Letters, August 23, 2012

Kept out of the loop at park

SIR – For the record St Albans District Access Group has not yet been asked to support the modifications taking place at Verulamium for the new “shared spaces”.

We attended a meeting to receive presentations and did a site visit long before the work started. Some members do not welcome the legitimisation of cycling in the park, others have said that dedicating one lane exclusively to cyclists and the other narrow lane to be shared by pedestrians, parents with pushchairs and toddlers in tow, children on scooters, disabled and elderly people in wheelchairs and on electric mobility scooters, is misguided.

On the other hand the council should be commended for getting into the spirit of the Paralympics by constructing a series of physical challenges for the frail and disabled.

When they’ve finished, the next project should be to refresh Westmnster Lodge from a shabby neglected athletics track into a proper sports stadium fit for everyone – including the disabled who at present can’t even get in.


Chairman, St Albans District Access Group

Most Read

Morals of milk

SIR – Elizabeth Dumpleton’s letter in the August 9 edition of the Herts Ad spoke about the awfulness of the scenario of no cows in the fields in the UK because of the way the large supermarkets are treating the dairy farmers.

I too have real anxieties about the way in which the supermarkets distort the demand and supply of food from our farmers but I do wish to add a note of reality to the idyllic picture many people like to hold when thinking about milk and cows.

Milk derives from the breasts of another mammal. Milk is designed for baby cows – not adult humans. In order to get milk to drink we steal the babies (calves) of cows a few days after they are born so that we can have the milk that should be used to feed the growing calf; this causes the mother cows immense distress and they may cry for days for their lost calves.

The majority of male calves from the dairy industry are then either slaughtered or sent to make veal. While the mother cows are still lactating we then may artificially inseminate them so that they are pregnant while producing milk, and therefore the milk may contain a higher level of growth factors which some argue are implicated in cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

We have cross bred cattle to such an extent they they are now little more than milk machines with udders so large that they can suffer from leg problems because of the weight of milk they are having to carry around. There are also high levels of mastitis – infections of the udder – not nice to think about the pus cells in your milk. A cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years. By the time the dairy cow is just five years old she is worn out by the strain of constant milk and calf production and is slaughtered as she is no further use to the industry

The latest thing we are doing to cows is to take them out of fields altogether so no more cows in fields – increasingly they will be factory farmed for their milk in large sheds, never seeing daylight or eating fresh grass.

So milk isn’t that benign, healthy and cruelty free option many people like to think it is. And we don’t need milk to be healthy. As a vegan for almost 20 years, and a member of the Herts Vegan and Vegetarian Group, I can confirm that more and more people are looking at their diet and adopting a more healthy and cruelty free lifestyle. If you want to know more about a dairy free and cruelty free life look at the Vegan Society website.


Ayot St Peter, near Wheathampstead

Gardens of the Rose campaign continues

SIR – Whilst I think the Gardens of the Rose are lovely to have in St Albans and appreciate their efforts in trying to make it a viable business, I do think there is a safety issue here to consider before any planning permission is granted for a permanent car park with access from Chiswell Green Lane.

Chiswell Green Lane is very narrow. It is used regularly by Chiswell Green Riding School, walkers, joggers, marathon runners, etc. It is not wide enough for coaches, wedding traffic, cars and all the delivery lorries that would use the lane.

It’s a pity that when the Gardens of the Rose sold the land to Butterfly World, their legal experts did not include the condition that entry to the car park would be from Noke Lane through Butterfly World and then this problem would not have occurred.


Hazel Road, Park Street

SIR – I was dismayed to read your article that the Gardens of the Rose may have to close. We would lose a marvellous amenity and tourist attraction and I would like to support the Herts Advertiser’s Keep the Roses Blooming campaign.

It has always surprised me that RNRS and Butterfly World could not agree on parking since they complement each other. When I visit the Gardens with my niece and family, we always go to Butterfly World at the same time – and I suspect this is often the case with other families.

Regarding planning permission for a car park, I appreciate that the Green Belt must be protected but I would have thought an exception could be made in this case. It is after all for only 30 parking places and the site would be improved by tree planting!


Grasmere Avenue, Harpenden

SIR – I write in support of the Rose Gardens’ application for parking spaces.

Having grown up in Chiswell Green and visited on numerous occasions over the last 40 years, it would be such a shame to see these beautiful and peaceful gardens close for the sake of a planning application.

Over the years I have enjoyed many walks in the peace and tranquillity as well as the evening concerts, craft shows and rose shows. There are very few local places you can visit with your dog and enjoy an afternoon tea!


Topstreet Way, Harpenden

SIR – I was concerned to read the story that indicated that the Rose Gardens in St Albans were under threat of closure due to the continued parking issues which they are experiencing.

It would seem a tremendous loss to St Albans if a sensible commercial solution to parking is not found.

We have visited the Gardens regularly since we moved back to St Albans and thought that the construction of Butterfly World would help both organisations to flourish and not only be attractions for local residents but indeed attract additional visitors to our historic city, boosting the local economy.

I cannot understand why a sensible solution cannot be found and would urge the council to support the application and indeed help promotion of the Gardens to attract more visitors to our city.

The Gardens offer a peaceful environment for visitors to enjoy the fantastic roses and we know many people in the area who would be devasted to see the Rose Gardens close.

I trust a sensible decision will be reached in the near future.


Allandale, St Albans

SIR – I was shocked and saddened to read the letters about the potential closure to the RNRS in the paper.

As a former district councillor, I can only say that if this is the case it could well be the direct result of some inflexibility being exercised by senior members of the RNRS who are perhaps not willing to accept change or move on to make their charity one which has parity with present day visitor attractions.

Alongside Sir David Attenborough, Professor David Bellamy, Emilia Fox and Baroness Helena Kennedy, I am proud to be a patron of the Butterfly World Project and for a number of years have watched this debate ‘rumble’ along in an unnecessary fashion.

In March 2012, the project’s managing director, Angela Harkness, invited a senior member of the RNRS to meet in order to discuss any issues that may exist between the organisations, including the ongoing offer to use Butterfly World’s car and coach parking facilities and a joint-ticketing system to allow discounts for visitors. The offer was ignored and it remains noticeable that the direct access gate in the boundary fence, constructed to facilitate car park access to and from the RNR, has been closed off by RNRS.

The local residents, if they wish to put pen to paper, should be lobbying the trustees of RNRS to urge the senior management to move forward and work hand-in-hand with Butterfly World Project to ensure both organisations thrive as wonderful “joint” visitor attractions for St Albans – particularly at this beautiful time of year!


Butterfly World patron

Ash Copse, Bricket Wood

Pawle of the people

SIR – While pleased to read of the investment by Harpenden Town Council in Batford Springs Nature Reserve and in Porters Hill playing field, I would like to take this chance to remind Cllr Bert Pawle that it is not him that is investing in these play areas, but us.

We, the taxpayers from the whole of Harpenden, provide the money for “his investment”, for “his staff” and for “his grounds maintenance operatives”.


Broadstone Road, Harpenden

Change the record over Classics

SIR – Re: Classics on the Common. Oh dear! Robert Hill is at it again! Moan, moan, moan. I do wish he would change the record! It is quite clear he doesn’t like classic cars but just because he is a bore, he should not be trying to spoil it for the thousands of people who do like them. I feel very strongly about this.

Last time he complained the cars and crowds were ruining the common (which they didn’t). Now this time, he is complaining about the volume of traffic up and down Cravells Road for one day out of 365.

For one thing Cravells Road is one-way in places and for another, 700 vehicles an hour is an exaggeration as that would be busier than central London. Also why should they change the event to weekends to suit Mr Hill! It has run perfectly well for X number of years on a Wednesday night with no trouble!

May I suggest Mr Hill goes out of town for that evening and lets us enjoy our classic cars evening.

As he always seems to be writing letters to the Herts Advertiser about different subjects, may I suggests he finds something else to quib about and leaves this extremely well-organised, trouble-free, fundraising, charitable, fun, family event alone and stop trying to get it done away with (that’s what he wants) just because he is a spoilsport and a killjoy! (He’d have something to moan about if they’d had the Olympics on Harpenden Common).

As my father always says... If you don’t like it, move! (I suggest the Shetland Isles! Oh sorry, the seagulls make too much noise and the sheep are damaging the grass by eating it!)

A big thank you to the organisers of this annual event. Another brilliant night (shame we couldn’t have more Classics every quarter). Ha ha!


Dane Close, Harpenden

Thanks for help with Mini-Olympics

SIR – After a well-organised and thoroughly enjoyable Mini-Olympics-themed event for the residents of Napsbury Park in London Colney, I would like to thank Hightown Praetorian and Churches Association for all of their hard work in organising this day for all of the children.

I am very apprietiative to both St Albans City FC and Saracens for their very many kind donations that were given out as prizes in a free raffle. There are many happy children with fun days out ahead to look forward to thanks to their generosity.

I would finally like to take this opportunity to thank St Albans City and District Council and both the local police and fire service for their participation in making this event as successful as it was. On a personal note, participating in the sumo wrestling was great fun I was proud to have been involved from the start and of the fantastic turn out.


London Colney

Shame over Pemberton plans

SIR – I am appalled by the response of the Alban City School governors to the refusal of the application to demolish the old Pemberton School building.

Before their threatened boarding up I suggest they take a short walk down the Sandridge Road, to Bernards Heath. There, at the Bernards Heath Infant School site, they will see an excellent refurbishment and updating of a Victorian school building, a near contemporary of the Pemberton.

When the BHIS building became inadequate in the ’60s it was replaced by modern school buildings at the back of the site, with the old building then conveniently given over to a local social club.

The years passed and eventually the school was again in need of more accommodation so the 19th Century building was given an overhaul and update and is a very attractive, integral part of the school once again, much trumpeted and applauded at its re-opening.

Who was responsible for the new lease of life for the old school building, five or less years ago? Why, Herts County Council! The same HCC that put in the application to demolish the Pemberton building. Are memories that short at County Hall?

If the Board of Governors of the City School does not have the imagination to make use of a fine period building in St Albans I suggest they are not fit to run a school in an historic, cathedral city.


Upper Culver Road,

St Albans

Highways to blame over road repairs

SIR – I notice that your story on the road “improvements” to Cuckmans Drive (Herts Advertiser August 9) correctly uses the word “allegedly” to temper the inference that workmen abandoned plans to resurface the road due to bad weather.

However, the truth is that there was never any plan or intent to resurface Cuckmans Drive. This was confirmed to me by one of the contractors working on the site when the old top surface was removed, who when asked when the new top surface was going down replied that they only had instructions to remove the old top surface and not replace it.

Further confirmation of this was received from Damian Higgins (lead assistant district manager, St Albans, Hertfordshire Highways) who replied to my email enquiring about replacing the top surface thus: “The wearing course has been removed from the concrete road and the joints are being treated and levelled. There are no plans to replace the wearing course as this is a low speed road and does not require it. This is to reduce the amount of maintenance visits to this part of the network in the future, whilst maintaining the required properties of a residential carriageway.”

Let us not blame the workmen, therefore. The fault lies further up the command chain, with our county council and Herts Highways.

Concerned citizens of Cuckmans Drive are still trying to get to the bottom of this fiasco, in particular the criteria used when making such decisions, by whom exactly and the lack of consultation with St Stephen Parish Council and residents.

Although not pristine, there was not much wrong with the old road surface. Pavements, however, were and remain a different matter – with many residents choosing to walk along the road in preference to chancing the obstacle course of broken and uneven flagstones.

Had residents of Cuckmans Drive been consulted about how the area could have been improved to their benefit, I am sure that pavements would have been first on the list.


Cuckmans Drive, St Albans

Helicopters are a menace over town

SIR – Mrs Batten (Letters, August 16) rightly expresses fears over the low-flying helicopters which plague the lives of those living in north-west Harpenden.

I and many others find the uniquely pervasive noise of an approaching helicopter more menacing and intrusive than that of the fixed-wing airliners taking off from, or approaching, Luton Airport. As if the noise alone was not infuriating enough, it brings with it apprehensions of safety, though not necessarily those voiced by Mrs Batten.

Not for nothing are helicopters that fly over central London required to follow the Thames wherever possible.

A major engine or rotor failure in a helicopter flying at an altitude of only a few hundred feet has far more serious consequences for those under the flightpath than an equivalent incident with a fixed-wing plane, as the hapless pilot attempts to put down away from built-up areas.

We are told by Luton Airport authorities that the large executive helicopters flying mainly between Luton and the London area are directed to avoid residential parts of Harpenden by following a route to either the west, on the line of the M1, or the east, picking up the A1. But in practice that requirement is routinely flouted. Even in daylight and clear weather they regularly fly – low and deafeningly – directly overhead across the part of the town occupied by bedevilled residents such as Mrs Batten and myself.


Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Keep God out of the chamber

SIR – I find the views expressed by Martyn Hedges (Herts Ad letters, August 9) very disturbing. I expect elected officials to be accountable wholly to those that elect them. I certainly do not want decisions about what happens locally to be influenced by what a councillor believes is the will of some fictitious deity.

I hope that he understands how offensive his comments are to all Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc., councillors.


Napsbury Lane, St Albans

On the mend after fall in street

SIR – Through your letters pages I would like to thank the extremely kind people who helped me when I had a fall on Saturday, August 18, at the top of Victoria Street in St Albans. I have already been able to thank Christina, a retired nurse who stayed with me and offered valuable advice and support.

There was also a family with two little boys who similarly stayed with me and especially Chris who repeatedly phoned for paramedic assistance which unfortunately took one hour to arrive. The kindness and concern of all these people was overwhelming and I am truly grateful. I would like to assure everybody including the little boys that I am feeling much better now.


Old London Road, St Albans

A place for PAP

SIR – Where has the Planning Advisory Panel (PAP) gone?

The new administration wants to deliver the pre-submission Local Strategic Plan (Core Strategy) to full council in November.

They are suggesting instead of PAP meetings in public we have a working party made up of selected councillors.

By having PAP as a working party, councillors will have no agendas published in advance and will have no advance knowledge of what is going to be discussed.

A full PAP meeting would give councillors an agenda and it would also give the public advance knowledge of what was going to be discussed at the meeting.

By having working parties you have no paperwork until the night of the meetings and by barring stakeholders or the public you do not have their input before the papers go out to consultation.

In my opinion it is better to form a PAP committee with members that have full voting rights so that discussion can be minuted and recorded for Cabinet to take into account.

We are deciding big issues, i.e. housing numbers, are the Conservatives keeping our number of 250 or have they a new one? If so what land is going to be used, is the BRE site back in the mix? Local parish councils and the town council will have an interest on what is proposed for their area.

By keeping PAP as a working party they will not have advance notice of what is being proposed for the pre-submission document, this I think is undemocratic.

Also how can councillors who belong to the working party decide on such critical issues at two meetings and when they have not had access to draft documents? When I have asked officers if I could see draft documents so I have time to digest and review their contents, I have been told to ask the portfolio holder. This should not be the case.

I am also concerned that our head of planning is leaving the council and it was her job to give guidance to the officers writing the documents. Who is giving this leadership now?

If this document is to go to full council in November and get the consensus across the Chamber, I strongly suggest that full PAP committee meetings are convened as soon as possible with stakeholders and the public allowed to attend. If you don’t allow the full attendance of councillors, stakeholders and the public, the council will be accused of making vital decisions that affect all of us in secret.

When the Liberal Democrats were the administration we had regular PAP meetings and PAP working party meetings, we like transparency in decision making. Since the new administration we have not had a full PAP meeting or PAP working party meeting for nearly a year.

Nobody has seen any documents, housing numbers have not been discussed, housing sites, employment land, all remain a mystery to the majority of councillors and the public.

Either the Conservatives are going to use the Lib Dems’ data that was ready to go out before we lost control or they are letting the officers rewrite everything and we are going to be presented at full council with the Core Strategy according to Government diktat.

The administration will say as the document is going out to consultation all comments can be taken on board then. However in my experience once you have written something into a document with the council’s signature on it people take that plan as future policy.

Better to get a document out to consultation that is supported by councillors, stakeholders, local residents, parish and town councils. You then have less to change and the Inspectorate can see you did consultation prior to publication and after publication, make adoption of our Core Strategy easier.


Colney Heath