Letters, December 24, 2013

Rail freight fight continues

SIR - I am in full agreement with the former county councillors who have written to condemn the behaviour of the officers in advising the sale of the land to Heloslough for a derisory sum Whilst we would all prefer there to be a Green Belt this issue has now progressed to a critical stage where the momentum is exceedingly great. In my own experience land was sold in London Colney in the late 1980s for £2.25 million per acre and whilst land values have fluctuated the real value of Radlett may be more in the hundreds of millions which would need verifying by an independent land agent possibly from London The other aspect which the parties involved in this farrago ought to be aware of is the possibility of a personal class action against all involved if eventually the land is sold with planning consent at a price that would be a breach of their fiduciary responsibilities. One has to remember that HCC wasn’t exactly on the ball when it came to the Icelandic financial adventure, I wonder if any heads rolled on that occasion?

MICHAEL DE RUYTER Hill Street, St Albans

SIR - I have been following the discussions re the rail freight terminal at Radlett/Park Street and must say that I entirely support the campaign not to allow this to happen. However, one thing that shines through to me is that the county council has not the faintest idea of the potential value of this site. Over the next few years especially in the south east there is an acute and ongoing shortage of the precious commodity, land. This will no doubt only increase over the next few years making the proposed site even more valuable. Perhaps I am naïve in proposing this solution. Does the county council have to sell this land? Some people seem to be proposing other solutions like a major housing development as proposed by the potential Labour candidate for St Albans, Kerry Pollard. I question how many houses would be on the site. No doubt enough to make any potential developer millions of pounds profit. The amounts of money offered by the proposed developers are paltry and there is no guarantee that they would even fulfil their proposed plans which they have submitted. I am very supportive of the action group who are trying manfully to get this scheme stopped. Our local MP Anne Main has been very helpful in this ongoing battle. I hope and I wish the action group every success in a good end result.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

SIR - I must add my congratulations to STRIFE for their success in convincing HCC to defer any sale of the Radlett airfield. How downhearted they must have felt to have then read of Mr McGowan’s search for a new home for St Albans FC switching its attentions to Radlett. It seems as though no new housing scheme in the district is complete without a football stadium these days! I do hope they do not think my earlier suggestion of a garden city/suburb a similar betrayal. When all is said and done this is “brownfield land” - not Green Belt - and one day - maybe soon and maybe Helioslough - a developer will get lucky. How much better a scheme chosen by the local community - for the benefit of the local community? The chance to create a spacious and sustainable layout, new transport hubs for both FCC and Abbey Flyer services, new schools and medical facilities, with the bulk of the enhanced land value captured for the benefit of the community. All this as well as the future management kept in the hands of the residents - what’s not to like? I have personally urged district and county politicians to demonstrate a cross-party will to mobilise their resources and influence to create the necessary consensus. Time is short - Helioslough have not gone away!

CLLR ROD PERKS Jennings Road, St Albans

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Demolition of school was short-sighted

SIR - From a Conservative Party flier I notice that there are proposals to build a new secondary school for the Harpenden area. Yes, I agree that this is very needed. But I would like to know why then was a perfectly modern built school in Wheathampstead - probably the last secondary school in the area to be built - bulldozed in the last couple of years in order to build houses? I am told that this secondary school in Wheathampstead was a good school and functioned well. It had been the brainchild of well-meaning highly educated, local people in order that local children did not have to be bussed to other schools in the area. So why did it close?. I understand that a main stumbling block was that the middle class people in Wheathampstead, still preferred to send their children to the more prestigious schools in St Albans and Harpenden. This meant that the exam rating of that school continued to be low. So what did the authorities do but raze it to the ground and build houses. From the local census it should have been apparent that another school would be required in the not-too distant future, (the school could have been mothballed until this time. In fact it was used for higher education until a few years ago) but apparently these gifted people in charge thought that it would be more cost-effective to pull down this relatively new school and have it built elsewhere. Since then the village children have had to suffer long bus rides out of the village to receive education. In order that the new school achieve status, the other schools in Harpenden are to submit proposals to lead the new school. Then could this have not happened in the Wheathampstead school? Surely the cost of switching teachers thereby creating kudos, is cheaper than pulling down and erecting new buildings? No wonder this country is in the state it is in when those in authority have been so profligate with taxpayers’ money. Where is the intelligence in all of this? The ratepayers are sick to death of paying out hard-earned cash for it to be wasted. I despair. Answers please.

MAUREEN MCCAFFREY The Hill, Wheathampstead

Post office invading my privacy

SIR - I am a regular poster of items at the local post office, recently they always ask me what is inside the parcel and I refuse to tell them, not because I post dodgy items but because they have no right to know. three times now I have refused and the teller initially refuses to send my items (mostly things sold on eBay and of no interest) until I ask for the manager and the manager apologises and confirms that they have no right to know. I have had to make a bit of a fuss and as the branch is always quite busy this slows the already painfully-understaffed counter down. However I have had a few people say well done for bringing it up. I’d really like you to feature this as I find it a gross invasion of privacy that the post office just don’t seem to learn from.

PETER BOSWELL Station Road, Harpenden

Is Green Belt still old-fashioned idea?

SIR – It’s interesting to see that Kerry Pollard has decided to try and make a political comeback Would this be the same Kerry Pollard who said, several years ago, something to the effect that “the Green Belt is an old-fashioned idea”? Perhaps he would like to comment on the matter of Helioslough and Radlett Airfield.?

J FREESTONE Castle Road, St Albans

Take bus complaints to the very top

SIR – It is very sad that Les Cazin (Herts Advertiser Letters, December 5) has not realised that bus operators are not all interested in serving the general public – getting them to work, hospital appointments, shopping etc., but it is a fact. Recently the Arriva bus company stopped running the 321 bus just after 7am from St Albans to Harpenden and Luton, which was used by many people going to work and connected with the 34 from Dunstable. However, although still on the timetable, the bus turned round and scurried back to Watford. Three buses followed in the next 20 minutes. I saw one in Harpenden (which must have come from Watford, therefore through St Albans) which had a Not in Service sign on the front. The 657 from Harpenden to Redbourn on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings is always late. This week it has been 25 minutes or half an hour late and I have missed a connection in Redbourn and have had to wait 45 minutes in the freezing cold for the next 34 (the latter mostly runs on time nowadays). There is no point in writing to the bus companies; one must write to the Traffic Commissioner for the East of England, Eastbrook, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BF; they will pass on your letter to another body for investigation. Bus operators are required to run their service in accordance with the registered details and failure to run a service in accordance with registered details may result in an operator being referred to the Traffic Commissioner (although the TC have no investigatory powers). Bus companies can incur financial penalties if they are in breach of their registrations. Get writing bus users!

MISS L BARWELL Old Watling Street, Flamstead

Signs of ageing?

SIR - My thought for the past year. You know you’re getting elderly when you can’t understand why your readers write in complaining about residential street lights being off at night (they always used to be) or school buses not being able to go right up to the school entrance (as a puny postwar 11-year old, I walked a total of three miles, plus a return train journey, each day). Meanwhile, as a way of greeting next year, there’s the annual Harpenden New Year Day charity ‘Duck Race’ along the River Lea near the Marquis ford on Marquis Lane!

JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden

Leave the chain at home Annie!

SIR - Since becoming Mayor, Annie Brewster has been doing a fantastic job throughout St Albans and surrounding areas. However, every photo I see of her she is wearing her ridiculous livery collar on the outside of her outfits. Annie we know who you are and wearing this chain makes you look a bit of a plonker! Please stop.

JAMES NOWAK Redwood Close, St Albans

Change up for buses SIR - I write in respect of the item in the Herts Advertiser of December 12 concerning a 29-year-old woman who didn’t have the correct fare to travel from St. Albans station to Jersey Farm where she lives. The report suggests that she had a horrific journey home, although i suggest that the problems were entirely of her own making. If she lives in Jersey Farm, she has probably used the bus before and therefore would know that her fare home is £1.90. It is not difficult to keep a reasonable amount of change in a purse or pocket to cover known expenses on a journey. It must be remembered that, in Hertfordshire, St. Albans has the highest proportion of seniors; most of whom travel arund on free passes thereby generating no cash for the driver. Fare-paying passengers buying returns or day tickets will have done so earlier in the day so will not need to pay again on an evening bus. It is quite possible that a couple of passengers had also paid for a local fare with a note thus cleaning the driver out of change. He was quite correct in offering a credit ticket to the value of the change he was unable to tender. When this happened to me, I quickly learnt to have the necessary change. I hope that all who read this letter, especially the students who board a bus with £20 notes at seven in the morning, will anticipate their local travel costs and have the necessary change before commencing their journeys.

JOHN CROWHURST Walton Street, St Albans

Indicators and lights meant to be used

SIR - I’m with Barry Cashin on the problem with drivers failing to indicate a change of direction. What they don’t realise is that if they fail to indicate and cause an accident they can be held responsible. I think we should do the same here as they do in Spain. If you fail to signal a change in direction and you are seen by their motorcycle cops you are pulled over and fined on the spot and the fines are heavy. I also agree with Roy Ibson when it comes to using car headlights in dull weather. The driver may be able to see ahead without them but their vehicle may not be seen until it is too late. So drivers, use your brains, use your lights and use your indicators, that’s why they were fitted.

JOHN OLLEY Roundfield Avenue, Harpenden