Letters, April 10, 2014

Our invisible Mayor

SIR – Am I the only person in Harpenden who is fed up with seeing Annie Brewster photographed several times each week in your newspaper in articles pertaining to Harpenden? I receive the Harpenden Edition of your paper and yet our Mayor, Rosemary Farmer, is rarely featured. I recently read that “the new Grove House Charity Shop will be officially opened by Cllr Annie Brewster”. Why? Surely our Mayor should be invited to open this shop?

SHEILA SATCHELL Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Time to tackle litter once and for all

SIR – It really is terrific to have St Albans hailed as one of the top places to live in the country (according to the Sunday Times and highlighted in the Herts Advertiser of March 27). I’ve been here 13 years and love the place, which is why I feel so forlorn about our litter problem. Last year the Herts Advertiser kindly ran a piece on my family’s litter-clearing activities; a piece I hoped would encourage others to get out and do a few minutes clearance each weekend. (Whilst I am an optimist, the psychologist in me knew better than to hope one news article would change the behaviour of people who leave litter in our parks; throw it out of their car windows; and casually drop it on our pavements). My husband and I often identify litter hotspots when we’re out running and then come back to clear them later in the day. Today (Sunday, March 30) I’ve seen the usual Red Bull cans, cigarette packets and carrier bags and made a mental note of where I need to return. In addition to these small, pernicious crimes (crimes I fear a good proportion of our society has become habituated to and simply don’t notice any more) I came across a huge pile of fly-tipped green waste on Bedmond Lane. Literally, on the road, under the shadow of the old M10 bridge awaiting an unsuspecting driver. Just who are these morons? And why aren’t more of us enraged enough to try and tackle littering and fly-tipping? I know there are many of you who share my pain and do take action. Thank you so much for your efforts; your civic mindedness is a credit to St Albans. I also implore you to challenge littering behavior when you see it happening to start changing attitudes about what is and what isn’t acceptable. Littering is a crime – let’s remember that. And when you hire someone to clear your garden or other debris from your home, please check that person has a waste clearance license.

JESSICA CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

More than meets the eye over pub

Most Read

SIR – Your article on unauthorised building at The Spotted Bull public house (March 20) highlights the owner’s frustration at delays in the council’s planning review. However, as could also be said about the photograph you used, there is more to this than meets the eye – much more in fact, as seen at the rear of the site. Relevant history can be tracked in part on the SADC website. Plans were registered last July for a rear extension replacing the scruffy flat-roof storage areas added to the two-cottage building in 1980, and exterior paving on the east side of the public area. Accompanying documents proposed public use of the garden area until 11pm with clients drinking inside until 12.30am. Despite objections from neighbours on both sides of Verulam Road about the likely noise and parking problem, approval was given in September and building commenced. Mr Hanning then suggested enclosing the side door area to discourage excessive outdoor use by drinkers and smokers. Plans for this were registered in October but now showed a large enclosed area essentially doubling the indoor bar area of the original public house. This was again objected to by residents on the grounds of overdevelopment and increased disturbance. It may be inferred that Mr Hanning was advised that the side extension was too close to the Robinia tree in the front garden and that the total increase in size was too large, since in November his agent lodged a legal challenge to the definition of the original building. As a result, he decided to move the side extension to the rear, closer still to the listed houses in College Street and with wide opening doors at front and back, so that in summer the bar area would be effectively continuous with the garden – it could be like our neighbours having a garden party every night through the summer. These third stage plans appeared briefly on-line but were then withdrawn and as a result two major letters of objection have never appeared on the consultation website. Building has proceeded in defiance of planning advice. The constant round of changing plans, lack of open consultation and appeals to the enforcement officer clearly contributed to the delay in a decision. SADC has now refused the application for the second stage but as can be seen the extension is largely complete – and significantly more intrusive than in the plans that have just been refused! Unless SADC stand firm on this, the owner will have imposed a large unauthorised building on the Conservation Area purely by chancing his arm on not being challenged, which makes a mockery of the planning process and would open the flood gates to unscrupulous developers. That cannot be right.

ROBERT PANKHURST On behalf of: Abbey Precincts Residents Association, Aboyne Residents Association, Verulam Road Residents Association, the residents of 9-19 College Street

Airfield alternatives

SIR – Having read the various comments over the last year or so I wonder what all of those who have commented would rather see the Handley Page airfield site used for.Perhaps they would rather see the site turn back to an airfield where those of us living in the area at the time will recall both jet and prop-powered aircraft landing and taking off daily and with aircraft being tested going through the sound barrier and the window shattering explosions that followed. There was also the test area where jet aircraft had their engines run to the extremes for hours at a time that could be heard throughout the area. There is also the possibility of using the airfield for the overspill from Luton Airport. There was a goods yard at the Napsbury Hospital site and the sidings that were in place for many years with coal being delivered to the hospital on a regular basis also the passenger train station that was in place for many years did and would still benefit all if it was to be restored. There are many against the development of this site but seem to forget or not wanting to consider what alternative uses there are for the site. Those against the rail freight development could find they end up with something much worse and must accept the inevitable that the site will be developed in the end for one purpose or another.

RICHARD HOUSDEN Five Acres, London Colney

Well done for zero per cent tax rise

SIR – I must write and congratulate the County, St Albans District and St Stephen’s Parish Councils (unlike other parish councils!) as this year’s council tax has been set at 0 per cent. Along with the Police and Crime Commissioner similarly being able to save vast sums of money by efficiencies in the use of resources. It just shows what can be done when you have to, given the need for our country to balance the books rather then live off debt. One hopes that these efficiencies will continue in order to save hard working taxpayers from unneeded expenditure. After all, it’s easy to spend other people’s money! Well done to all concerned.

RICHARD CURTHOYS Hornbeams, St Albans

Fighting for Harpenden

SIR – I can hold my tongue no longer! Thank you Martin Lynch and Alan Bunting for your refreshing words on Harpenden and if there were more people with your views and not those of Martin Attridge (whose negative comments left a very bitter taste, I may add) then maybe we may not have lost “treasured landmarks” such as the Glen Eagle Hotel. Martin Attridge is a mere newcomer to Harpenden, only living here 30 years, and obviously has no love or knowledge of Harpenden’s history and who seems to moan selfishly at anything and everything and is more concerned with his own road than Harpenden itself. I have lived here all my life and loved Harpenden as a child, love it now and my children love it too. It has charm, community spirit and offers a lot – hear hear Martin Lynch! When I went to school in Harpenden, they were even thinking of combining Roundwood and Sir John Lawes (then Manland) secondary schools. They closed the Wheathampstead School and I watched with sadness as they demolished the cinema – yes, we did have a cinema Mr Attridge! No-one stopped the closures and demolitions and Harpenden has lost a lot. People like him who “didn’t care” let it happen. Once upon a time we had everything in Harpenden, C&A, sweet shops galore, Anscombes, Woolworths, a cinema, youth club, toy shops, etc., etc. I grew up here and it was a great village. Unfortunately my children have seen the loss of such great shops – such as the toy shop – and charity shops becoming over expensive and so on. But there are now youth clubs/clubs/cinema at the Public Halls, etc., re-emerging. We need to try and hang on to some of Harpenden’s history and fight for it before it is ruined… And what’s wrong with the Eric Morecambe Harpenden Halls. It’s history! Does Martin Attridge’s idea of an update mean demolishing that too! Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of history; not everything has to be brand-new to attract people. Does Martin Attridge actually know why it is called Eric Morecambe Harpenden Halls? If Harpenden Moat House is demolished there will be major regrets in years to come. Look at the demolition of Batchelors Row cottages on Church Green and the demolition of the Wheathampstead School (to build houses) of which we are now trying to rebuild another and the same with the cinema. I don’t understand why with lack of schools, all this demolition and rebuilding houses continues and is allowed to continue as it will eventually ruin our beloved Harpenden. So yes, we need to make a stand and fight, not moan. Care and don’t let it happen! Who agrees?

JACOB WRIGHT Roundwood Lane, Harpenden

Living here isn’t quite so easy

SIR – Your March 27 front page strapline proclaims that ‘The living is easy in one of top cities’, inviting readers to turn to pages 2 and 3, where we find that the top city in question is, not surprisingly, St Albans. The eulogies that follow suggest that St Albans is almost a heaven on earth, thanks to its green spaces, excellent schools, town centre shops and its proximity to London. Some of your readers will perhaps have been more circumspect in their conclusions after learning that the foremost local resident cited in The Sunday Times ‘Best Places to Live’ survey, on which your glowing reports were based, is a St Albans-based tourism marketing agency PR person. As Mandy Rice-Davies would have asserted, Sophie Banks would say that wouldn’t she. I note that similarly complimentary impressions about ‘neighbouring Harpenden’ included in your page three feature came from our ever-enthusiastic town councillor Michael Weaver, who maintains that, thanks to Harpenden’s compact size, ‘most people know each other’. I fear that is becoming less true with each passing year. My experience is that our huge influx of well-heeled incomers, when they are not cocooned in their huge 4x4s, are little interested in meeting or socialising with their new neighbours. Nor are they interested in joining local organisations, other than perhaps parent-teacher groups. So, reverting to your front page eye-catcher: is the living easy in St Albans and Harpenden? Few motorists would answer in the affirmative. Traffic congestion is dreadful and becoming more so, with the accompanying difficulty of finding somewhere to park. It is good that your ‘Editor’s comment’ this week draws attention to a) further rises in car park charges and b) the chaos ensuing from non-functioning car park payment machines. It is not surprising that many people in Harpenden who think of shopping in St Albans choose instead to drive to Luton or Welwyn Garden City, where parking is altogether less problematic. Alright, there are plenty of worse places to live than in this part of Hertfordshire. But don’t let’s get carried away. There is massive scope for improvement, especially for frustrated car users.

ALAN BUNTING Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Concerns over new development

SIR – I see that developers have obtained planning for the development of 71 dwellings as well as some office space on the old Lea industrial site in Batford, Harpenden. I trust the planners have not been duped once again by the developers in respect of parking provision for said dwellings, as they were at the Pinneys site in Station Road, Harpenden, which creates all sorts of problems, with more to come if the proposed new school comes to fruition in Batford. I see the footpath along the Lower Luton Road adjacent to the Lea industrial site has been widened, presumably to take the overspill parking that will undoubtedly block this main artery, as the parking provided within the complex fails to cope with the requirements of 71 dwellings and offices proposed.

GRAHAM MAJOR Lower Luton Road, Harpenden

Green parking is a flawed system

SIR – In the Labour Party’s Sopwell News we had the party trumpeting over the parking on the green campaign. What stupidity it is. The reason people parked on the green was the dangerous corner for parking. People now park towards the shops in Abbotts Avenue. This causes people going the other direction to drive on the wrong side of the road meeting people coming around the bend. Why didn’t the council just replicate what they did on the other side? I notice that two people have parking in their front gardens. Are the others going to follow suit and who is expected to pay?

DAVID HARPIN Gorham Drive, St Albans

Green champions

SIR – Readers may be aware that in a recent press release St Albans council celebrated the green industries based in our district, which bring jobs and revenue to the area. I would also like to celebrate the small businesses which contribute so much to making St Albans a greener (i.e. more sustainable) place to live. Cycle repairs at City station, electrical repairs on Sandridge Road, sewing machines on Victoria Street, sewing and knitting on Beech Road, used bikes in Jersey Farm... The list is longer than space allows here. All these businesses contribute to the Green Party’s aims of Repair, Re-use, Recycle which can help us have a sustainable economy.

JILL MILLS St Albans Green Party Sandridge Road, St Albans

Coffee shop capers

SIR – Oh Dear Lord, not content with showing contempt for young mums, busy professionals, students, the self-employed and all of their needs and desires, St Albans Civic Society has now taken to tilting at windmills. It is one thing rabble rousing about Caffé Nero, but quite a spectacular display of hubris to object to a coffee shop that nobody – absolutely nobody – has proposed at Christopher Place. Presumably the Society is delighted that the old Harringtons unit is now a travel agent. The Society is completely out of touch with the often brutal realities of the modern high street, and wholly indifferent to the needs of a large chunk of the population. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is time for St Albans Civic Society to lay up its colours. And what a shame that the Herts Advertiser let a potentially interesting story about an attempt to revamp an important corner of the city centre to be derailed by a group rapidly degenerating into a collection of one-track obsessives travelling the road to irrelevance. Milletts has been there as long as I can remember, and its hideous and out-of-character building is long overdue for redevelopment. So how about focussing on the real story?

IAN CUNDELL Partridge Road, St Albans