Letters, February 28, 2013
At your convenience in the high street
SIR – I heard with much regret, Morrison’s decision to take over a number of recently redundant Blockbusters and Jessops outlets to create ‘convenience stores.’
I have nothing against Morrisons, I shop with them myself and name them only as an example to illustrate my case. I am not even sure whether their plans include St Albans.
However, with the dereliction of the nation’s high streets, the answer is surely not leagues of mini leviathans on every street corner – supermarkets have enough market share of our cash and presence in towns and cities across the land already. I for one have watched the inexorable rise of the convenience store, not so much a convenience but one causing countless neighbourhood issues; nightmare parking and traffic problems for local residents and a significant loss of trade for nearby independent shopkeepers as supermarket customers block up the pavements with their cars all in the name of popping in for a quick packet of digestives.
Now, many of our petrol stations have also transmogrified into ‘convenience outlets’ causing logjams as petrol only customers queue in endless lines behind cars whose owners are inside mooching over the overpriced delights on offer by the major branded supermarket chains who own them.
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It is all too much - and now another supermarket chain wants to add to the mix? I personally much prefer local independents – in particular the wonderful Asian and other ethnic grocery stores in Hatfield Road (even Tesco has footprinted its presence here) where one can buy a wide diversity of ingredients all cheaply priced and with personal, friendly service. Now that is true convenience.
The supermarkets of the UK have become like a rash – we can’t live with them and, seemingly, we apparently can’t live without them – but should we really have to put up with mini supermarkets occupying every spare foot of redundant retail space reminding us how dependent we’ve become in purchasing only from these giants? I think not and so would urge all like-minded consumers to rise up and challenge the might of the supermarkets by purposely seeking out your small independent grocers and supporting them instead.
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- 10 6 movies to watch on TV this week made in Herts
Your tastebuds will be enlivened for the experience, your pockets will not suffer too much and the roads will have far less congestion hotspots! I thank you.
Green Lane, St Albans
And then, two come along at once...
SIR – When I first arrived in St Albans, I was told that the reason why it takes the buses half an hour to travel one bus stop distance through the traffic lights by the Old Town Hall, is that the SADC had spent over a million pounds repaving St Peter’s Street and reducing the previous rather generous road-width for buses to squeeze past the market stalls, and couldn’t admit its mistake now.
Of course there was plenty of space available to create dedicated bus lanes, and even more space if you put some bus stops in that redundant alcoholic rest centre euphemistically entitled the ‘Civic Square.’
However the Council, perhaps for the reason stated above, has published a ‘cunning plan’ to kick the City Centre out of St Albans, or CCOS for short, although it apparently stands for something different, but whatever it means, its effect and perhaps its purpose is obvious, and that’s to create a permanent impediment to any possibility for the City Centre to have an effective bus service. It’s as if the planners in the Civic Centre had never looked up from their desks and noticed that there is, effectively, a regional bus station outside their windows.
Phase two of the ‘cunning plan’, called plan no 11, has just been published. It entails demolishing some former council housing in London Colney and giving the land to an outfit called Ramheath to enable them to build enough shops – eight and half thousand square metres – to knock out the few remaining multiple chain stores that survive in the city centre.
You have to admire the professionalism of the Planning Department. If you can’t beat the bus system by creating an unnecessary half-hour diversion past the council offices, you can get rid of it altogether by removing the inconvenient shops that all the passengers are trying to get to.
Cllr Grover, in the letter you published on February 13, says he’s trying to keep our city centre ‘sustainable.’ I think he’s got his work cut out. It’s a case of too little, too late. Without wishing to be offensive, he reminds me a bit of the Emperor Nero, fiddling whilst Rome burnt.
Holywell Hill, St Albans
Representing their community?
SIR – What has happened to our local councillors?
Over the past few weeks we have had a series of statements from local councillors that go totally against the feelings of the local community.
Cllr Bernard Lloyd has supported and defended a massive football pitch development on green belt land that will bring noise and traffic problems to the Roundwood area of Harpenden against strong local opposition who have studied the likely impact on the area.
Next up is Cllr Teresa Heritage with her attitude that ‘she knows best’ when it comes to changes to Harpenden High Street and future parking restrictions in the town. She is also going against the grain of public opinion.
Then to put the icing on the cake we have had Cllr Rachel Frosh, Deputy Police Commissioner for Hertfordshire on a part-time salary of £20,000, who has had to resign her position because she was caught tweeting comments that compared respected political parties with Nazi doctrines. But of cause she has apologised so thats OK! Surely this hidden attitude has no place in an elected local representative. I am very surprised that her local party has not taken this more seriously and made her resign her council seat. She cannot be allowed to represent the good people of Hertfordshire.
Have these councillors become totally self centred with their own importance that they have forgotten who they serve? I hope the residents of Harpenden remember their names when the next set of ballot papers come round and vote for people who are more in tune with local opinion.
Crabtree Lane, Harpenden
Encroaching at a snail’s pace
SIR – HTC’s bid to run an access road across the popular green space at Westfield has been halted by the glorious *galloping gastropods (*albeit very, very slowly).
However, we all know that the Council like The Terminator, will be back. So may I through your letter pages, highlight some serious concerns that have emerged.
Firstly, the land over which the ‘road’ was to pass is itself the subject of a Town Green application, which now rests with a barrister appointed by HCC. In the likely event that he recommends registration, and the land is subsequently registered, the road, whether constructed in part or whole, would be contrary to the provisions of the Commons Act 1876, sect 29, and sect 12 of the 1857 Inclosure Act and could be ordered to be removed through the courts.
Westfield Playing Fields is a popular community play area. No thought has been given at any time to the effect of large excavators, diggers and lorries both on the field and going to and fro. There is a real risk for our children, many of whom play unattended.
Also, elderly members of the community regularly cross the field to catch the bus into town. No provision for their safety has been made. Clearly, HTC couldn’t care less if a few kids or elderly folk are knocked down. Fair game in the rush to develop – sorry, ‘provide an access road for council maintenance vehicles’.
Which brings me to my final concern: this ‘road’ would be a massive waste of tax payers’ money. A road already exists, and has been used for 40 years. Despite Harpenden Cabinet now ‘refusing’ their colleagues on Harpenden Council access across it, for no given reason whatsoever, maintenance vehicles use it daily. To expend thousands and thousands of pounds of hard-working tax payers’ money building another access road when one already exists is both wasteful and utterly defies common sense. Surely there are other more important projects that would benefit the community and the town?
What on earth is going on with our councillors. I am loth to speculate who they might have got into bed with, but I damn well know who is being screwed!
Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden
In the eye of a media storm
SIR – I was horrified to have been involved in a media frenzy that gave many people the wrong impression about what I stand for and what I believe in. I’ve often heard about media mis-reporting, but this is my first personal experience of it.
In summary, I must have (without even remembering later on) lazily re-tweeted someone else’s tweet that used a quote from Hitler in 1927 stating that they (Nazis) were socialists. As a Conservative who married a Jewish man, and who has been active in anti-genocide and human rights campaigns (including in particular Sri Lanka), it always jars when the BNP and neo-Nazis are described as right wing, or far right, when the evidence from history is contrary to that. That was probably why I clicked the re-tweet button.
Much to my horror and disgust some of the initial headlines seemed to indicate some kind of endorsement of a Hitler quote. As someone who is a longstanding human rights and anti-genocide campaigner (and has a long track record on human rights campaigns in Sri Lanka) this has been the most shocking bit of the whole episode.
The reporting of the twitter incident on the internet has been much better, not distorting story as the initial media reports did; making it clear that it was a re-tweet of someone else’s tweet about the early socialist roots in Nazism. I acknowledge it was a poorly worded tweet so I shouldn’t even have re-tweeted that particular tweet; but a re-tweet isn’t considered an endorsement but merely a request for followers to take a look. As I said right from the beginning, no mainstream party should be classed as having anything in common with either the BNP, the Nazis or other racist parties.
I have been overwhelmed with the levels of support I have received from friends, colleagues, politicians, bloggers and the public. I would like to thank them all. Some of this has come from other people from many political and non-political backgrounds who re-tweet things for information only and not in support of the thing they are re-tweeting. The majority of the support however has come from fellow politicians and human rights campaigners who agree that we should be able to discuss the roots of Nazism to try to learn the lessons of history. The phrase “never again” will be meaningless if we don’t remember history and try to understand the psychology behind it.
DR RACHEL FROSH
Wheathampstead Road, Harpenden
Airport expansion is off the tracks
SIR – Thameslink commuters hassled by crowded trains may like to tell Luton Borough Council that one of the downsides to the proposed virtual doubling of passengers at the airport would be the impact of twice as many air passengers, with their baggage, competing for space should the current plan be pushed through.
Lines in the sand on parking issues
SIR – Thank you for publishing the story and picture regarding the “illegal” parking of the NSL van and the response you obtained from management (Herts Advertiser, February 7).
I have trawled the St Albans Council web site for parking regulations and the only reference I can find I quote here, referring to double yellow lines.
“This is not permitted at any time of the day or night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Double yellow lines show an area where it can be dangerous to park, or where leaving your vehicle can be a hazard to other road users”
Nowhere can I find a reference to special dispensation for NCP or NSL operatives.
Also I am aware of no apology made by Mr Lovelady for the rude and abrasive behavior of one of the NSL operatives which would indicate that the lack of civility extends from the van driver all the way to Mr Lovelady?
He claims that the operative was there for the purpose of “maintenance” for the machine. As far as I could see what he really means was to empty the machine as it appeared to be functioning, and still is, as intended.
This would appear to indicate a further economy with the truth. I call on Mr Lovelady, head of Legal, Democratic and Regulatory services, to direct your readers to the regulation that gives NCP and NSL operatives special privileges and so finally put this issue to rest, because presently nothing has altered my opinion that parking on double yellow lines for any road user and obstructing and potentially damaging council pavements is clearly flouting the regulation.
The eagle-eyed NCP operatives are certainly fast enough to slap a ticket on any private vehicle parked in such a manner just as they are when you find them in packs patrolling the car parks to find those completely safely parked who may be a few minutes over their purchased time limit.
Of course in this modern era we are used to those who feel free to abuse any position of “power” but let me remind Mr Lovelady it is us, the members of the public, that pay his salary and those of the NSL and NCP. A little humility and an indication that rude aggressive behavior towards members of the public should not, and in this case, will not be tolerated.
Ennis Close, Harpenden.
Running away with the train statistics
SIR – Had he been alive today, Mark Twain might have said there are lies, damned lies and First Capital Connect (FCC) statistics. FCC came bottom (19th out of 19) of this year’s Which? train satisfaction survey and in last week’s Herts Advertiser (February 21) a FCC spokesman criticised the survey on the grounds that “they quizzed just 461 people out of the 170,000 we carry every day”.
He then claimed that in a face-to-face survey by Passenger Focus, 81 per cent of FCC passengers were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service and just 6 per cent expressed dissatisfaction.
The British have a reputation for complaining about almost anything (just read the Herts Ad every week!) and a satisfaction level of 81 per cent in relation to almost anything is unbelievable. Especially train services.
So perhaps FCC would like to present a bit more detail about the survey they quoted – for example, how many people were interviewed face-to-face (all 170,000 daily passengers?). It would also be interesting to know how such a high satisfaction rating was achieved. Thumbscrews, maybe?
What it all boils down to is who you believe – independent Which? or First Capital Connect. That is a rhetorical question, by the way.
Dr Stephen Moss
Alzey Gardens, Harpenden
SIR – Re: First Capital Connect. I would think 40 per cent is about right for customer satisfaction.
As regards Wednesday, February 13, it should have been a Friday 13, at least for commuters. No-one, not even the St Albans MP can blame Network Rail for the incompetency shown by FCC. I travelled from Euston to Watford Junction (even a guy from that line said FCC is not very good), then from Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey Station. Then I walked to St Albans City station to get a coach to Harpenden, then a taxi home.
1. No Buses from Abbey to St Albans City because ‘it is a different company’! No imagination and no care for customers who are really passengers or maybe sheep herded around.
2. My journey only took two hours as I ran between connections and walked quickly between the two St Albans stations.
3. No buses up the M1 from London to get people home. Last time at least you could get to Luton Airport Parkway and share cabs back to Harpenden. If there were such buses I couldn’t find out about them.
FCC staff at Harpenden the next morning were complaining that they had long days with constant complaints from travellers.
All you get back as compensation is travel vouchers apparently. There are never any actual representatives who actually listen to complaints.
The trains are dirty especially the windows on occasion.
We would all like to have a reliable, punctual service above all else and FCC don’t seem to realise this.
Coleswood Road, Harpenden
SIR – I am just writing to express my dissatisfaction with FCC.
An off peak return into central London costs over £23. This is a journey I have been doing on a regular basis for several years. And for that £23-plus I am more often than not standing on my way in and standing on my way back (even when I manage to get a seat this is rarely because there are numerous available seats but simply because I managed to get one of the very few free seats which will leave many of the other people getting on to stand).
Is that really the best that FCC can do day in day out?
Campfield Road, St Albans
Don’t mention the war
SIR – It makes a change for Labour supporters to be accused of association with Nazism. Harpenden Conservatives have more often tried to link Labour with Marxism and Stalinism, echoing Churchill’s notorious claim that the NHS was ‘Bolshevik Medicine’.
Hitler may have used the term ‘socialism’ in order to persuade the working class to join his party, while in 1933 the German Labour Party, the SPD, along with Trade Unions, were banned, and by 1938 their activists who had not fled the country were murdered or sent to concentration camps.
In Britain it was the Fascists and the appeasement wing of the Conservative Party who supported Hitler in the 1930s, with the Daily Mail in full cry. Local Conservative MPs such as Lady Davidson and Leslie Burgin voted against Churchill and in July 1939 Lady Davidson declared that there would be no war as Hitler was an honourable man who would stand by the Munich Agreement. Lord Brocket entertained leading Nazis at Brocket Hall.
Socialism has many meanings, and is used as a term of abuse or a term of pride according to how it is interpreted. Raymond Williams in Keywords, his classic book on political language, describes at least three common usages: socialism as an economic theory in contrast to capitalism, socialism as a political programme of welfare in contrast to individualism and reliance solely on charity, and socialism as a democratic ideal as opposed to rigid communism.
While Conservatives deplored the concept of nationalisation, it has been noted that more nationalisations of failing private enterprises took place under Conservative administrations than under Labour. Most recently the use of public money to rescue failing banks has been described as ‘socialism for the rich’.
Again, while local Conservatives in 1944 voted against the Beveridge proposals for the welfare state, few would now dare question the need to ensure that all citizens have access to health, education, housing and provision for old age.
Connaught Road, Harpenden
Play up, play up and play the game
SIR – Oh dear Mr Jim Ferguson of Pondwick Road and your letter of February 21 related to Harpenden Colts.
It’s such a shame that you are so convinced by what you see on TV, that you paint our children of Harpenden with the same brush, whether they be your neighbours, or your own, or your grandchildren perhaps.
And as far as the Olympics go, I was there, 4.30am train every morning to the Olympic Park as a Gamesmaker, so I too know the successes there, including the Blind Football that went on to encourage all children to play football and all people to become volunteers in all sports.
It’s not a competition to decide which sport is best, just a consideration as to whether 750 Harpenden children should be considered as important enough to try and improve facilities for them.
Yes there are problems in the game, and indeed in the world as a whole, but I invite you to come along and watch our seven, eight and nine years olds as they take part in the games they want to play. And maybe after the game are over and they excitedly head of home to tell mum about the Man of the Match award, or the goal they managed to score, you can stop by to explain to them why you think they deserve no investment at all.
Wroxham Way, Harpenden
Sir – Mr Ferguson (Letters, February 21st) must be living in some kind of media bubble, where only approved news items seem to filter through. He extols the virtues of rugby and cricket over the ‘abhorrent’ sport of football, whilst his favoured sports are played ‘with respect and in a sporting manner’.
Really? Has he not seen reports of the ‘bloodgate’ incident, which resulted in the resignation of Dean Richards, the Harlequins Director of Rugby and former England and British Lions player? Or the arrest of Wales international Andy Powell for driving a golf buggy on the hard shoulder of the M4 whilst drunk? Or a Durham University rugby team banned from playing after members dressed up as Jimmy Savile during a drunken night out?
Maybe Mr Ferguson has forgotten about Salman Butt, the captain of the Pakistan cricket team, and two others who were jailed for match fixing? Or Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels throwing ball and bat at each other prior to a foul-mouthed mid-pitch confrontation? And is sledging and ball-tampering a respectful and sporting way to play the game?
No-one can condone the excesses of a (small) number of Professional Footballers, which are rightly highlighted by the press. Mr Ferguson should realise, however, that loutish behaviour, cheating and flouting of the law are evident in of all aspects of society, not just in a minority of over-paid and ill-advised footballers.
The relative merits of one sport over another are irrelevant to this planning issue. Mr Ferguson claims that football fans in general, and supporters of the Harpenden Colts planning application in particular, are ‘blind and arrogant’. Surely the blind and arrogant ones are those who seek to impose their jaundiced views as to which sports they deem to be ‘socially acceptable’ for our town.
Connaught Road, Harpenden
Paying the going rate for parking
SIR – I regularly use pay by phone parking services in various parts of the country including Central London.
Almost invariably the service charge for this facility is 10p. Why do the operators of the same facility proposed for St Albans consider it necessary or justifiable to charge double the going rate?
London Road, St Albans
The right place at the right time?
SIR – While I agree that it is a good idea to erect the statue of Samuel Ryder, I am completely behind the market traders regarding it’s position. Surely it is total pig-headedness on the part of Patricia Fulton not to understand that another obstacle in an already congested area will cause nothing but irritation.
I would prefer to have the space to sit and contemplate Ryder’s contribution to our city, not feel carried along by the swarming market-day crowd. I can only surmise that Ms Fulton has never visited the market, or she would not have proposed such a naive site in the first place.
SIR – Surely the decision of the Samuel Ryder Statue position should be put forward to the citizens of St Albans, not the market traders who firstly don’t live here and secondly grace our town twice a week, tops!
I can’t see how the proposed position would affect vehicle access, there’s more than one route onto the market square area. One minor blip on the landscape would not grind the market to a halt, think of it as manoeuvring around another lamppost? And how would it affect their trade?
I may be missing a point here, but even I know how to walk round an obstacle to get to the market stall of my choice.
Ladies Grove, St Albans
Arguing back at the neigh sayers....
Sir – In light of the recent horsemeat scandal, it seems appropriate that March is Animal Aid’s annual Veggie Month.
In the last few weeks a great deal of attention has been given to the labelling of meat products and their possible contamination with potentially health threatening horse drugs. However, little has been said about the welfare of the animals who died to produce this meat.
Throughout Europe cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and horses are routinely transported hundreds of miles across borders crammed into suffocating trucks with no access to food or water only to be killed at the end of their journey. The flesh is stripped from their bones, much of it processed into huge frozen cubes, and then repeatedly traded across the continent before being mixed into cheap burgers and mince. This is the reality of the modern meat industry.
Anyone who wishes to stop supporting this appalling trade by choosing to adopt a meat-free diet can request a free ‘Go Veggie’ pack from Animal Aid by calling 01732 364546 or by sending an email to email@example.com
Animal Aid, Tonbridge
Cinema story brings back memoris
SIR – Living here near Adelaide, South Australia and reading the Herts Advertiser online it gave me great pleasure to read the article regarding the old Odeon cinema –now renamed but to me it will always be the Odeon. If I remember correctly it used to be called the Capitol, I may perhaps be wrong as I’m now 73 years old and a lot of water has passed under the bridge so to speak.
Having been born in Bedford Road just a couple of streets from this terrific old icon, I along with most of my contemporaries who lived nearby spent many happy hours in this cinema watching the ‘Saturday morning pictures’ a great venue for children’s entertainment in the years after the war. I think the admission was Sixpence in the old money.
The mother of one of my close friends and neighbours used to work as a cleaner and at one stage my sister worked as an usherette. At the time a Mr Hubbard was the manager.
There was a small tea room just behind the ticket booth adjacent to the dress circle entrance, so the idea of a café is not something new to this building. As the years passed I still used to frequent the cinema with my girlfriend as well as old school chums.
I vividly recall seeing Cliff Richard and The Drifters performing on stage dressed as he was then in a pink jacket. These types of performances were done after the cinema was cleared at the end of the last film. The cinema was then reopened for the pop music performance.
This building always seemed such a welcoming place with caring staff and a friendly atmosphere. When I was last in St Albans in 2006 my heart sank when I saw the state of this beautiful old building along with my old school in Alma Road and it’s surrounding streets. It’s good to know that the school has seen some form of resurrection as has the old McQueen’s Hat Factory. This old factory has seen a few uses, it was used as a food storage warehouse and was also run at one time by The Danish Bacon Co. Ltd. – after that I’m unaware of what happened to the building as I moved away from the area. I hope the situation concerning the old Evershed’s Dangerfield Press printing works site will soon be resolved. There was at one stage a milk farm in that area and a slaughter house just off Bedford Road, I do remember a milk lorry owned by Allen & Handburys calling to collect the full milk churns... Oh dear, those were the days.
Sometime in the late 50s I remember reading an article in the Herts Advertiser, that by mid 1970s the whole area bounded by Alexandra, Alma, London and Lattimore roads was earmarked for redevelopment and all the houses and buildings would be demolished – it would seem that part of that prediction may soon come true.
Thank you for your reporting on this and other developments and for keeping the ex pats up to date.
Long Live the Odeon... sorry the Odyssey.
Christie Downs, South Australia
Sharpe practices over home for the elderly
SIR – I have just read the letter by David Saul concerning Caroline Sharpe House in the Herts Advertiser, February 14.
I live about 200 yards away from there and have noticed that after a year or so nothing has been done about this property. The former residents could have stayed on longer instead of being shipped off to Vesta Lodge.
Think about it, that area is not as attractive and doesn’t compare with Chiltern Road, Marshalswick.
Caroline Sharpe House is well situated with the S3 bus stop virtually on the door-step with access to the Quadrant and the town and back again.
Fifty yards or so in the other direction you have the Jersey Farm park for a walk in the countryside, and to exercise your dog if you had one.
Caroline Sharpe House must be a very desirable property. So out with the elderly residents and in with expensive flats for well-off London commuters maybe.
I think this is a disgrace; I suppose it was considered too good a property for the original residents and that money could be made from it. I too feel very angry about it.
Windmill Avenue, St Albans
Their tiny hands are frozen
SIR – Regarding the subject of children being used to raise funds. On Saturday, February 16, at about 3pm in the St Peter’s Street bus stop area, two little girls (clad only in uniform trouser and blouses) aged about 10 years old were collecting for the Sea Cadets.
They were holding out boxes and asking people if they “had any change”.
Asking for money is begging – a criminal offence. Surely those in charge of these children should know that?
They should also ensure that they are properly dressed for a cold winter’s day.
What I find upsetting and appalling is the number of little children and babies without hats or gloves, freezing and crying in the cold while their mothers only tell them to be quiet. Some don’t even have blankets over them.
Old Watling Street, St Albans
Network Rail asked to come clean
SIR – Anne Main MP and your February 21 editorial are both right about Network Rail’s failures.
We have said it before, and we will say it again: you can rant and rail about the service from First Capital Connect (FCC) but so much depends on the state of the tracks and overhead wires any train company is offered. Network Rail provides these, and ours are getting on somewhat and becoming fragile – witness the overhead wires down at Radlett on February 13/14.
That separation of the management of track and train under privatisation is both expensive and inefficient, full of blame allocation and accountancy with the paying passenger caught in the middle. But we are stuck with it for now.
Imagine, therefore, the impact of the freight trains of Helioslough imposed onto even our existing service. It doesn’t bear thinking about. This is not the way to run a railway!
Commuters/fellow passengers – if the Rail Freight terminal happens “You haven’t seen nothin’ yet!”
The inability of Network Rail to produce the proposed timetable details is unacceptable. Why are they so reluctant? It is a public company, in receipt of public funds – ours. It is in the public interest that it comes clean and produces for scrutiny draft working timetables. These must show both present and the promised future extra services from the Thameslink Enhancement with all the freightliners and how they fit in together – or not!
A meeting to illustrate this is long overdue. The Civic Society intends to try and call such a meeting, inviting our MP, representatives from both County and St Albans Councils, local Councillors, and STRIFE. FCC could attend but whichever train company operates the franchise will still be affected.
Time is running out for such a meeting.
Meanwhile, sign that petition today to try and stop your County Council selling your land for the development. Complacency could prove costly in time and money. Visit https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614
(for St Albans Civic Society) Fishpool Street, St Albans