Letters, August 22, 2013
Recycling scheme is a waste of money
SIR – May we be told who initiated the latest food waste recycling project? More to the point, who authorised the huge expenditure of council funds to deliver a load of junk to my house and, I assume, to every house in the district?
Why do I need a “caddy” and dozens of paper bags when the eight page, wordy leaflet informs me old newspaper is entirely suitable for wrapping food waste before placing it in the green wheeled bin, as has been the case for years, ever since the wheeled bins were introduced? We already have a separate black bin for landfill.
The huge cost of this exercise benefits only the suppliers of this latest load of rubbish.
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Sandpit Lane, St Albans
SIR – How I agree with Allen Chamberlain – those brown bags they have given us for food waste are completely useless!
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I put one in the green caddy and started to put all my food waste in it. After two days, and it only being a quarter full, I lifted it out and found that there was a lovely growth of mould on the sides of the caddy! I had to put the bag in another bag to deposit it in my green bin. In future I shall empty it every day, although my food waste is minimal.
Come on, SADC, either provide us with smaller stronger bags or forget the scheme altogether!
Sewell Close, St Albans
SIR – I fully support the letter from Allen Chamberlain – “Food waste scheme is flawed”, Herts Advertiser, August 15.
The paper bags to use in the plastic “caddy” are completely inadequate . I too found they very easily became wet and totally unsuitable for the job they were supposed to do. Prior to this we used newspaper to wrap the small amount of waste food we had that could not go onto the compost heap. This was then put into the green wheelie bin and the whole process worked very well.
My husband wrote to the council complaining and got a rather convoluted letter from them by way of explanation. However, they said residents are allowed to use newspaper if they wished.
Why waste money attempting to fix something that wasn’t broken?
Long Buftlers, Harpenden
Excessive cost of Gorhambury fete
SIR – I read the article in last week’s edition about the success of the summer fete at the Gorhambury Estate with interest and an element of surprise.
Last weekend I had planned a family day out to the summer fete at Gorhambury followed by the Olympic Legacy Event at St Albans lakes.
I had researched both events online and had decided to park at Gorhambury for the “nominal” fee advertised, enjoy the fete and then walk across to the lakes.
However, my plans were swiftly changed when I attempted to park at the fete and was told it would cost me £20.
Once I had overcome my disbelief I enquired further about this fee and I was told that the cost of the parking was “nominal” within the overall price and that the £20 covered entrance into the fete for all those in the car (myself and my two children).
I was informed that my children would be able to enjoy “free” tractor rides, pony rides, face painting and entertainment and that proceeds from the entrance fee would be donated to a children’s charity. Furthermore I was told that the fee would enable me to attend the Olympic Legacy Event at the lakes, which I informed them was in fact free.
I am astounded that the fete organisers would consider a blanket charge of £20 per car or £10 per adult (if on foot) to be reasonable, particularly without having advertised such a high entrance fee in advance.
There were no details of this entrance cost online and no signage at the entrance about the charge. I was due to meet two other adult members of my family at the fete, who were arriving on foot, therefore we would have had to pay a total of £40 to attend the event.
I have attended many local fetes this summer and have never paid more than a £2 entrance fee.
Therefore last Saturday I did not arrive at the Gorhambury fete prepared to pay £20 and feel the organisers should have highlighted these costs in their marketing literature and at the entrance on the day.
I do fully understand that the cost covered the children’s rides but I would have preferred to have had the choice to decide what to pay for and how much money to spend once inside the fete. I also wonder what benefit any adults without children would gain from such a high entrance fee.
Consequently myself and two very disappointed children left Gorhambury, having only seen the car park and headed to the lakes, where we paid £3.50 to park for the day.
We spent the rest of last Saturday enjoying the free entertainment of the Olympic Legacy Event where my eldest son tried out lots of different sports. I must commend the organisers on such a well run and enjoyable event. We hope it will become a regular attraction. We would certainly recommend it to other families.
Drakes Drive, St Albans
Strategic Local Plan delay essential
SIR – Having emblazoned your front page with the news that a Peer Review believes the lack of a Strategic Local Plan is risking development on the Green Belt, your editorial leaves people in no doubt as to whom you think is to blame: “Whenever a council or government has no overall control,” you wrote, “the opposition parties often come together in an unholy alliance to defeat the ruling party and boost their own credentials.”
So everyone but the Conservatives, eh?
Having sat on the draft SLP for the best part of a year, the Conservative administration then tried to rush it through Full Council without proper evidence or consultation. They failed. Not because of cheap party politics but because councillors of ALL parties – Independent, Green, Lib Dem, Labour and even Conservative – recognised that an SLP without an up-to-date housing needs study and an independent Green Belt review, was simply not fit for purpose.
Now, in accordance with the clear advice given by the Planning Advisory Service (which co-operated on the Peer Review), the administration has agreed to produce the independent Housing Needs and Green Belt studies required by Government legislation and on which a sound Strategic Local Plan must be based.
You may still, for whatever reason, prefer elected councillors to sit on their hands whilst a minority administration wastes thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on ill-considered and secretive draft plans. Happily, many of us shall continue to disappoint you.
CLLR MARTIN LEACH
Labour Group Leader
St Albans District Council
Ely Road, St Albans
Crucial role for Look! St Albans
SIR – The Peer Review of the Planning and Building Control Department report for the most part would not make happy bedtime reading.
It was conducted between February 11-13 this year, thus providing a snapshot of what was happening at that time within the department.
Having a view from someone outside can be very useful to help you to stand back for a moment and assess how you are dealing with the day-to-day work and the major challenges St Albans is facing.
However when you take a snapshot you can sometimes miss some of the action just about to happen and I feel that is what might have occurred with the comments surrounding Look! St Albans.
The Look! St Albans revised co-authored final report by the community and The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community was issued the day after the peer review team had left St Albans. This report contains our preferred third route, discussed by the steering group in January and endorsed by the community in March. This took into account the delay in the Strategic Local Plan and how we could adapt our approach to overcome this difficulty.
Also what seems missing from the snapshot was the integral role of the council within this community-led project. Before the project got fully off the ground, a meeting was held late 2011 with members of the emerging steering group, The Prince’s Foundation and key people within the council, to ensure our work would be carried out in harmony with the council.
The DCLG funding which has paid for part of our design work with The Prince’s Foundation was not available to councils, but was a part of the “Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning” programme.
Look! St Albans is working within the spirit of neighbourhood planning which is proving to be a very flexible tool.
St Albans Council’s, I feel, enlightened position, not to undervalue the role of the community within planning has been endorsed by the decision of The Historic Towns Forum (a national body comprised in part of other local authorities working in the historic environment) to hold a seminar here in our city in May, supported by the council, when the Look! St Albans project was used as a case study.
As stated in the Peer Review report: “The history of the city and its wealth of historical architectural styles should mean that design quality is essential for all development.” All those who have given our collective project their support I believe endorse that statement passionately.
Our methodology, as described I think very well by a steering group colleague as “disciplined informality”, helps to involve that absolutely essential ingredient local knowledge with widely-connected interests. This is already reflected in our results so far to attain, through design, the local distinctiveness that we all desire and cherish.
Our draft constitution, which thoroughly reflects we are community rooted, is going through its final fine tuning before we present it to the community at our inaugural AGM; this we will hopefully be arranging quite soon.
I am also very happy to report that our draft constitution now has an accompanying document called a Memorandum of Understanding drafted by the council. It offers a clear commitment to report the results of workshops held by Look! St Albans to councillors as part of any planning policy document adoption or planning application process for key sites within the city centre.
We know the route we set out at our community event in March will not always be an easy path; nothing worthwhile ever is! I would hope should the peer review team return, they would be very pleasantly surprised, that with goodwill and a determination to reach a consensus for the good of St Albans on matters of design, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Tennyson Road, St Albans
Who do councillors really serve?
SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with the editorial comment that “local councillors are elected because they want to serve the needs of the district...” (Herts Advertiser, August 15).
Would that it were true! However, all too often I, like many other readers of this paper, have witnessed the vicious letter exchanges between politicking councillors, or have attended council meetings where insults and sneers were flung across the council chamber with total disregard for the issue under debate, or the impression upon attending members of the public.
Am I alone in thinking that voting and policy are decided upon without considering the needs of local people? That frequently political dogma and mutual disparagement appear to be the only criterion?
It seems to me that the more “politics” becomes the focus of local government, the less ‘people’ feature in the decisions and actions. The direct result of this can be seen in the current mess of the non-existent SLP.
Alas, instead of working constructively together to sort it out in the interests of us, the electorate, who put them there in the first place, one can anticipate the usual “it’s all their fault, blame them” letters to pour forth from various party adherants.
Before the letter writers dip their pens in venom, however, may I highlight two key words in the Editor’s remarks: “serve” and “needs”. It seems many of our current crop of councillors have lost sight of why they decided to stand for the council in the first place, and to whom they should be accountable.
Harpenden Independent Partnership
Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden
‘Dog’s needs are your responsibility’
SIR – A response to my responder...
Thanks to Andy Strowman for the very moving account of wartime Poland (“Why we must all help each other”, Herts Advertiser, August 15) and for reminding me of other terrible things going on in the world.
However, he needn’t have bothered, as I am already quite aware of such misery, and have always tried to do my bit to support the various causes attempting to make the world a better place. With regard to Andy’s hope that his original letter might have made me think of all these things... no, it didn’t. It merely made me think how irresponsible he was for not planning ahead and taking suitable provisions for his dog.
The Ridgeway, St Albans
Parish council is keeping costs down
SIR – Richard Curthoys writes another offensive letter bashing St Stephen Parish Council (August 15).
Those of us with long memories will remember his letter “Useless councils” (May 23, 2002) where he incorrectly attributed a 26 per cent increase in council tax to St Stephen Parish Council and went on to suggest that this was a scheme to bring employment to the unemployable.
His referral to the chairman of the parish council Oonah Jones who apparently “rejoices in the grandiose title” is a churlish statement and far removed from reality. If Mr Curthoys would care to attend even one meeting of the parish council then he may change his view, but as always the people who shout the loudest hardly ever, and certainly never in Mr Curthoys case, attend such a meeting, all of which are open to the public.
These are hard times for everybody, councillors included. The council are well aware of that fact and is why the precept was agreed this year at five per cent. This amount will allow the current services to be maintained with just a few projects. It will not allow projects in line with the council’s aims, but a precept rise that would have allowed the aims to be achieved was clearly unacceptable.
We are very lucky to have beautiful facilities at Greenwood Park, lovely recreational woodland at Blackgreen Wood and countless play areas, bus shelters and other facilities that many residents will not realise are provided and maintained by the parish council. These lovely facilities have to be paid for.
St Stephen is a Quality Parish Council and that accreditation provides a clear demonstration and commitment to the community; they also have a dedicated staff who often give up their time for free.
Mr Curthoys calls for pay restraint without being in receipt of the facts. He should note the following; that between the year 2000 and 2013 my wife (who is the deputy clerk) has received over a13 year period a total pay increase of £400.
In my view, she has exercised exceptional pay restraint whilst her job has grown like Topsy and she has given more and more of her time for free. That was confirmed by the independent consultant and that is why the council have reviewed the staff salaries.
Mr Curthoys should come to a council meeting or run the risk of a hat trick of factually incorrect publications.
Ashridge Drive, Bricket Wood
Apology for claims is long overdue
SIR – The letter from Oonah Jones in the August 8 edition of the Herts Advertiser highlights once again the tendency of the local Fib-Dems to be economical with the truth in their ‘Focus’ publications.
In Marshalswick North and Sandridge a ‘Focus’ distributed during the recent county council election campaign falsely claimed that I and two of my fellow Conservative councillors voted for 350 houses in the Green Belt off Sandpit Lane, this is completely untrue and we are still waiting for an apology.
Similar issues have happened in other wards and this sort of distortion of the truth by the Fib-Dems is happening all too often and we wonder why people don’t trust politicians. I suggest that readers treat all such claims made in ‘Focus’ publications from now on with a pinch of salt.
CLLR FRANCES LEONARD
St Albans District Council
Rose Walk, St Albans
Access road needs to be a priority
SIR – We keep hearing about the possible impact the proposed rail freight depot may have on some residents but fail to consider all concerned.
Having been told of the possible thousands of more lorries using the A405 to access the site no thought seems to have been given to those affected by the traffic along this busy route.
This section of the A405 is already the busiest trunk road in this part of the country and is the only access to the London Colney Football Club, the OVRC rugby grounds and club, The Irish Centre sports ground and club and the large allotments area. They all have one entrance that may have been suitable many years ago prior to the road being a dual carriageway.
Help has been requested in making a new access road to these grounds for many years without success and with stumbling blocks put in the way for the last 10.
The anticipated extra traffic could bring about the end of these much used sports grounds and allotments if something is not done before to improve the access point along this road.
Help has been requested from the local councillors and portfolio holder but little significant help has arrived.
Five Acres, London Colney
Airport bus cancellation row
SIR – I recently complained to Arriva about the cancellation of their service to Luton Airport, and requested that they re-instate it.
Today (August 15) I received a telephone call (presumably from their PR department) explaining that they did not cancel the service! Access for their service was taken away from them by Luton Airport/Luton Borough Council. It was explained to me that there was still a shuttle service to the airport (where from?), necessitating a change of bus, additional waiting, and movement of luggage, and another ticket.
A couple of weeks ago, there were articles in the Herts Advertiser on this matter. Both parties denied that they had initiated the termination of this service to the airport. Somebody is telling porkies.
If Arriva are prepared to service the airport, why do the airport/Luton Borough Council deny them the opportunity?
Could it be financial like the airport drop-off facilities and short-term parking?
Does the airport really need more passengers? Are they trying to get rid of passengers? Do they deserve more passengers?
Bloomfield Road, Harpenden
Bridge capacity is inadequate
SIR – Surely a golden opportunity has been missed to increase the capacity of the City Station footbridge as part of the current six month refurbishment or the £5 million station refit in 2009?
Peak-time queues are all too common on all three stairwells and will only get worse when 12-seater trains become the norm rather than the exception, raising health and safety fears.
Extra stairwells on the northern side around the lift shafts would have been welcomed and/or a separate bridge at the southern end attached to the road bridge. Anything less just seems cosmetic, like the bouncers employed to warn commuters not to bang their heads on the scaffolding.
Camp View Road, St Albans