Letters April 28 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

National exposure to Paris trip switch

SIR - With regards to the story you reported on my daughter’s school trip to Paris being amended due to the threat of terrorism - meaning she will miss out on the sights of the city and spend another day at an amusement park - it seems that The Sunday Telegraph was interested enough in my point about not bowing down to terrorists, so much so they used it as their main letter of the day on April 17 (pictured above). Hardly not a news story or lazy journalism and I am sure I am not the only parent to feel disappointed in the school’s decision.

LAURA BERRILL Deva Close, St Albans

No response to query over signs

SIR - I read with interest the letter from Mr Mike Smith concerning the “smiley face” signs erected in Marshalswick Lane. I would certainly agree with him that the priorities of the council are very questionable. I would, however, add that as a resident of Marshalswick Lane I welcome any steps taken to calm the traffic but it is worthy of note that one of the smiley face signs worked properly for just a few days after it was erected but has now been out of action for several weeks. I did contact a local councillor about the fact that one of the signs was not working and required prompt attention but my enquiry has so far been greeted with deafening silence! I have not seen any literature from political parties suggesting that complacency is part of their manifesto but I am tempted to ask if they should consider including it?

BRIAN G LAWRENCE Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

‘Police patrols’ do not warrant signs

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SIR - If you walk down the Causeway through Verulamium Park from King Harry Lane to the lake you will be visually assaulted by no fewer than 15 copies of the ugly bright yellow notices warning of (probably fictional) police patrols. Such overkill is not a deterrent but an incitement. It brings out all my most destructive urges. These unsightly horrors do more to disfigure the historic area than the public has done in all the 75 years I have lived here. If anyone imagines that the police have time to stroll through Verulamium on the off-chance of apprehending a flint dislodger they must be pretty naive. Two or at most three notices and strictly in B/W might be tolerable. The current monstrous eyesores must go.

BERNARD STAY Fishpool Street, St Albans

Transparency for all council candidates?

SIR - I write to set the record straight regarding claims made in the recent campaign literature of two St Albans candidates. Cllr Richard Curthoys, a Conservative candidate for Marshalswick South, writes of “vanity projects such as new gates and a ramp at Clarence Park”. There is huge popular support for these replacement works, without which the current rotting wooden access structure would have to be closed. It is difficult to see how the replacement of an entrance to a public park which affords access to hundreds of park-users including children, the disabled, and mums with pushchairs could possibly be described as a “vanity project”. Then there is the astonishing claim from Barry Sumpter, Conservative candidate for Clarence ward, that he has “been actively involved in action to resolve funding sources for alterations to the steps in Clarence Park”. But in December, you reported that “Cllr Alun Davies and local resident Barry Sumpter have canvassed opinion on the proposed cost and have found that while most people they spoke to said that while the ramp needed replacing, they would prefer to see the money spent on tackling road problems and improving facilities. Both men think that the way forward is to start a crowd-funding campaign to raise the money, as well as canvassing local businesses and funding bodies”. So Barry Sumpter gives the impression that he in some way assisted in the process of ensuring the entrance steps and ramp went ahead. The truth is that Mr Sumpter assisted Cllr Davies in opposing these works unless crowd-funding was sought: a proposal generally regarded as absurd. Surely works of this nature - the replacement of a park entrance - are exactly what council tax is designed to provide? So local Conservatives seem to be trying to have it both ways. Cllr Davies and Cllr Jessica Chivers voted against the proposal to rebuild the entrance, and Cllr Curthoys thinks it is a vanity project, yet Barry Sumpter gives the impression that he somehow made it happen when nothing could be further from the truth. In local, as in national, politics we need transparency from all political parties.

PAUL BRECKNELL Chairman, Clarence Park Residents’ Association State of lake is an embarrassment

SIR - For over a thousand years there have been fishpools in what is now Verulam Park. In 1929 the lake was excavated to provide jobs and create a much-loved amenity in the heart of our city. For the last generation it has been allowed to silt up and is now a stagnant pond. Sticklebacks, newts and frogs cannot live in the foetid water. What does it say about our civic values in the 21st century that St Albans can find thousand of pounds for fireworks but we cannot afford the price of fresh water?

MICHAEL BARTLET Labour candidate for Verulam Ward (district council elections) Portland Street, St Albans

Verulam Motor Company memories

SIR – Around 1935 our family settled in St Albans and I secured employment at The Verulam Motor Company situated in Lower Dagnall Street. Two years later I passed my driving test and was declared a ‘Ford mechanic’. The company’s showroom was in Verulam Road and is now occupied by a company named Beelux. Plans were in hand for a grand new building on land at the junction of London Road and Marlborough Road. Eventually all staff were happily installed there. The main building, as seen in a recent issue of the Herts Advertiser, housed a showroom and store on the ground floor while the upper floor provided space for second hand vehicles and customers’ cars awaiting servicing or repairs. Three or four petrol pumps stood on the forecourt at the front. To the rear of the main building a large modern workshop was erected, housing its own store, work benches, a large pit and a hydraulic ramp to facilitate under-chassis work. A car wash sat in one corner next to the manager’s office. A foreman was responsible for the performance of between three and five mechanics. Access was via a ramp from Marlborough Road. On completion of scheduled work, the mechanic responsible road tested his vehicle on the main road, the North Orbital Road being a favourite testing ground as it carried little traffic in those days. Sadly, in 1940 as war commenced, trade suffered due to drivers joining the forces and petrol being rationed. The proprietor was an American whose group of three Ford agencies included two others situated somewhere in the London suburbs.

BC FOSTER Bluett Road, London Colney

Source of funding for new school

SIR - I’d like to offer parents and the wider community assurances from Hertfordshire County Council following last week’s article regarding the new secondary school in Harpenden. Firstly, the council is as keen as they are that a new school is delivered as soon as possible. We are committed to providing every child in Hertfordshire with a school place and are fully aware that there is a clear need for additional places in Harpenden. As such, we are doing everything in our power to assist the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which is funding the delivery of the school, and will continue to support the development of this project. Importantly, the council has acquired the land for the new school by way of conditional contract. The EFA recently indicated that the current estimated cost of this particular free school proposal is somewhat higher compared to other free school proposals. As the EFA was concerned over its ability to gain capital approval for the project, we have agreed to propose a funding contribution from the council to ensure that the design and the delivery of the project meets the expectations of the school’s sponsors, the Harpenden Secondary Education Trust and the wider community. We have not disclosed a figure as we are not yet in a position to know exactly how much it will be, and to speculate publicly would be unhelpful to the process. However, as a rough estimate I can say that it is likely to make up around five to 10 per cent of the total cost of the project. This money will come from capital grants we receive from Government for school expansions, so there will be no calls on Hertfordshire council taxpayers to support the school.

JENNY COLES Director of Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council

SIR - Thanks to the Herts Ad for publishing the extensive details of the view of the county council regarding the need for a new secondary school to the north of St Albans district and their proposal to build it at Batford, Harpenden. As you are aware there are already three secondary schools in Harpenden and recently one of them, St George’s has stated that they will not take young people from outside Harpenden. Another school, Sir John Lawes, is already very close to the new Batford site proposed by county. You are also aware from decades ago that secondary schools in Wheathampstead and Redbourn were closed and relatively recently the large site of the former school in Wheathampstead was sold for additional housing which has subsequently produced many additional children. These children will require junior and senior school places. There are already 90 children starting at the two Wheathampstead junior schools. Central government has stated that the cost of the proposed Batford school is too high and stated that if county really does want to proceed with it they will have to pay a substantial sum to cover what the government sees as excessive costs. As a former Mayor and portfolio holder for resources on St Albans district council I ask myself where will this money come from? As far as I can assess it the county council taxpayers will have to pay increased council taxes or agree to cut other services. Taxes covering the Batford site will not only increase from the higher costs of the Batford school but also by a further of at least £23 million for the essential road and pavement works needed for Lower Luton Road to make it safer. With regard to Lower Luton Road as I have reported before: during the General Election period I called at ALL houses on Lower Luton Road and 100 per cent of those who answered their door asked/told me about traffic pressures, complained about the fact that the additional traffic to a new school in Batford would aggravate a close to an already impossible traffic position. Many stated that at peak periods they could not even get out of their drive in their car or cross the road to get to or from a bus stop. I responded that I would do my best to help them. Part of the reason for this was that a number of years ago I personally experienced problems whilst walking on the pavement from Wheathampstead towards Harpenden. I also received a request from a resident who complained she could not push her pram along the pavement to St Helens school as it was too narrow. The problem is aggravated due to the ineffective lorry ban which fails to stop large lorries from using the road. Subsequent to the above you recently published an article about the expansion of Luton Airport and areas to the west of Welwyn Hatfield that will certainly aggravate the problem! Please will the public respond direct to the county council, their local councillors of whatever political party they support also the Herts Ad with their views regarding building the school at Batford rather than Wheathampstead or another site to the north of St Albans such as Southdown. If they say yes they want the Batford site will they please add to their letter that they are happy to see an increase in county council tax both to cover the excess costs re building the school plus the urgent costs to upgrade Lower Luton Road. If they say No is this is only because they cannot afford the increased council tax will they also state this.

HON ALDERMAN CHRIS OXLEY Coleman Green, Wheathampstead