Letters, December 27, 2012

Questions over use of the Common

SIR – There has been a long-standing dispute, to my knowledge dating back to November 1996, regarding the unauthorised use of Redbourn Common for commercial gain by the Cricketers public house. A letter from the parish council’s solicitor at that time stated “granting a right of exclusive occupation will exclude the rights of the Commoners to access and would in fact be a criminal offence”.

Over the years, the area annexed has grown to 140 square metres and now has seating for over 80 persons, with, in addition, occasional deployment of two heated marquees. As I can ascertain from our recently appointed parish clerk, no agreement is in place or payment has been made for this privilege.

The parish council is now proposing to grant rights to the publicans at the Cricketers to use the Common for this purpose, albeit for an appropriate consideration; i.e. to advance from a de facto situation, which should never have been permitted, to sequestration of part of our Common.

Another concern I have is that it will be hard to refuse similar ventures on the Common if a precedent is thus created – and OFT (Office of Fair Trading) aspects, such as other public houses (notably The Bull, The George, and The Holly Bush pubs) cannot be offered similar facilities. This is likely to seriously undermine the takings in these places.

I have received helpful advice from the Open Space Society and it is uncertain whether use of common land in this way can be legal. We had two previous attempts to use Redbourn Common for similar purposes and both came to naught; Ravenstone House wished to purchase extra common land near the parish centre for exclusive parking use and Brooke Bond wanted to build an access road across the Common from East Common to Hemel Hempstead Road. The condition made at that time was that this would only possible if an equivalent area of land was purchased in lieu, which had to be contiguous with the existing Common.

Serious thought needs to be given, after more consultation with village people, to the loss of common land in this way and parish councillors should be aware that they are custodians of the preservation of Redbourn Common both for the present and the future.

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Ben Austins, Redbourn

Cyclists at risk

SIR - I have seen cyclists coming down London Road from the town centre along the side with a cycle path next to it. They are safety-conscious enough to wear a helmet, high-vis jacket and a light, yet they cannot be bothered to move a foot to the left and use the cycle path.

In one case the woman I saw had her light hidden by a saddlebag so I pointed this out. It’s not as if there are multiple road junctions to cross once you get to the Lake Hotel. Yet she ignored me and rode on. Maybe some people are unaware of the cycle path but this woman must be a bit deranged to be told clearly and ignore it (or maybe she didn’t understand English).

The above example is almost as bad as motorists tailgating on wet or icy surfaces and leaving nothing like the needed four-second gap - but at least the motorists feel relatively secure. On a bike you have to be suicidal to do what I saw - so why the safety gear?! (And I am aware the “secure” motorists include the one who, I believe, died in a recent accident locally.)


St Albans

Special thanks at this time of year

SIR - Many thanks to everyone who donated money at the St Albans Amnesty International group’s street collection in St Albans on Saturday November 24.

We raised �407.87, which will go towards the group’s work in working for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners; campaigning to abolish the death penalty and torture; researching human rights abuses.

For further details of the group, which meets on the second Wednesday of each month at the Friends Meeting House, Upper Lattimore Road, St Albans, AL1 3UD, please contact the secretary, Peter Smith, on (01727) 855931, or visit www.amnesty.org.uk/stalbans.

Thank you!


On behalf of the St Albans branch of Amnesty International

SIR - In my capacity as treasurer of a local orchestra I recently wrote out a cheque for our conductor, put it in a small buff envelope, wrote his first name on the outside, and put it by our front door intending to deliver it by hand next time I was walking into town.

Unfortunately my wife then picked it up together with a few Christmas cards and not noticing that it was neither addressed nor stamped put it into a letter box.

A day or two later the recipient rang me to say that Royal Mail had been in touch with him via the orchestra’s website and that the cheque was available for him to collect. Especially during the Christmas period surely this was beyond the call of duty!


Cunningham Hill Road, St Albans

SIR - On behalf of the St Albans Oysterfield Explorer Scout Unit, I would like to say a big thank you to all the customers of Morrisons supermarket on Hatfield Road for their very generous donations to ShelterBox, a charity for which the Unit were collecting two weeks ago. We raised a grand total of �688 and that was enough to buy a ShelterBox.

A ShelterBox is a 3ft x 2ft x 3ft plastic box which contains everything a family of 10 might need to live for six months following an earthquake, flood or any other disaster. Items include a large tent, blankets, a cooker as well as whole host of other useful tools and equipment to make a family’s life just that little bit easier at a time when it is very difficult indeed. Each box is numbered and when we are allocated our box number, we will be able to track it on the internet to discover exactly when and were in the world it is used.

Many thanks to Morrisons supermarkets for giving us the opportunity and of course a big thank you once again to all the shoppers who put money in our buckets to allow us achieve this gift to a family in distress sometime in the future.


Explorer Leader

Oysterfield Explorers

SIR – Through your column may I express my thanks to the Harpenden Scouts who did a wonderful delivery of Christmas cards on Sunday 16th December. They were very happy doing so, as I could hear as they entered my block of flats. Well done to the scout leaders and mums and dads who accompanied them, and thank you for giving up your time at the busiest time of the year.

May I also say sorry to my Harpenden friends who at this time expect to hear from me. Because of 10 weeks in hospital (for a hip replacement) I am still not able to get out and about as I used. I am not able to drive my car, so am reliant on good friends ferrying me around. I am sincerely thinking of you and I wish you, and especially my South Ward constituents, a lovely Christmas and a very healthy New Year.


Harpenden Town Council, South Ward

Where’s the care and compassion?

SIR - Yesterday I had the misfortune again to have to visit one of our local hospitals accompanying someone to a scheduled appointment.

The new system is apparently to self check in for the clinics using the touch screen located in the reception area next to the manned reception desk. Lo and behold anyone that has difficulties, someone that is maybe scared, vulnerable, and often elderly who may need some assistance, this is obviously not the job of the receptionists (I am unsure what their role was) and this was communicated to a very elderly couple in no uncertain terms. In fact every member of non-medical staff that I came into contact with yesterday was surly, rude and unhelpful and this is not a lone incident on a bad day. I get more assistance and respect at my local supermarkets.

If any hospital needs a front line member of staff who genuinely cares, likes people and believes in treating them with respect and compassion, especially in stressful situations then please do get in touch as I am sure that I could make a big difference.This is clearly not the criteria used to employ staff currently at our NHS Trusts.


Brooklands Court, St Albans

Replace grass with parking spaces?

SIR - Today, as is usual, it was a nightmare trying to get in and out of the Quadrant shopping precinct car park in Marshalswick. Something needs to be done about the parking area and when you think about the “bid to build thousands of new homes” (the headline in your paper December 13) it is going to get much worse.

As was suggested to me, I wonder if it would be possible for the powers that be to consider, where possible, because of the trees, to cut back some of the grassy areas to make some more spaces. After all I do park on the grass or on the white lines if I cannot find anywhere else to park.

St Albans is already a suburb of London, not the provincial type town it used to be. Leave our green spaces please, or find other places, near Harpenden perhaps.


Windmill Avenue, St Albans