Letters, August 7, 2014

Praise for hospital

SIR – My husband was admitted to Watford General Hospital several weeks ago and I just wanted to let your readers know what wonderful treatment he received from every ward he had been in. I originally dialled 111 on 25 May and two paramedics were with me very quickly. They were so professional and it was wonderful to feel so reassured and in safe hands. They took my husband to A&E – he was then transferred to Resus and then to AAU – the staff on all of these wards were just too wonderful for words. He was then transferred to the Acute Stroke Unit and again, nothing was too much trouble for these very young, cheerful and extremely hard-working nurses, the physio team and occupational therapists. Finally, he was on AAU Red Suite and has just been discharged home from Bluebell ward where again, the care by the nurses and the medical staff was absolutely first class. The cleaning staff never stopped cleaning the wards and were always so friendly. In addition, the food menus were varied and arrived boiling hot – what a difference from years ago. I was always told by my parents how important it is to give praise where/when it is due, not just to complain. Unfortunately, these days, hospitals tend to get a bad press, but my husband and I just cannot stop singing the praises of the staff of Watford General Hospital.

ROSEMARY WENZERUL Ashridge Drive, Bricket Wood

Rail freight is the best option

SIR – We must get goods off the roads and onto rails, but we can only do that with transfer stations near to the final market. London is the largest market for imported goods. There are very few sites large enough, near to a rail line and near to a major motorway. There will be a dedicated M25 junction just for this site in time so minimising traffic on local roads – they just haven’t told us yet. I read that St Albans council has spent £1.4 million in trying to prevent the Radlett rail freight terminal and I guess that Helioslough have spent a similar sum fighting the council’s lawyers, so the lawyers are happy, but what a terrible waste of taxpayers’ funds.

DAVID STONEBANKS Chequers Bridge Road, Stevenage

Nowhere to hide if things go wrong

Most Read

SIR – So our “masters” have decided that a huge rail/road freight interchange is needed in this area to benefit their national plan – just like HS2! We shall all be proud of it one day, of course, just as we were for the euphoric years after Concorde was built (then scrapped) or the horrible M25 motorway gridlock was foisted on us, along with that extra junction here not originally planned... Never mind, it’s all for the best, OK! The best-laid plans are apt to go wrong in practice, especially when no-one can be blamed for incompetence or intentional legal deception, as can often happen at some later stage as various design flaws are revealed. Even in relatively low-technology ventures, confusion reigns in offices when our comments on various malfunctions finally reach their destination on some cluttered desk full of coffee cups and mysterious computers which say ‘NO’ to all sensible requests. Send in the clowns, why don’t we, when critical points are ignored to avoid political chagrin or any obligation to correct problems now arising? If the sophisticated systems we profess to know cannot react properly to relevant information, what use are those who sit and stare at screens of data or flashing maps, devoid of any hope of managing a crisis situation? No money left in the till? No problem! But it does matter. The cost of failure to deal with long-term management dislocation or to accept responsibility for it, affects public finances in the future and certain officials will be held accountable for dereliction of duty when inevitable or predictable events occur. When alarmed citizens try to contact those ostensibly in charge, most efforts to register concern are doomed to corporate dismissal in a maze or frantic inaction. Trying to have our River Colne cleared of debris and pollution has proved to be a frustrating task over many years. Pleading with Hertfordshire Highways to improve road signage to reduce dangerous confusion has also been a negative experience: and as for the future ‘enforcement section’ of the district council, there seems to be no intention of controlling any abuses we noted! All existing faults will persist unless something serious is done soon. With the extra pressures from more heavy traffic in this area due to approval for Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) activity, any weakness will be magnified and repair costs will escalate. The details available on Internet pages on this subject show how many people objected to no avail. But there is some hope of intervention if the required Road Safety Audit fails to satisfy expectations, as the present record shows little has been done to address local issues involving logistical functions! Perhaps this urgent need will inspire the transport police to offer advice and money will be found to study exactly how our crowded roads will cope in the ‘interpeak’ periods now seen as the crunch time for traffic chaos here. More honesty will not come amiss, plus a dose of common sense currently not obvious at County Hall. Enough time has been wasted on evasion already, and we now expect cooperation and useful effort to prevent a disaster if Radlett Airfield is sold off to balance the books and stuff the consequences... We shall be watching and there will be no hiding places in excuses now.

KEN PEAK Richardson Close, London Colney

Allotments building is the lesser evil

SIR – I knew my letter (Herts Advertiser, July 10), proposing the use of allotment land for housing, was likely to stir up a hornet’s nest – and so it has proved in your subsequent correspondence columns. Did those evidently outraged readers examine my argument with sufficient care? I wonder. I would not want to see lovingly-tended allotments in Harpenden sacrificed to the builders any more than they would. My wife is a one-time Marquis Lane allotment holder. But the crucial words in my letter were the “lesser of the evils”, in the event of the tough choice having to be made between building houses either on our precious Green Belt countryside or on allotment ground. Carol Hedges suggests that the numerous golf courses around Harpenden could provide a preferable option. I am not and never have been a golfer. I nevertheless regard golf courses as part of our valuable green and open countryside rather than “rolling swathes of green grass”, as Ms Hedges rather contemptuously maintains. Allotments, however, are emphatically not part of the countryside. Their appeal is of a different order and one which I do not deny, but which can be likened more to the attractions of one’s own back garden vegetable plot. More than one of the respondents to my original letter has alluded to my living at the opposite end of Harpenden to the allotment sites I identified. There are allotments much closer, off Harpenden Rise and to the south-west of Roundwood Lane for example. But those plots are much smaller in total area and, as such, offer less potential for housing development. Richard White, in presumably ironic vein, asks in his letter “why stop at building on allotment sites, why not Harpenden Common and Rothamsted Park?” But in his last paragraph he – I hope – dispels the irony, asking whether defenders of the Green Belt like myself harbour fears that Harpenden could eventually become part of Greater Luton? If the Green Belt to the north of the town is progressively eroded, with building on the Bloomfield Road/Cooters End Lane farmland as the first step, the answer has to be yes.

ALAN BUNTING Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Praise for council’s policy on parking

SIR – The positive, forward-thinking views of Cllr Beric Read shone out from the report entitled ‘First victory in battle to reverse car parking policy’. If Cllr Chris White really believes his reported claim that parking changes have a detrimental effect on the health of the city, he is deluding himself and the public. Parking charges are of course unpopular. They can be avoided by choosing to walk, cycle or use a bus, and many people have already worked that out. The retailers are very likely to be overestimating the importance of car-using shoppers. A study in Bristol found retailers overestimated the number of shoppers arriving by car – they thought about 40 per cent, it was actually 20 per cent. More than half the shoppers had come into town on foot. Cycling and bus passenger shoppers were also under-estimated. It was also found that the shoppers who arrived on foot spent more in more shops than the ones arriving by car. This and other studies demonstrating the economic benefits of increasing walking can be found in the 2011 report ‘Making the case of investment in the walking environment’, available on the Living Streets website, www.livingstreets.org.uk More active travel, i.e. walking and cycling and less car use would be enormously beneficial for the health of individual citizens, the public at large and the economic health of the city. Why drive to a gym when you can walk briskly for 20 minutes, do your shopping and carry it home? Time-saving, money-saving, health and fitness building. Fewer cars used means less congestion, less noise, less air pollution. So more time-saving, money-saving (health service savings, highway maintenance savings) and better health all round. A more vibrant and social city, the local economy thriving accordingly. Or continue to be in thrall to cars and traffic jams? The current closure of Drovers Way means car users have to drive a bit further to get into the car park. But why does this mean that pedestrians get impeded? Russell Avenue is not the best walking environment as it is, with five car park/garage crossings of the footway, only half of them with drop kerbs. We could do without three large metal signs plonked on the pavement – and a fourth one in the middle of the dropped kerb section round the corner.

RONA WIGHTMAN Normandy Road, St Albans

Protect our jewel in the city’s crown

SIR – The editorial on July 24 seems to imply that those who have an interest in Clarence Park are restricted to a few people in Clarence Road and York Road. I suspect this is misleading, and that people from much further afield have an interest in the maintenance, use and ‘protection’ of the Park. Clarence Park is a real “jewel in the crown” of St Albans, and should be seen alongside the Abbey and Verulamium as being of huge importance to the city. It is not just an open space and a sports ground, but a marvellous and well-used Edwardian park, given to the people of St Albans by most generous benefactors. Hence any development should be sympathetic to the original design and the intention of the benefactors, and should ensure that the greatest possible area is available for the enjoyment of the greatest number of people.

PETER RICHARDSON Brampton Road, St Albans

SIR - In the July 24 Herts Advertiser, Lawrence Levy, co-owner of St Albans Football Club, implied that people who bought homes near its ground in Clarence Park had no right to object to anything it did. This is obviously not the case – and he is completely missing the point as to why residents are so concerned. We are supportive of the football club, and wish it every success in the new season, but we do have concerns about the future of Clarence Park. It has a special place in many people’s hearts and we should like to ensure that its beautiful, open and green environment is protected for many more generations to enjoy. On a number of occasions in the past 12 months, the football club has stated that ideally it would like a modern stadium infrastructure in the park with a hospitality suite and function rooms, as this would enable it to secure ‘non-match day revenues’. These commercial ambitions would completely change the nature of this much-loved Victorian park – and that is why local residents, and indeed many people across St Albans, have spoken out. The proposal by the council to redraft the park’s trust deed in a way that would facilitate private commercial development only added to the perception that we were being presented with something that had already been decided, and this led to the creation of the Protect Clarence Park (PCP) group. Concerns were exacerbated last month when St Albans councillors rushed into dealing with the renewal of the club’s £1-a-year licence for its ground because of a claim by Mr Levy (which he has now acknowledged was wrong) that the club would be relegated without having a long-term agreement in place before August 8. CP is very pleased to see Mr Levy clearly state, for the first time, in your paper that the club has no plans to rebuild the stadium and create a venue with function rooms at Clarence Park. And we note your Editor’s Comment that the council would not allow such a development to happen. We sincerely hope that this is the case, but we will remain vigilant. Residents near the park, as in any area, should not be pilloried for caring about their local environment. If they don’t, who will?

PAUL BRECKNELL Protect Clarence Park York Road, St Albans

Unreserved support for St Albans’ MP

SIR – Anne Main again had to spell out this month, this time to a local branch of the Women’s Institute, that she represents all her constituents, whatever political party they support, if any. Our MP for St Albans has secured a debate in Parliament on stamp duty, for instance, and says that the Green Belt use by Helioslough at Radlett ought to have been used to help first-time buyers instead, but that such green fields should not be built on at all. By contrast, the proponents of Lord (Charlie) Faulkner’s egotistical ideas, that the NHS or hospices are not good enough at palliative care, use the weasel word “assisted” in order to pretend that their Bill has greater public support. I sometimes use “proposed” (when playing God) to do the same, but it is not realpolitik. Thank God for feisty Mrs Main who tells it as it is.

MICHAEL JAMESON Marlborough Gate, St Albans