Letters, February 21, 2013, part two

Entitlement to council homes is flawed idea

SIR – I recently read with interest in a national newspaper the story of Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade who is now living in a subsidised housing association flat, with her new husband. Her husband secured the right to live in the flat (underneath the OXO tower) 13 years ago, when he was on a low income. He is now a successful DJ, and she is the daughter of a man worth £200million. I think they have a reasonable income. They pay £120 a week for the Thames-side apartment.

In St Albans last month the Liberal/Labour/Green alliance past a motion aiming to block plans to review council tenants’ entitlements after five years, to see if they still need the public money they benefit from. Should any other of Mick Jagger’s children marry into a St Albans publicly housed family, they too may be able to continue to live at the expense of “mugs who work”, due to the “left wing parties” standing up for “their voters”.

This situation of eternal subsidy, has three great benefits to the Lib/Lab/Green alliance who protect it. Firstly it allows them to walk round the social houses of St Albans, asking if the beneficiaries of this policy, no matter how well off they may be, would like to vote for them or “they’ll lose their house”. Secondly, they get to deliver great rhetoric about how they are “protecting the poor”, who are no longer, er, poor. Thirdly they get to commiserate with those genuinely low income families who are still on the waiting list about how “those cruel Tories, don’t care about poor people”, and farm the votes of the very people they have prevented from being housed!

Maybe we can look forward to welcoming the children of millionaires to the council houses of St Albans!


Hadleigh Court, Harpenden

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Why Luton scheme is fundamentally wrong

SIR – There are just so many reasons to object to the planning application for expansion at Luton Airport it is difficult to know where to begin. In addition to your already extensive coverage, may I add three more reasons.

n Errors of omission

In spite of 40 pages being devoted to the welfare of trees and 14 pages being devoted to the welfare of badgers, there is no consideration of the welfare of humans inhabiting the rat run between the A1(M) and Luton Airport, known as the B653. This is likely to take increased heavy goods traffic delivering everything from fizzy drinks to toilet rolls, by road. The airport operator does not plan for the carriage of these goods by rail. The B653 is covered by a weight restriction which is already heavily abused, the surface deteriorates because it is not designed for heavy traffic and in parts this road is little more than a country lane where juggernauts have to mount the footpath in order to pass each other.

This vital issue is unaddressed.

n Erroneous statistics

The application contains misleading statistics in section 4.2 of the “Statement of Community Involvement”.

Masquerading as “community involvement”, 21 organisations “provided a total of 612 signatures”. The bulk of these is from staff and Unite union members with potentially double counting. This data is erroneously presented as a “survey” in which 100 per cent of the respondents answered “yes”.

Further, this data is aggregated pari passu with organisations representing multiple members and individuals completing genuine survey questionnaires or taking the initiative to write letters and emails. Out of 1,360 votes cast, Wheathampstead Parish Council, a single entity representing 6,500 people, gets one vote, whereas Unite, a single entity, gets 134 votes.

Taking out these 612 signatures as bogus ballot rigging, it becomes clear that:

1. Individuals taking time and trouble to write, email or telephone are 91.51 per cent against;

2. Individuals taking time and trouble to attend an exhibition are 83.81 per cent against;

3. Individuals responding to the online web survey are 59.44 per cent against.

And in summary, of those who responded to anything close to the dictionary definition of a genuine “survey” 37 per cent voted Yes and 51 per cent voted No.

Hence the assertion that “our Masterplan received broad support” fundamentally misleads!

n Conflict of interest

Luton Borough Council has received over £210 million in concession fee payments since 1998. The Community Trust Fund has returned £131,000 to the community since its inception in 2009. On a pro-rata basis this is 0.29 per cent per annum of the commission pocketed by the Borough of Luton. “Community compensation” is so insignificant that it is derisory.

Noise violation fines can be up to six times normal landing fees. Income from these fines is invested in projects, such as improving the noise monitoring system. The fines should be returned to the injured parties.

Whilst there is, without dispute, a precedent for the planning authority to also be the beneficiary of the planning application, no credible justification has been given for it to do so in this particular instance.

Finally, adding insult to injury, public bodies have been given an extension of three weeks to respond. Joe Public got no extension. It is a truly massive document which most laymen would struggle to master, in their own time. This planning application is sufficiently flawed that it cries out to be called in!


Lower Luton Road, Wheathampstead

Disability shortfalls at Westminster Lodge

SIR – On a recent visit to the new Westminster Lodge Swimming Pool, I was shocked at the lack of services for wheelchair disabled visitors. I have come to the conclusion that the new Westminster Lodge does not feel it is necessary to assist disabled people in using their facilities. I also know that it is illegal to discriminate against the disabled especially since the implementation of the Disability Act.

First, there is difficulty parking close enough to the centre. I note that disabled bays have now been provided in front of the centre but only three, when there is plenty of space for at least five or six vehicles. The other disabled bays at the rear of the old Westminster Lodge swimming pool present access problems. To get from those spaces to the new centre entails either walking down five or six steps or a 100-yard ramp towards Holywell Hill and back again. Anyone walking with a frame will have great difficulty. The whole point of providing disabled facilities is to make using facilities easier for people who have difficulty walking.

Then there is a battle to get through the “gates” into the centre after waiting for an interminable time to be attended to by receptionists. The old Westminster Lodge was so quick with one or two receptionists who were so efficient.

Then there is the challenge of getting into the changing village. The outer door does have an easily accessible button to press to open the door however, once inside, it is necessary to search around for the button to open the inner door. This can be found in a corner behind chairs and a waste bin. Not helpful or compliant with the Disability Act! This position entails reversing the wheelchair in order to reach the button.

After eventually getting into the changing room, the floor is extremely slippery where it is wet – dangerous for any users I would have thought, but especially for the disabled. When I got to the door for the pool, it does not have an access button to let disabled wheelchair users through. This is also the case at the other access door to the splash pool.

The steps leading into the pool have no handle to hold on to, so if you are a little infirm on your feet you are likely to fall into the pool. I am aware there is a specific lift to enable disabled persons to get into the pool, however not everyone wants to be lifted mechanically and also, judging from other issues, how do we know that the lifeguards have been trained to correctly and safely use this equipment? Disabled people are fiercely independent whenever possible.

On coming out of the pool, there is no access button. The showers leave a lot to be desired and if the non-disabled showers are used – just one has enough room to take a wheelchair – there is nowhere to put shampoo/shower gel, etc., to assist in washing oneself.

When exiting the changing room, the buttons for the second access door are of course tucked behind chairs and a waste bin again. Then there is the barrier to get through and the wait for a receptionist to open the gate.

If going to the café, the access button does not operate the doors. Toilet facilities are available, however there are no access buttons at either end of the toilet corridor to get into or out of the corridor or the toilet itself. Access through the chairs and tables is very limited and not a clear or wide enough pathway for wheelchair users. Coming out of the café, the access button is hidden behind a leaflet display column.

Who were the architects who planned this ill-thought-out place? The floor tiles in the changing rooms are not fit for purpose. Who agreed to them being used?

Who was responsible for allowing Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre to open with all these problems?

Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre is run by a company called Everyone Active. It is impossible for everyone to be active because access is so limited for disabled persons when it comes to them enjoying the facilities.


Primrose Close, Arlesey, Beds