Letters, August 21, 2014

No need for change at Clarence Park

SIR – I was very disappointed at the stance your editorial has taken over the issue of Clarence Park. The concerns about future use of the park by St Albans Football Club are the concerns of many local residents who use and live the park, not just those residents who live in Clarence Road and York Road. There was a very well attended public meeting held last year after the aborted public consultation in the bowls club about altering the trust under which the park is run. The concerns expressed there by many local residents were directed at the intentions of the football club which was wanting to expand its activities at the park, way beyond what is currently allowed. These concerns were not a touch of Nimbyism but a concern about the future of the park. Clarence Park is very well used as it stands by a wide cross-section of the local communities which surround the park and we do not want the football club to encroach or change the nature of the park in any way by widening its activities, nor by continuing with unacceptable noise levels from their PA system, nor by continuing to close off footpaths for as long as they do at present. I do not live in York Road nor in Clarence Road but I am local to the park.

PENNY WILLIAMS Althorp Road, St Albans

Concerns over bus service consultation

SIR – Do you want a “more efficient bus service”? Bus users may have been pleased when they read that Conservative-run Hertfordshire County Council has launched a consultation titled “Have your say on a more efficient bus service for Hertfordshire”. https://consult.hertsdirect.org/bus-services “More efficient” sounds good and whilst it’s true that there will be no more delays and cancellations on many routes in the evenings and on Sundays, this is being achieved by the simple policy of not having any buses at all running on these routes at these times. The local services affected are: 301 Stevenage – St Albans – Hemel Hempstead; 602 Hatfield – St Albans – Watford; 653 New Greens – Jersey Farm – Welwyn GC; S1 Cell Barnes – City Centre; S4 Cottonmill – City Centre – Station These services will not run after 6.30pm Monday to Saturday or at any time on Sunday. There are no other efficiencies in the consultation and there are no alternative proposals. It merely tells us that at least £700,000 a year must be saved. Readers may wonder what the next service will be for this “efficiency” treatment by the Conservatives. I hope that it won’t be the ambulance service or other NHS services. Bus users will not like the proposed ending of services, still less that they are described as efficiencies. Does the council have such a low opinion of its citizens that it thinks they can be conned so easily?

JOHN METCALF Cunningham Hill Road, St Albans

Rail freight row rumbles on

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SIR – I was very interested in the letter from David Stonebanks from Stevenage. I agree with him that getting freight back onto the railways is vital. This is what the railways were invented for and do very well. However, the proposed solution will create a road traffic problem rather than solve it. He appears to believe that the road problem will be solved when a link from the freight terminal direct to the M25 is built. What is this assertion based on? When will it happen? Has planning permission for this link been given? Who will pay for it to be built? According to St Albans MP Anne Main, “the cost of a junction off the M25 motorway to a proposed rail freight interchange in Park Street could have proved so “prohibitively expensive” as to stop the developers in their tracks”. It will also be interesting to see the reaction of Hertfordshire Country Council to the “industrialisation” of the Green Belt. Will there be a decision on the sales of the land before or after the General Election?


SIR – What planet does David Stonebanks of Stevenage live on? The A414 and A505 will be subject to 3,000 lorries per day. As it stands currently, we have our local roads clogged up the moment there is a problem on the M25 and M1. After this site is built, the traffic problem will be continuous. Furthermore there is no provision for a direct link onto the M25 from the proposed rail freight site and any requests have been turned down by the Highway Agency on the grounds, that there are too many junctions on that section already. With the new DP port at Tilbury with direct connections to the M25 there is no longer any need for a rail freight terminal at Radlett. We locals are aware that HelioSlough want it for a road freight terminal and long term, make a bumper profit from developing the site for housing. HelioSlough are not interested in the disruption this site will cause to the residents of St Albans, just their balance sheet.

JOHN BREEN Park Street Lane Park Street, St Albans

SIR – Having read in that Pothole City is under threat of becoming known as the Daventry of the south east, with an income of millions of pounds being added to the council’s funds and over a thousand new jobs created in the district being described as the worst threat ever to our medieval city, which currently boasts queues forming at its food banks, plus a chronic shortage of affordable housing, in addition to the increasingly potholed roads and uncut verges, we also have had a situation of council workers being paid less than the minimum wage, overcrowded primary schools in local community areas short of the money to expand, and a hospital constantly under threat by the rumour of closure having to scrap its valuable asset of a hydropool for the treatment of patients in order to balance its books. Whoa, there is apparently however an alternative whereby money can still be generated and paid into our council’s dwindling coffers and local employment opportunities increased by creating a much needed football stadium on the site, which will further boost the reputation of St Albans City with the additional opportunity of also building 400 new homes there. Surely this is an ideal modern day solution to meeting local needs whilst at the same time more importantly protecting the idyllic character of our beloved Park Street? Unfortunately, I think not, as the self-professed NIMBYs of STRIFE will presumably still have sway over the council’s wish to continue adding to the million pounds plus of local council taxpayers’ money which they are unknowingly coughing up in legal fees being spent to fight development of the site, plus having to fork out more money to pay the ‘stealth tax’ of increased car parking charges imposed upon them whilst suffering further cuts to services previously provided by their council in response to its dwindling income.

ANTHONY LEACH Langley Crescent, St Albans

Lack of joined-up thinking by county

SIR – Chris Oxley is quite right to highlight the threat to our villages and district through lack of joined up thinking on infrastructure and development by Hertfordshire County Council. He is also right to highlight the particular threat from the Helioslough lorry terminal, whose dark shadow will blight far more than the immediately neighbouring settlements because of gridlock on the road and rail infrastructure on which we all depend, and why the county council must not sell its land. So it is really worrying to see the leader of the county council already responding to residents with the weasel words “fiduciary duty” to lay the ground for a potential sale. Fiduciary duty must mean more than pound signs revolving ever faster in the eyes of the Conservative administration at Hertford. Otherwise why aren’t they selling every speck of land they own? Now is the time for the county council to show a wider sense of responsibility to south-west Hertfordshire and all its residents. County Hall must be resolute in saying no, not just looking for elastic legal excuses to pocket thirty pieces of silver.

SANDY WALKINGTON County Councillor St Albans South Hatfield Road, St Albans

Fears for future of Wheathampstead

SIR – As a resident of Wheathampstead for over 12 years now, the article with Alderman Chris Oxley echoed many of my own thoughts on the issues facing us. The provision of a desperately needed new secondary school has descended into farce and the silence from Herts County Council is deafening. Despite assurances from the Harpenden Secondary School Trust (HSST) that the new school would open in September 2016, this has now been delayed by a year to September 2017. How realistic is the new opening date? The Lower Luton Road, even before being considered as a site for the new school, is known to be dangerous. Everybody locally knows that the existing HGV ban is not enforced, and that the road is used as the link between the M1 and the A1(M), particularly if either of these main arteries is subject to roadworks or an accident. Factor in the self-determined planning approval for the expansion of Luton Airport and I have real concerns over the incidence of more serious injury and deaths on the road. I would not be happy for my children to use the designated “safe” route of Lower Luton Road to get to school. It will be interesting to see if any responses to the article are received from the people whose job it is to deal with the points raised by Chris Oxley.

PAUL WILBY Nurseries Road, Wheathampstead

Green Belt sites were ignored

SIR – Your article of July 24 ‘D-day looms for Green Belt’s fate’, contains a major deception which I felt needed to be corrected. I do believe that the deception is not made intentionally by the author.The article states that: “The four sites have been put forward by the independent assessors as doing the least overall harm to the Green Belt.” In fact the independent assessors identified eight sites in the district as being of least significance to the Green Belt, and it was, I believe, the leader and officers of the planning policy committee who have apparently decided that only four of the eight would be selected as possible development sites. Even members of the planning policy committee were unaware and gobsmacked by this decision. Watch the webcast of the PPC meeting on July 3. All eight sites were subjectively assessed by SKM (the independent assessors) on a number of issues according to an evaluation criteria which unfortunately I have not seen. Each site was given a score by SKM, the scores were then seemingly adjusted and weighted according to some other criteria by bodies within the planning policy department until the top four were decided. Alternative suggestions to this methodology, e.g. spreading the development load across all eight sites, made by members of the PPC, have been treated less than seriously by the leader of the PPC and its officials. The selection of the four sites was listed as a “suggestion” in the July 3 agenda, but the item was treated as a done deal and was not seriously discussed. What chance does the public have of influencing decisions during the “consultation” process if even the thoughts of members of the PPC are apparently disregarded?

DAVID TURNER Sandpit Lane, St Albans

Producing crops must be a priority

SIR – For a country now with a burgeoning population which currently imports almost a third of its food, we surely need to protect all the crop-producing land we still have - perhaps even the large, so far unplanted fields of the Heartwood Forest project. The main towns would then have to provide the additional housing apparently demanded by Government largely within their current “envelopes”, leaving the surrounding Green Belt intact. That’s what reportedly the determined councillors of Havering on the outskirts of London have done where, by seeking out every scrap of unused land, derelict garage, etc., they have provided 300 dwellings without encroaching on the Green Belt “as we think it vital to us”. In Harpenden we now have a second chance, with the Harpenden House Hotel site, to provide a good number of starter homes close to the local amenities, so with less need to add to the congestion by using the car, and hopefully with a more efficient use of the available land than some recent developments. In that respect, do we need Fairview’s suggested “five detached houses” at the front of the site? A small third apartment block would make better use of the land and, despite your headline of July 31, careful design of the various blocks against the rising backdrop of trees would surely not greatly impinge on the view from the Common. Meanwhile, wouldn’t it be easier, as well as desirable, to retain the old hotel as such rather than convert it into (just a few) “luxury apartments”?

JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden

Who benefited from hospital land sale?

SIR – With regards to the ongoing saga of the potential closure of St Albans City Hospital, could I too remind the powers that be, that the land on which the hospital was built was donated to the people of the city specifically for the purpose of building a hospital. How was it that it was later sold off to developers and could I venture to question who benefited from the proceeds – I doubt very much it was the hospital itself? Nevertheless, using what we already have, could I suggest that there is still enough space to extend and expand the existing building, perhaps transferring the car park to the roof and utilising the space for further expansion. I think the cost of this alteration would be far less than the planned new hospital in Stevenage costing millions more or is this a smokescreen to placate the citizens or am I being very naive?

MP MORGAN Cassius Drive, St Albans