Letters, December 9, 2010, part one

Respect the silence

SIR – At the Remembrance Sunday service in St Albans on November 14, the two minute silence was properly observed by all those present with one unfortunate exception.

The “gentleman” stood on top of a metal utilities cabinet in front of the carpet shop and proceeded to take two or three photographs of the proceedings during the silence.

This in itself was I feel disrespectful enough but was made worse by the intrusive noise of the camera shutter, clearly audible from my position some 20 yards away.

I do not know or care if the photographer was amateur or professional – there was no need to take photographs at this particular moment. Next time, perhaps he could show due consideration and refrain from such unnecessary interruptions.


Lancaster Road, St Albans

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Tree at memorial

SIR – Re: Christmas Snub to War Memorial (Herts Advertiser, November 25), I would like to comment on the Christmas tree sited at the Cenotaph. I thought it was a lovely gesture to honour the dead soldiers both past and present.

The soldiers of both World Wars and Afghanistan died so that we can have a better and peaceful life and to deny them a Christmas tree put there in their honour is disgusting.

The tree would have been there for only four or five weeks out of one year and lots of people would have liked to have seen it.

My mother’s father and also my grandfather, H. Curl, is on the Cenotaph and both he and us would have liked to see the Christmas tree there.

We do not see it as an insult, we see it as an honour to them and a way of celebrating their lives. We want it back.



Dalton Street, St Albans

SIR – It would have been lovely to have a Christmas tree at the top end of the town.

The only mistake made was that the tree was put up too soon. If it had been put in place at the beginning of December (say December 6) I do not think anyone would have minded.

Then again that it was removed just because one person complained may have been a little hasty especially as I have never seen the council move that quickly on any other issue!



Grateful thanks

SIR – I would like to thank two anonymous kind ladies who rescued me from myself last Saturday!

Whilst crossing the road at the Holywell Hill/London Road junction I slipped. My bulging Christmas shopping bag burst, I hit the road and my glasses shot across to the other side.

One lady rescued my glasses and another handed me another shopping bag from her car.

Both then disappeared into the Christmas rush. Many thanks and Happy Christmas to you both.


The Old School, Sandridgebury

Fate of fines?

SIR – We sometimes hear about public organisations being fined for breaches of regulation. This seems to me to not affect the guilty parties responsible for the transgressions, but to add to the tax bill.

But what I would like to know is where the money goes to, and can that be used to offset the increased burden on the taxpayer? Does anyone know?


London Road, St Albans

FCC defended

SIR – I refer to the letter “Kentish Town is Missing Out” in the December 2 edition of the Herts Advertiser.

To be clear I have no connection with First Capital Connect, or the Thameslink upgrade, or with any individual employed in the industry, other than as a fare paying commuter.

Your correspondent refers in disparaging personal terms to FCC and one of its employees.

Anyone is free to criticise a public service, but personal remarks are not appropriate here. Nor from my own experience are they justified.

In my dealings with Larry Hayman of FCC I have found him to be exceedingly helpful and considerate, seeing individual passengers’ points of view. I am surprised that you carried such remarks.

One may not always agree with FCC’s timetabling decisions, but they have to prioritise trains stopping at the most popular stations, taking account of both opportunities for changing to the underground and proximity of other stations.

Even a cursory glance at Kentish Town station shows that with three road bridges over or in the proximity of the station including a crossroad and a T-junction, it would require a major, expensive and disruptive civil engineering project to extend the platforms, yet St Pancras International itself is less than two miles away with a modern station and much improved underground interchange.

Kentish Town would only ever be a stopping place for slow trains and in all likelihood very few if any of those would be 12 car even when the major Thameslink upgrade is complete.

Numbers travelling from St Albans to Kentish Town as a final destination must be quite small and timetabling and expensive infrastructure projects must inevitably be designed to benefit the majority.


Amenbury Lane, Harpenden

Origins of The Bell

SIR – I refer to your article regarding The Bell public house in Chequer Street (Herts Advertiser, November 18). The building was described as locally listed and possessing an 18th-Century chimney stack.

In fact the building has much earlier origins, being a very important former inn in a prominent location originally facing onto the medieval market place (formerly much larger than at present, occupying the whole space between what is now French Row and Chequer Street) and close to the new London Road that was cut towards the end of the coaching era.

The earliest known documentary record is of an inn called “Le Belle” in 1452 which may well refer to this site.

The roof above the carriage arch which now gives pedestrian access to The Maltings has a crown post roof which dates to the 15th Century or earlier and ties up with the above record.

Whilst there have been successive destructive refurbishments in the 20th Century, the basement still contains a massive principal floor beam with curved braces supporting the ground floor, also probably from the medieval period.

Therefore, whilst much altered, the building still contains significant medieval fabric and it is to be hoped that this is respected by the new owners because, as the building is not statutory listed, the interior is not protected.



Unwelcome attack on school sport

SIR – I knew about Michael Gove’s plans for free schools, academies and the national curriculum. But I was horrified to learn that he has also taken his axe to school sport.

More particularly to the bodies which, since 2000, have been quietly and successfully transforming school sport and PE in this country.

They are Schools Sports Partnerships (SSPs) and the specialist staff they employ.

SSPs bring schools in an area together to extend the range of sport on offer; organise inter school competitions; supply experienced trainers; and get children active.

Look at the website of the St Albans and Harpenden SSP for this year and you see a packed and imaginative programme: an aquasplash festival including diving and water polo; taster sessions in orienteering, lacrosse, fitness classes, quicksticks and dodgeball; tri-golf, kick rounders’ and mini tennis tournaments; a disability athletics championships and a gifted and talented multi- skills club. Even a street dance show and cheerleading.

That in addition to the more traditional team sports – football, rugby, netball, basketball – which have always been the basics of PE lessons.

Scores of local pupils have trained to become young sporting ambassadors and sports leaders. Hundreds of children have joined in and not just the obviously sporty ones.

There have never been so many inter-school competitions, so many opportunities for our youngsters to grow in confidence and health.

Teachers praise the SSP network as outstanding.

With the Olympics two years away we are committed to helping more young people not just to do sport now but to love and value sport their whole lives.

Last month, out of the blue and without consultation, Michael Gove cancelled the SSPs’ entire funding and consigned it to the rubbish heap.

Schools will now be back to funding sport in isolation and out of their own budgets.

How many will give the time, money and commitment to even begin to replace the activities of the SSPs? �162 million a year pays for this scheme across the entire country.

In Herts, as everywhere, PE teachers, heads and pupils are stunned and devastated.

Ten years’ work will be gone in the blink of the eye or the stroke of a pen.

This is a short-sighted and “idiotically destructive” decision. As a sport-loving nation we should be ashamed.


Saxon Road, Wheathampstead