would have largely vanished by now anyway even if she had never been born, along with a lot of low-skill manufacturing industries.
Mr Allan’s claim that Lady Thatcher was intent on making the rich richer and the poor poorer is so ludicrous that it almost should not be dignified with a reply.
All I will say is that as someone who herself came from modest origins, her philosophy was about getting people to stand on their own two feet and providing them with the opportunity to make something of themselves.
Hatfield Road, St Albans
Seeking new home for Swan Vestas
SIR – The Swan Vesta Social Club has been a very welcome but relatively recent addition to the annual St Michael’s Street folk evening which started in 1988 and goes from strength to strength.
The event as a whole, not just the Swan Vestas, regularly attracts a wide ranging audience. In the past few years, the Swan Vestas have been booked by the publican of the Black Lion to play in the pub’s car park.
They have made a great contribution to the evening, during which there is dancing by a number of groups along the length of the street and a variety of music in all the other pubs. Everyone else performs free of charge.
The Black Lion has now sadly closed and its car park is no more. This may come as a relief to the people living near the Black Lion and St Michael’s who have not shared the general appreciation of the band and have complained, but most of us see this as a loss.
It is disappointing therefore that that fans of the Swan Vestas are using your columns to propose that other performers are pushed aside to make way for them to do a booking at the Six Bells.
This has a much smaller car park than the Black Lion had and the performance area is close to both the pub, which has traditionally hosted music inside, while the Street just outside is used for morris dancing. This is accompanied by acoustic instruments, which cannot compete with amplified bands.
A much better solution would be to find a new venue in the street, so that we can extend the event and could continue to enjoy the Swan Vestas without losing the other performers.
For example, St Michael’s School and Church and the Verulamium Museum all have open space fronting on or near to St Michael’s Street or perhaps someone living in St Michael’s Street has a further suggestion to make? If so, would be very pleased to hear from them.
Chair St Albans Folk Festival
Warwick Road, St Albans
St Michael’s Street Folk evening organiser
We must not let market disappear
SIR – At last market stallholders are speaking out against the council and especially the market managers. Hooray.
Before they came to St Albans market it was vibrant and the atmosphere was great but now stallholders look miserable and very disheartened.
I can remember buying plants from a father and son from Lincolnshire for years, then they were moved outside the Town Hall when the so-called enhancement of St Peter’s Street was brought in. I actually witnessed the market inspectors rowing with the son because he had plant trays on the pavement.
I did intervene as they were not blocking people from walking past the stall. In the end they decided not to come to the market any more after years of giving people a wonderful service through two men being bloody-minded.
I also saw these men turn away casuals one Wednesday morning. I could not help myself and said to them you should be ashamed of yourselves turning these people away, they are here to pay for their stall which goes to the district council plus with the stall rents, pay your wages. Why are these men determined to ruin our market?
Surely with our High Street non-existent with all these empty shops, we should do more to keep our market to a very high standard which brings people from all different areas to visit St Albans? We must not let our market disappear like our High Street shops.
I can remember as a child as my grandparents were stallholders in the market, there were so many characters selling everything from curtain material to auctioning towels from a platform; it was on par with Petticoat Lane. The market was like a theatre with people selling their wares.
If the council does not care about our market, I can assure you that the people of St Albans do. You could even bring buskers in and make it like a mini Covent Garden – just imagine that.
These so-called market inspectors should be brought to account from the district council before it is too late.
MRS MS PATERSON,
Liverpool Road, St Albans
Speed limits must be enforced
SIR – I am writing to you in the hope that it might influence councillors to support road safety measures to enforce the 30mph sped limit in Marshalswick Lane.
We find that it is potentially dangerous to turn right from our drive onto the road. I am told that there is a 30mph speed limit because there is street lighting. However, there are no 30mph speed limit signs to inform drivers that there is a 30mph limit.
A county councillor has been told that road safety measures would be too costly but I have not seen details of the proposed measures or the cost.
Cllr Geoff Churchard persuaded the police to monitor the situation. However, when I questioned why the section of the road outside our homes had not been monitored, I was told that the police do not have the resources. I have seen in a candidate’s newsletter that there has been a county council underspend but no proposal that this should be used to provide road safety measures in Marshalswick Lane.
I know about several road safety measures that have been installed recently in or near St Albans but my suggestions seem to be ignored.
It amazes me that there are no 30mph speed limit signs. I am also surprised that proposals to protect buildings seem to be given priority over proposals to protect people.
Marshalswick Lane, St Albans
Enough is enough in Bricket Wood
SIR – With reference to the splendid article in the Herts Advertiser of April 11 entitled The Battle of Bricket Wood and the sound comments made by Cllr Lee regarding large housing developments in Bricket Wood.
Personally I think that “enough is enough” but it appears not, as we are all facing again another application from the BRE for 100 houses with all traffic and a rerouted bus service down Bucknalls Drive, which is a mere five metres wide.
On top of this we now have the former HSBC site chipping in with another 250 houses. It does not take much working out where all this traffic will end up, between the two sites we could be facing up to 700 extra vehicles, producing well over 2,000 extra traffic movements a day within the village of Bricket Wood.
I have personally spoken with Cllr Lee on many an occasion regarding this issue of traffic. It is well known by all that Bricket Wood is the major rat run for all types of traffic cutting through from Radlett and Park Street, etc.
This, of course, gets far worse when there is a hold-up on one of the motorways which occurs quite frequently. All of this traffic comes past the junction of Bucknalls Drive and then goes down Mount Pleasant Lane passing the 350-pupil JMI School, which is a serious danger spot. It then proceeds to the notorious village motorway slip road for Junction 6 of the M1 and beyond.
I totally agree with Cllr Lee when she says that the location of this BRE housing estate would remove it from the village. It would become a satellite housing estate.
I also ask where is the infrastructure to support these developments such as the water and the sewerage. The only school is the JMI School in Mount Pleasant Lane which is full. There are no large stores for general shopping and the local medical centre has just one doctor’s consulting room which is run from the local church hall; hardly what you would call a full-blown medical centre.
Again it would necessitate residents having to travel by means of private transport to get to other locations, resulting in even more traffic and the pollution that goes with it.
I like others do not have too much of a problem with new housing, but I say to the BRE that you should start to act in a responsible and way and show concern for the residents of Bricket Wood.
After all, if you require the money from this development then you should use some of this money to make proper provision for a completely new road. Out onto Bucknalls Lane which is over 6.5 metres wide. It is not a through road, it does not suffer from rat-running, it does not have the danger of a 350-pupil school to contend with, and it does not exit onto a motorway slip road.
Bucknalls Lane has to be the far safer and less disruptive route as it exits onto the A405 and is controlled by traffic lights.
In conclusion I would like to point out to all that the BRE’s address is The Building Research Establishment, Bucknalls Lane, Watford, WD25 9XX and not Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3XL
Ash Copse, Bricket Wood
Party political pointscoring
SIR – Cllr the Reverend Donald, of the “Traffic Light Alliance” opposition in St Albans council, not content with losing SADC much needed Government grants by opposing the Conservative proposal to bring social housing rents into alignment with neighbouring districts, has defied political gravity by introducing “schemes” to raid the city’s reserves to promote specious causes for their own political gain.
One has only to look at the city centre to see how many businesses are suffering and closing down.This means less revenue for the council and a greater need for maintaining reserves for a rainy day. This “bread and circuses” approach to pandering to the electorate can only lead to tears.
These sons of fraternity and comradeship forget that a financial crisis which Labour instigated, ran and mis-managed is no excuse for wantonness in local Government.
Proposals ranging from The House of Lords to mansion tax and now a “confiscatory tax” shows that the Lib Dems are a divided party, where one group support the Government’s objectives and another cabal seek to disinherit families from their knick-knacks for their knackered policies.
There appears to be a lack of “joined-up politics” from the Liberal Democrats. Our mutual fight against the Radlett rail terminal being one where they support the Green Belt. It looks as if their activities are largely determined by media exposure and popularity polls instead of seriously considering the damage that they are doing to the community.
The Civic Society has highlighted this political mismatch in a recent publication. Voters are beginning to notice!
This lack of professionalism has also been evident at council meetings. An officer recently “reminded” councillors of the correct procedural process in tabling amendments instead of last minute surprises.
Discipline in these matters is a good start. The Lib Dems on the council have held the Mayoralty and hence the “chair” for a long time now with the partiality that we have come to expect from them!
One national newspaper recently published an article in which they said that the Liberal Democrats were “dodgy” in their politicking at every level. At the last General Election their leaflets in St Albans showed a certain economy with the truth and often outright mendacity. This has not stopped these fellow travellers from blocking the districts’ strategic development plan for reasons that appear to be wholly irrational.
This means that external inspectors have the power to over-rule local considerations on planning matters. How democratic is that!
MICHAEL DE RUYTER
Hill Street, St Albans
SIR – Reasons to vote Tory on May 2:
Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden