Letters, August 28, 2014

Unwanted opinion from outside district

SIR – Interesting isn’t it, how those who live outside the district have plenty of “advice” for us residents. Maybe it’s jealousy that St Albans and its environs are such beautiful places to live, with many parks, lakes, walks and fields aplenty to admire and enjoy, not to mention the rich cultural history St Albans owns. So up pops a letter from Stevenage, from a Mr Stonebanks, who presumes to tell us that we are a misguided lot – wasting our taxpayer money on fighting a rail freight depot that London wants and needs. The problem Mr Stonebanks is not that we don’t think a rail freight should be built, but that it should not be built where it will cause devastation to Green Belt, villages, city views and an already over-burdened road system that is often close to collapse. Furthermore, his “dedicated M25 junction just for this site” will not exist and the freight traffic will end up pouring out onto an already-congested existing M25 junction. If Mr Pickles is still looking for somewhere to store nuclear waste, he can’t go far wrong than look at Stevenage. I’m sure if the rest of their citizens are anything like Mr Stonebanks, they will see what benefits the rest of the country will accrue from their sacrifice... or maybe not.

STEVE BOWES-PHIPPS Centaurus Square, Frogmore, St Albans

Hospital’s future remains uncertain

SIR – Once more we hear rumours of the possibility that our city may lose part or all of its hospital units. This is unacceptable for a community of our size. To which crumbling, overcrowded establishment will we be directed for NHS treatment? Whilst my family has had excellent treatment at both St Albans and Watford, the current cramped conditions for both staff and patients at Watford clinics is akin to what you would expect in the Third World. Add those from St Albans to their lists and the system would surely fall apart. The Watford building is an antiquity compared to ours, even from an exterior view. What can the health trust be thinking? Five years ago Anne Main called a public meeting, sharing a panel with all of the other electoral candidates for the 2010 election, to demand an explanation from the trust on the news that we were to be denied an urgent care centre. The two representatives left the meeting, refusing to answer questions on costing of such a venture, leaving the panel and the public with answers which meant little to any of us present. One explanation given for the project to be shelved was that here, we are “healther and wealthier”. Peter Lilley, MP, was afforded the same treatment when we lost our newly-built A&E department. Last year I wrote to your columns in praise of the treatment and care we received in NHS clinics and that has not diminished and we are extremely grateful. The staff themselves are critical of the conditions in which they have to work at Watford, compared to similar units at St Albans. Our Health Trust needs to listen to our MP, their staff and the public before they make their decision on the future of our hospital, or perhaps they should be classified as ‘not fit for purpose’.

JOHN MORISON Claudian Place, St Albans

SIR – Ms Dumpleton’s regular health service rants seem peculiarly misguided to me. Under Tony Blair’s Labour, St Albans City Hospital started to lose its services and at the 2005 elections, Labour dangled the promise of the ‘Hatfield Super Hospital’ to try and retain votes. When the electors of Hatfield and St Albans had the temerity to return Conservative MPs, Labour punished them by cancelling the ‘Super Hospital’ and continued to migrate services to Hemel and then Watford. With the nation struggling to free itself from Labour’s legacy of debt, it may be some while before money is available to provide an ideal solution for St Albans; but it seems counter productive to keep on attacking one person who has always been a staunch defender of the health services in St Albans. Since it appears that Ms Dumpleton doesn’t live in Mrs Main’s constituency, one wonders whether there might be another agenda?

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ADRIAN BIRCHALL Antonine Gate, St Albans

SIR – I have just seen the letter from Ms Elizabeth Dumpleton re the future of St Albans City Hospital and I initially agree with her that as always we hear the same old platitudes from the chief executive Samantha Jones regarding the failings of this trust. This organisation is not fit for purpose and will continue to lose money at an alarming rate if the present management structure remains in place. What Ms Dumpleton fails to realise and this is the real point that the trust is not interested in maintaining the City Hospital. It is dated and needs massive investment to bring it up to the standards the community should expect. The trust’s sole aim is to maximise the amount of money that can be realised from this vast and valuable site to alleviate their spiralling debts. She also castigates our local MP throughout her article, but Anne Main has a very sensible point that a new state of the art hospital is just what St Albans needs. Looking at the present hospital there is absolutely no point in throwing huge sums at this ageing site and, if it is sold, as I am convinced it will eventually be, the proceeds should go towards the construction of a new facility with much easier access and updated facilities. I do not regard the proposal put forward by Ms Main that Ms Dumpleton so blithely dismisses as “flannel” or flimsy excuses and certainly she is not being sidetracked by her own “issues”, but an area for serious discussion by all those who live in the St Albans area and who rightly expect to have a modern hospital for the future. Of course there is another solution not favoured by the pc brigade, why don’t we divert some of the billions of foreign aid that we send to some of the most corrupt countries in the world to building and replacing old hospitals with brand new ones? After all we are talking about taxpayers’ money. Wishful thinking!

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Green Belt vs golf courses debate

SIR – I think it is an excellent idea to build on golf courses rather than destroy the Green Belt and valuable agricultural land. This district has an exceedingly high number of golf clubs, which appear to be desperately struggling to gain new members. This indicates that there is considerable oversupply to the market and in fact one golf club in Wheathampstead has already closed. Developing a couple of the existing courses would enable the remaining clubs to increase their membership and thereby their financial viability. A positive outcome for everyone, including golfers. A golf course would certainly be the ideal site for the new secondary school, with good road access, car parking and the full range of services already on site. I am very surprised that councillors have not already considered this option.

RHODA HARRISON Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Charity parking problem

SIR – I read with interest the story about people receiving parking tickets for Race For Life. I am all for parking restrictions in and around town. Observing some of the ridiculous parking on a Sunday, is testament to the need for such measures. The council must however apply logic and thought. Logic: We’ve approved a charity event requiring additional parking. Thought: How do we facilitate this? The council stated they hadn’t hired additional staff. The question is then about how they distributed their staff? You rarely see anyone monitoring parking in that area so there is no doubt this was strategic on behalf of the council. The council also said they would be making a donation to Race for Life as a gesture of goodwill. Wouldn’t it be great to see how much this donation is, and how it compares to the income generated? Surely a meaningful gesture of goodwill would be donating all the income to Race for Life. If the council is going to approve such events, they must make arrangements for adequate parking. If the risk in that area is people reversing in and out, some signs warning drivers to slow down would surely be adequate.

KIRSTY ALEXANDER Hill Street, St Albans

SIR – I cannot debate the rights and wrongs of ticketing people who illegally park “because it is for charity”. These are late, lazy and inconsiderate people who knowingly infringe the rules. It is also a very modern moral dilemma, the belief one can acceptably apply personal priorities to exempt oneself from legislation. Had you a family member in a life-threatening situation where moments matter, travelling by ambulance on a road stalled by inconsiderate parkers, how would you feel? At least one car had also parked on Bluehouse Hill roadway, compounding problems. By the same principle how would people feel if parking then commenced on the green space within and around the Verulam or Batchwood estates? Where do boundaries get drawn? I suspect local businesses were also adversely impacted and abused. I experienced the chaotic Waitrose car park on that Sunday yet the shop was empty? Did the same apply to Everard Close retail outlets? My solutions to mitigate the above and maintain some ‘green’ edges to this delightful city, as well as encouraging community cooperation, delivering feelgood benefits and a win-win outcome for all concerned, participants, charities, residents, businesses, schools, retail outlets and most importantly the environment are: Plant wild meadow flowers on the verges/ green spaces, do not mow them; Local schools and businesses should open their empty Sunday spaces for a parking fee, give half to the event charity and half for their nominated charity; Local hostelries with car parks offer an inclusive pre-booked meal-deal with a defined donation to the organising charity: The council car parks allocate prepaid spaces at a decent price to participants, encouraging people to linger at retail and food outlets in the town; Combined ‘enjoy us, park and ride’ prices at tourist attractions like Gardens of The Rose and Butterfly World; Finally for the many who participated valiantly why should the minority of 30-ish who broke legislation guidelines detract from their stories? Reporting their rationale for supporting the charity, raising awareness and inspiring others is surely a more preferable use of typespace. What unbalanced reporting this was from a normally solid team.


Ideas for the future

SIR – Whilst working as a tactical planner for a large organisation between ’83 and ’97 putting into place corporate strategy for modernisation, growth and new business one of the guides we used was London County Council’s strategic plan for Greater London – produced in the early ’60’s. This mentioned amongst others, shopping centres for Brent Cross and regeneration of central Watford, housing and industrial estates for Borehamwood and Hemel Hempstead, housing estates on Napsbury, Shenley and Harperbury hospital sites. All of which have come to fruition including the middle ring road now known as the M25. Fast forward to 2014 – does St Albans City and District Council and Hertfordshire County Council have any sort of strategic plan? With the planning mess we now have I think not. Time for the strategic planners to think big. Following the demise of Handley Page, Herts County Council have in their possession a very large tract of land by default – Radlett Airfield, but how to use it for the benefit of all? Yes a rail freight terminal is one option! Why not consider a new super hospital for West Hertfordshire? Paid for by releasing Watford, Hemel and St Albans hospital sites for housing in town centres. A park and ride for St Albans, including reinstating Napsbury station as a transport hub. At the same time reinstate the Napsbury to Park Street railway line, thus enabling the improvement of the Watford Junction line. At the same time relieve pressure on Park Street and London Colney north roundabouts with up-and-over flyovers for the A414. Mixed in with affordable housing (not mansions) and a new football stadium, enabling regeneration of the Clarence Pak site for small pitch games. All of this would bring local jobs for local people. As an aside why not the maintenance depot for Crossrail 2 Hertfordshire branch. But whatever happens the Radlett Airfield site must stay in public ownership.

PETER COURT How Wood, Park Street

No shower? No problem!

SIR – The family sans shower (Herts Advertiser, July 24) can quite easily ‘wash properly’ by using a method British people in the Far East used, in the hot and humid temperatures. Sit in bath; have large bowl (or pail) of lukewarm water within reach and pour jugs full of water over one’s body. This is the most cooling method; it is economic on the use of water and does not take long either. Even those with showers could use this method to cut their water use in the hot weather.

MISS L. BARWELL Old Watling Street, Flamstead