Letters, February 3, 2011, part one

Wheelie bin frustrations

SIR – I couldn’t help notice the banner headline on January 25 in the Daily Mail, apparently dismayed that the nation is facing the scandalous threat of an 80-bag-a-year rubbish limit.

The editors obviously don’t live in St Albans where we have been limited to four bags every two weeks for ages with little slack if you happen to be away on collection day.

Maybe we should plan our holidays around the rubbish collections or leave our rubbish with a neighbour.

On January 13 the garbage disposal team left three lightly filled sacks of the seven I had put out for removal.

Many more than I would usually put out but, given the circumstances, the non-removal is inappropriate.

Many people are not able to put rubbish out on the “correct” day over the Christmas period so the council should expect and plan for an overspill to the following collection day.

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As an aside, with all the snow around, who actually knew when these guys were going to turn up anyway?

The two houses to one side only ever leave a single bag, on the other side they have a wheelie bin which could contain any number of bags – no-one would know since wheelie bins are automatically emptied so there is little reasonable rationale for leaving three bags on my drive.

Six other houses out of the 20 or so houses I pass as I exit Fryth Mead were similarly left with piles of bags. I was assured by a council employee, when I called for a futilely-expected sensible explanation, that I would receive a call back.

No such attempt was made to call me on the number I provided.

Has the team at the council actually considered what happens when they leave three bags and would it not be better all-round if they just applied their guidelines more practically?


St Michaels, St Albans

One rule for one...

SIR – I agree with the comments of Martin Hockridge and Sheila Satchell, published in recent editions of the Herts Advertiser re the proposal of Cllr Lee Jackson to build an access road across common land.

I thought councillors were in post to watch over the interests of Harpenden not to take areas of our Common for (substantial?) financial gain. Over the 35 years plus that I have lived in Harpenden I have watched the Common be eroded by beautification and such wayleave as Cllr Jackson has been promised. If he gets his way it will be that much more difficult for caring councils to oppose future such proposals.

I can’t see how wildlife will not be compromised – what plants, insects, fungi, etc., will survive under a driveway? A few worms? And clearing the scrub so drastically must reduce the habitat available to mammals and birds.

Also I can’t see future owners of the property wanting the scrub to reinvade the area close to the drive – who pays to have it cleared? – the town I suspect.

But perhaps this is all sour grapes on my part because I have asked the Town Council twice if they would consider completing the footpath along Bull Lane between the A1081 and Leyton Road for the benefit of those of us who have to or choose to walk from the Southdown area to Rothamsted Park, Park Hall, the Town Hall, the Seniors Club, the Seniors Forum, etc..

Both times I was told that they couldn’t possibly because it would mean losing part of the Common.

Double standards? Unfortunately I didn’t keep proof of this comment but if Cllr Jackson gets his way I will certainly have another try.


Crabtree Lane, Harpenden

Thanks from Trust

SIR – Through your paper the Harpenden Trust would like to say a big thank you to the people of Harpenden who responded so very generously to our annual Christmas Appeal.

When we add in the Gift Aid tax reclaimed from the Government we raised a record total of �29,400. This truly wonderful result will enable us to continue to support the community as we have done for the past 63 years.


Appeal Organiser, The Harpenden Trust

Taxi driver’s act of festive kindness

SIR – It was the Saturday before Christmas, my husband and I were on a bus bringing us home to Cell Barnes Lane. It was snowing very hard and when we got to the junction at Dellfield the bus driver was unable to continue the journey.

There was another bus at the bottom of the hill in Camp Road unable to move as it had been involved in an accident with a car. There were other cars coming down the hill slipping and sliding, and more cars trying to get back up.

The Campfield Road was blocked by an abandoned car in the middle of the road so he could not go there, most people on the bus decided to walk instead of waiting for the police to come, we decided to do the same although both in our eighties, we had quite a struggle getting along as by then the snow was so deep we had a job to see the path from the road. When we finally got to Cell Barnes Lane we still had quite a walk, then a taxi came along and the driver stopped and asked if we would like him to take us home, he brought us right to our house and refused any payment. He was so cheerful, he said he was just on his way home to Drakes Drive for his lunch, and with a friendly wave he was off.

He did say his number was 029 but we hadn’t even noticed which company he belonged to, so if anybody knows who this happy smiling driver is tell him THANK YOU!!


Windermere Avenue

St Albans

Complaints panel’s decisions unfair

SIR – I would like to bring your attention to a rather bizarre decision by the council’s complaint review sub-committee (made up primarily of fellow councillors).

Mr Churchard, parish, district and county councillor, stated in his last election material that he had won his fight with Herts Highways and, as a result, the entire length of St Albans Road, Sandridge, was to be resurfaced. Of course only Langley Grove to Sandringham Cresent was repaired. His excuse was that he hadn’t read the information from Herts Highways properly.

According to the sub-committee that’s fine then.

As was Mr Churchard’s refusal to divulge his allowances of �15,000 per year to me himself, instead telling me to find out for myself another way.

An amount that Cllr Terrar called “peanuts”. Something all low paid full-time workers earning that amount and less would agree with I’m sure.

This raises issues. How can we trust election material and claims if false information can be excused as a reading mistake?

Even by those who, like Mr Churchard, hold multiple posts and sit on committees making important decisions based on documentation presented to them?

The second issue is the complaint procedure. It seems if you have money and are a property developer, your complaint will be investigated. All others will not. There is no right to appeal to an independent body.

Fellow councillors are primarily the review and therefore police themselves. They leave themselves open to the suggestion that they may need a colleague to do them a favour one day so don’t rock the boat.

This can also be seen from the treatment I had from Cllr Lyn Bolton. She placed a highly personal and offensive email on the Heartwood Car Park action group blog denying what everyone heard her saying at the village meeting and making hurtful, insulting and false remarks about me for writing to your paper about it.

Comments that show an alarmingly aggressive and rude attitude from someone purporting to be suitable for public office. It was removed. I can understand why she would want to deny what she said but, given the number of witnesses, it’s rather silly to try. This again was dismissed as a complaint by the sub and review committees. What exactly is considered to be a justified complaint?

Despite these issues having been put in the public domain by both councillors, I have been warned by the council’s complaint department that data protection means I shouldn’t tell anyone about this.

I will tell people anything that is in the public interest and that had already been made public by those concerned. Challenge me if you will. Accountability, not secrecy.

I know other ordinary constituents, from reading the local press, have had a hard time with complaints against councillors. I would be interested to hear if there have been recent cases.


St Leonards Court, Sandridge

Remembering Barrie Mort

SIR – Re: The death of Barrie Mort.

The passing of Barrie Mort was a sudden and tragic event for his family and for all who knew him, especially residents of the Verulam Estate.

He worked tirelessly to help our community and he will always be remembered for his valiant efforts to preserve King Harry Lane playing fields from the hands of developers. At least he has been saved the indignity of watching this site being constructed.

His chairmanship of the residents’ association was handled in a very dignified manner and totally without bias. I thought he struck the right balance in chairing the AGMs, allowing some debates to run on if he thought it would benefit the meeting and cutting short others whose rhetoric he judged could be endless. All this was done with courtesy and good humour.

He will be fondly remembered by all and his guidance in community matters a hard act to follow.


Claudian Place, St Albans

Sir, – I would like to join the many others who wish to pay tribute to Barrie Mort. I read the news of his passing last week in the Herts Advertiser with shock and great sorrow.

If anyone still does not understand what the big society is, one only has to look to Barrie as a shining example. He was well known for his fight against the development of the King Harry playing fields, but he was involved in so many other issues too as many others can testify. He was an utterly charming, dedicated and determined advocate for St Albans and especially for the residents on the Verulam Estate.

It is a great sadness that for someone who felt so passionately that local democracy should not be overruled by some distant bureaucrats he has not survived to help shape and engage in the new localism agenda, especially neighbourhood plans, which will hopefully bring local decision making back to local people.

The Planning Inspectorate rushing through the last King Harry playing field appeal decision in the closing days of the last parliament was a bitter blow and amply demonstrated that reform to the planning system was long overdue. As we have been ‘done-to’ rather than done for ourselves for far too long.

I will miss him desperately, as we would often exchange late night stimulating emails discussing the local issues of the day. Although a man of great intellect he would never try to use that to discomfort his fellow participants in debate.

I doubt I will meet his like again, such a gentleman with both wit and wisdom.

I can only hope that knowing how much esteem Barrie was held in, by so many, will bring some comfort to his family at this most distressing time.

Vanessa Gregory

44 Tennyson Road, St Albans