Letters, April 24, 2014

Repair main roads as a priority

SIR – This is a follow up to my correspondence and Barry Cashin’s. The local council has over the past few weeks made some effort to fill the numerous potholes in this locality and not before time. I would like to bring to the attention of your readers the disgraceful state of Watford Road from the King Harry pub towards the bridge over the A414, it really is appalling and needs urgent attention. I live in New House Park and the road which comes from Mile House Lane into this road has for years been a cause of major concern. Let’s go back a few years when contractors working on this road failed totally to reinstate it properly. I have corresponded with local councillors who I describe amongst other things as pothole spotters and posers, but to a man they have never bothered to even afford me the courtesy of a reply, they of course spout a lot but they accomplish nothing and then seek our votes at the next local election. I am sure there are other roads in this city which are experiencing the same frustrations as I am with little being done to rectify this situation. There are quite a few large houses in the road where I live with owners paying substantial amounts of council tax, why cannot they be afforded the basic requirement of having an acceptable road surface? In a recent issue a correspondent stated that the local council and the highways authority seemed more concerned with resurfacing minor roads. Good point! When will those responsible look at some of the roads which have been neglected for years and take some urgent action!

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Not the only answer, but part of solution

SIR – I was angered by Mr Spelzini’s letter accusing city wide 20mph supporters of being bullies. He also made astonishing claims that these limits slow traffic, reduce bus services, increase ambulance response times, pollution, drug taking and unemployment as well as depression. I am astonished that he didn’t blame 20mph limits for the recent flooding or Russian foreign policy. It is sad that he ignores the substantial and reliable evidence which points to smoother bus journeys, less pollution (air quality and noise) less fuel cost and wear on motors. NB emergency services do not have to observe speed limits! Introducing city wide limits has been shown to be cheaper and involve less signage than zones. Mr Spelzini even offered as a contrast the “lovely York city” which in fact has adopted city wide 20mph limits and has produced research on the benefits to tourism. What made me angry was that he dismissed safety as unimportant. One of our members was recently killed cycling locally and last week I experienced some real road bullying when cycling down Sandridge Road. I was trying to stay off the potholes on my left when I was approached from behind by a car whose occupants shouted abuse, hammered their horn and skimmed me as they shot past screaming ‘get out of the ***** way!’To add insult to injury, on the same journey, I hit the biggest pothole ever in Hatfield Road, nearly fell off my bike and caused a car behind to stop suddenly. Mr Spelzini simply sets motorist against cyclist, perpetuating real bullying. 20mph is not the only answer, but it is part of the solution. I urge those who agree to sign the online petition at 20’splentyforStAlbans which is not a party political campaign.

JILL MILLS St Albans Green Party Sandridge Road, St Albans

Do we really need more crossings?

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SIR – I have just received a letter from my indefatigable councillor Teresa Heritage and local MP Peter Lilley. No election pending so it’s good to have a dialogue. The In Touch newsletter made no mention of impending cuts to services and to be honest the district has been doing very well in keeping the street clean, better than for many years, so perhaps having a hung council really has advantages? The county has made a good fist of the new library too. But the cuts we are told to expect are like the elephant in the room, not mentioned. In Touch was also helpful telling us what Luton wish to do with the nice little earner called the airport. No mention that the airport has just been fined a mere £8.2M for treating Green Line buses badly. The result is that both the airport and the borough will have to find 50 per cent each and that could impact on how it treats neighbours like us. The silver lining by the way is that the Green Line 757 is back serving the terminus. Anyway back to the impending cuts. Like them as you may and whichever party is in power it’s sail trimming time. Cloth cut accordingly. Why on earth then do we need new crossings in Walkers Road and Topstreet Way plus another in Piggotshill? They don’t come cheap and where is there a demand based on need vs cash available? I saw a petition in a shop in Southdown and it had scarely half a dozen signatures supporting one crossing. In the same location a petition calling for the new secondary school to be in Souhdown had pages of names. If numbers mean anything the school should therefore come to an area petitioning for it and not the one doing the opposite. If any spare cash exists I suggest keep up the improved and on request street cleaning, but spend the limited housekeeping money on worn road markings, repainting existing crossings, mending very poor pavements and paths, many of which are being held togther by the repairs of various cable type utilities and repairing street lights. As for the condition of the roads, it sure keeps the speed limited down to 20mph.

LESLIE FREITAG Cravells Road, Harpenden

Airport sponsor wrong for festival

SIR – In the week the IPCC described the likely impacts of climate change to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible” Leoni Kibbey announced the sponsor of the St Albans Film Festival as Luton Airport. If not called in by the Secretary of State – as also reported by the Herts Advertiser – the airport’s impact will nearly double in severity, pervasiveness and in all probability be irreversible. “Integral in the lives of many local people,” as Ms Kibbey says, the airport is a source of deepseated unhappiness for some and considerable annoyance to others. Not to be dismissed, the more substantive concern centres on how the Government can contemplate aviation expansion anywhere – not just at Luton – given the context detailed in the IPCC’s latest and very comprehensive report. Through its choice of sponsor what statement is the film festival trying to make? Does Ms Kibbey condone the airport’s local impact, is she trying to wind up Hertfordshire’s local authorities and the community groups who queued up to voice objections to LLA’s expansion proposals at Luton Borough Council’s planning control meeting of December 20 last year, does she wish to dismiss the IPCC’s scientific assessments? Luton Airport’s already severe and pervasive impact is to despair of, and only the persistent fortitude of campaigners, such as those involved with HALE, sustain hope in a darkening world. The film festival’s sponsorship deal has reinforced the darkness, which as explorers of imagery, metaphor and the subliminal, is something the festival’s organisers should be very well aware.

SIMON LEADBEATER Crabtree Lane, Harpenden

Stance on coffee shops defended

SIR – Regarding Ian Cundell’s recent criticisms of St Albans Civic Society (Herts Advertiser, April 3 and 10), even if his diatribe is mistaken, it is good that he is generating a debate about retailing in our city centre and enabling the Society to reply. The Chequer Street Action Group was formed to stop St Albans having a then “typical indoor shopping centre” built at the Maltings. This would have made the city a clone of so many other places. The campaign succeeded. Now, nearly 40 years on, the same clone threat has returned. Do we let the multi-nationals simply move in and see our city centre become just like anywhere else? Then moan about it afterwards, as we see highlighted in Jacob Wright’s excellent letter (April 10) about the changes in nearby Harpenden. As for the charge of “rabble-rousing”, what a pity Mr Cundell has such a low opinion of people. The Civic Society is simply encouraging them to exercise their lawful and democratic right to engage in the planning process. Everyone can do so, including those “young mums, busy professionals, students, the self-employed”, as they sit around in the city’s already numerous coffee shops; and good for them. So what will eventually materialise in the space vacated by Milletts? Watch that space! Look out for any future change-of-use planning notice. And let’s hope we do not lose the excellent Flowers! Flowers! from our city centre in the meantime. These are the real stories of now and the future. It further demonstrates the urgent need for the council to have an up to date retail policy.

TIM BOATSWAIN Chairman of St Albans Civic Society Sopwell Lane, St Albans

We need homes, not vacant office blocks

SIR – I was rather surprised when I read the article in a recent edition of the Herts Advertiser in which St Albans Civic Society have voiced objections to a scheme to convert empty office blocks into living accommodation. There are so many empty office blocks in and around St Albans, some of which have been vacant for a number of years. I have often thought what a ridiculous waste of space these empty blocks are, and how sensible it would be to convert at least some of them into living accommodation instead of carrying out controversial development on Green Belt land. Yes it may be sensible to retain a few of these office blocks in the hope that more commercial business may return to St Albans but we certainly don’t need to keep them all, let alone have any ‘new-build’ offices in the pipeline! The need for accommodation is increasing rapidly, as is the need for more schools, and these essentials should be given priority.

MRS HILARY CROOK Batchwood View, St Albans

Time to tackle the air quality issue

SIR – It would seem that politicians are now informing us that that the recent smog/Saharan dust episode was a natural phenomenon. Maybe so, but that does not make sand particles good for your lungs! Last year, during the Luton Airport expansion debate, I contacted the Department for Transport (DfT) and Department of Health (DoH), as aircraft jet engines, even modern ones such as the CFM56, produce billions of invisible, microscopic “nano” carbon particles. Not sand, not very nice either. DoH “bounced” the query back to DfT, and DfT did not provide a satisfactory answer regarding the health risks. Meanwhile, the airport commissioned a study on environmental aspects that very deliberately kept the debate local to the airport. What we now know is that these very small Saharan (and probably jet engine particles of similar size) can travel thousands of miles – for example Saharan dust can rise to 6,000 metres in the air over Casablanca, and apparently travel to the Amazon area in South America. Luton council has made a planning decision that has ramifications way beyond the Luton area, and Eric Pickles, the Government Community Secretary (eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk) seems to be pretty reluctant to call in the Luton Airport expansion planning approval for further examination. If, like me, you think HM Government is burying its head in the sand (pun intended!) over particulate/air quality issues, then readers may wish to email Mr Pickles, or write to him at Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, maybe with a copy to the Secretary of State for Transport, at the same address.

COLIN WEAVER Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

SIR – I refer to Madeleine Burton’s excellent article on air pollution at The Pea Hen junction in a recent edition of the Herts Advertiser. Since reading it, I have written to Cllr Beric Read to get clarification of some of his comments and I suspect that his reply will be of interest to your readers. The situation is actually quite simple. Unless this problem is sorted out very soon all of us will suffer. As regards our health. Bearing in mind that nationally on average each of our lives is said to be reduced by six months because of air pollution, those who visit, inhabit or work in the city centre (e.g. you and me!) can expect a significantly greater life reduction because of the inability of the local authorities to deal with it effectively. As regards our money. The European Commission has said that it will fine Great Britain because of its failure to achieve acceptable pollution levels. Those fines will be passed on to the taxpayers, particularly those in offending cities (e.g. you and me). One last thing; I was on Vanessa Feltz’s Radio London phone-in programme recently. She was clearly amazed that a beautiful city like ours should be allowed to suffer from excessive air pollution.

ROGER TALBOT Holywell Hill, St Albans

Morecambe is not the name of halls

SIR – If there is one thing that gets my back up it is the name of the Harpenden Public Hall. Although I do not live in Harpenden now (my family were born and bred here dating back to the late 1800s) I still have many connections with Harpenden and whilst I agree with Jacob Wright on his memories of Harpenden, there is one thing that I must put him right on. It is NOT called the Eric Morecambe Public Halls… It is called the Harpenden Public Halls. Please Jacob do look up when you are in the village and see the sign. I campaigned to keep this name back in the 1980s (and still have the press cuttings) as there were certain people that wanted to change the name to the Eric Morecambe Halls after his death, resulting in a public meeting of the people of Harpenden (I wonder how many true Harpenden people are left now!) together with council officials and Joan Morecambe, and it was unanimously agreed that we should rightly keep the name of the Harpenden Public Halls. It was built in 1938 in the garden of Harpenden Hall and if you look hard enough above the main entrance there is a Portland stone replica of the original Harpenden ‘Arms’ as designed in 1937 by Frank O Salisbury (another renowned Harpenden family name). The inside large hall was refurbished and named as the Eric Morecambe Hall in the late 1980s and the small hall the Southdown Hall, although back in the day they were called the large public hall and the small public hall. Please don’t let this be forgotten.

JENNIE JARMAN Edward Street, Dunstable

Let’s tackle the clutter of A-boards

SIR – Street clutter such as irresponsibly placed shop advertising signs (A-boards) and pavement café furniture can obstruct and hamper a person’s progress on the street. Keeping pathways clear is particularly crucial for the independence of people who are blind and partially sighted. A recent Guide Dogs survey for their Streets Ahead campaign showed A-boards and café furniture are both in the top 10 most common street clutter items, acting as a real barrier to a person’s independence. Shockingly, 65 per cent of those with sight loss have been injured by street clutter too. It also prevents wheelchair users and other vulnerable pedestrians from using the pavements with confidence. Several local councils have already introduced measures to reduce unnecessary clutter. For example shops can use window adverts instead of multiple A-boards to entice customers and improve the street for pedestrians. I would like your paper to join me in a campaign to ask the council to introduce measures to tackle unnecessary street clutter and ensure that our high street is fully accessible to those who are blind or partially sighted. Please email campaigns@guidedogs.org.uk for more information about their campaign and survey findings.

TOMMY DEAN Doggetts Way, St Albans