Letters, February 13, 2014

Naïvety surrounds railfreight site

SIR – A few of your recent correspondents have suggested that the monstrous rail freight terminal the developers Helioslough want to build on the disused aerodrome at Park Street would become acceptable if an access directly off the M25 were to be constructed. Doubtless such an access would take a considerable amount of the traffic to and from the site, but the idea that this alone would come anywhere near to addressing the many serious problems of this scheme is, quite frankly, naïve. Not only would a lot of lorry, service-vehicle and employee traffic still use the inadequate local roads, an M25 access would do nothing to address the serious rail problems, light, noise and visual pollution, employee commutation and destruction of Green Belt that would be caused by such a development. It is noticeable that those advocating an M25 access as a solution live some distance from the site; people more local know rather better its overall destructive effect. Any solution that is suggested for the problems caused by this scheme must take all considerations into account if it is to be of any value – including the problem of this site’s inferiority compared with such sites as Colnbrook and London Gateway. And that really leaves only one solution: that Park Street is totally unsuitable.

IAN M LARIVIÈRE Park Street, St Albans

SIR – I find it very interesting indeed to discover that Kerry Pollard the prospective Labour candidate for the St Albans constituency and Matthew Briffa of Briffa Phillips Ltd have joined forces to call for more public debate on the use of the airfield site at Park Street. Do they honestly believe and are they so naïve to think that at the end of the day the views of local residents will be considered? Readers will no doubt remember that Mr Pollard acted as “project consultant” for the hotel development at Chiswell Green. What exactly is his role with Mr Briffa? Is it as they state how the site might offer new opportunities for all sectors of our community, or are they solely interested in how this development may take place with some in the building sector eagerly eyeing up the Park Street site? Much as I regret and fear the decisions regarding this site will be made at government level or by Herts County Council, they will no doubt be influenced by the major developers and the funds they are willing to put up front, with no consideration given to local residents at the end of the day. I am afraid in situations like this money always seems to talk. As Mr Pollard rightly states: “The airfield is a developer’s dream.” It really does not take much to fathom that one out, as those seeking to develop this site will make millions probably having paid a pittance to secure this valuable site. Yes, let’s look at all the options, but I’m afraid time is running out and it may be too late. I also find it unsurprising that Mr Pollard has suddenly discovered a real interest in this debate. Is it because there is a General Election in the next 15 months? In this long drawn out saga his voice has been totally muted until recently, whereas our local MP Anne Main has been a consistent opponent of this development.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

(Editor’s comment: Kerry Pollard has contacted this newspaper to insist he does not have a financial stake in any proposed development of Park Street airfield. He also stressed he was unpaid for his two-year work on the Chiswell Green hotel project.)

Online future for lost property

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SIR – For many years St Albans Police have served the community by running a lost property office in the Victoria Street Police Station.Recently you reported that the local police headquarters is to move to the Civic Centre which would provide a golden opportunity to bring this service into the 21st Century by putting it online, thereby saving money, precious space and police time. If the police simply kept a computer database of items found in the locality and reported to them by responsible citizens rather than physically storing a miscellany of wallets, purses and odd gloves as they have been doing, then their life would be considerably easier. On the model of the well-established FreeCycle, they would refer enquiries for lost items to the actual finder who would be responsible for returning it. Some well-designed software and involvement of the Constabulary in the database would help to prevent abuse of the system and a valuable service to St Albans citizens result at little cost.

MRS E K LAWRENCE The Ridgeway, St Albans

No guarantee of road repairs

SIR – I was mildly amused by Cllr David Williams’ naïve letter (Herts Advertiser, January 23) about Dalkeith Road (aka “Cluster Bomb Alley”) and would like to make some comments: It has been included in the 2014/15 draft programme for resurfacing, so there is no guarantee that it will be fixed in this timescale. The programme runs until March 2015. If it was left until then, it will be over five years since I first took up the issue of the appalling state of Dalkeith Road with Herts CC. The poor condition of Dalkeith Road was the result of poor concept and implementation of the Herts CC “thin layer” policy to resurface roads, many of which have had to undergo subsequent substantial repairs (at great cost to the taxpayer). I am pleased that Cllr Williams wants “...to ensure...that the work is completed as soon as possible.” Many governments don’t last five years. I for one am not holding my breath in anticipation of a rapid solution to the several dozen large potholes and appalling surface of this busy road. The highways fault reporting system does not “secure... timely resolution”. This is especially true when logged faults are reported as “fixed”, but they have not been fixed. If Cllr Williams cares to contact me on these failures of the Herts Highways Department, I would gladly furnish him with evidence, but I would warn him, this includes in excess of 200 emails, several formal complaints and scores of Herts Ad newspaper cuttings.

PETER MANNELL Aldwickbury Crescent, Harpenden

Could history repeat itself with flooding?

SIR – As everyone is only too well aware, this past January has been the wettest since records began more than a century ago, and the rain is forecast to continue until the end of February. By comparison with those living on the Somerset Levels, we who live in this part of the country have got off lightly so far, but I do wonder if our real problems have yet to appear. The winter of 2000/2001 was very wet, and (or so it is believed) aquifers deep beneath the Chiltern Hills reached tipping point with the result that long dormant springs broke forth at Sandridge turning fields into lakes (reportedly up to 40 feet deep), and at Kimpton the extinct River Kym resumed its flow (estimated to be in the region of 1,000,000 gallons per day) down to Kimpton Mill. In both villages there was a risk of serious flooding, and the cost of the clean-up at Kimpton was put at half a million pounds. I don’t wish to be a prophet of doom, and I am neither a meteorologist nor a geologist, but it does occur to me that with so much rain at present there could be a risk of history repeating itself, and I do wonder, given the state of unreadiness elsewhere in the UK, whether those villages affected in 2001 are prepared should the aquifers overload this time.

MIKE MARTIN Lattimore Road, Wheathampstead

Have you been hit by pool closure?

SIR – Thank you for highlighting the issue of the Hydrotherapy Pool at St Albans City Hospital which has now been closed for nearly five months because of damage to a gas pipe (No date for reopening of St Albans hydrotherapy pool, Herts Advertiser, January 29). Since the article appeared in the Herts Advertiser I have been contacted by several people who have relied on hydrotherapy to keep them mobile and active and who are now stuck waiting for a date for the pool to reopen. This is causing rather more than the inconvenience that the Trust spokesperson regrets, it is causing a loss of physical ability. I should also mention that these patients have not been offered alternative therapies as stated in the article, they have simply been left to manage on their own. I would welcome contact from any other local people who have been affected by the closure of this service so that, with your support, a strong case can be made for its retention.

ROMA MILLS District and County Councillor Glenferrie Road, St Albans Adult cyclists need proficiency test

SIR – I work in St Albans and live in Harpenden and I travel by car on the A1081 to work. It is one of the main roads which has a cycle path. It is well signposted but still cyclists ride on the road. About only 50 per cent of the cyclists wear safety helmets or high-vis vests. I now read that cyclists want the Redbourn Road to be made cycle friendly. According to Edmund King (AA president), there are thousands of cyclists in St Albans. When my son was at school he was not permitted by his school (Roundwood) to use his cycle to get to school until he passed the Cycle Proficiency. His cycle was also checked to be roadworthy. Maybe it’s time there was an exam for adults and when passed they would pay a fee to ride on the roads and cycle paths and display a disc. At the moment anyone can ride a cycle in any condition and ride for free without any training. Cyclists could then contribute to the changes needed to create cycle-friendly roads.

BRENDA THORPE Ashwell Park, Harpenden

Funding needed for lethal junction

SIR – With reference to your article of January 16 on the dangerous rugby football road access; Simon Calder, Conservative councillor for London Colney did with myself meet with the vice president of the club a year ago to offer my professional civil engineering and SADC fund-raising help. Simon was disappointed at no response for the last six months as it is potentially a lethal junction. However in the spirit of action not just words we put in a planning application 5/2014/0021 four weeks ago for a new access onto Shenley Lane. For funding you need a highways permitted scheme, for that you need a Section 278 permission plus at least £4,000 Herts Highways fee, and for S278 you need planning permission. Simon and myself have personally funded the planning application and asked HCC for funding for the S278 and towards the road. All other funders very welcome. On other district sports issues, the new Cotlandswick leisure centre design is agreed with Willmott Dixon including the residents’ request to Simon for an indoor play area. The new Batchwood Leisure Centre is targeted for completion to enable the May election count to be held there. Hopefully the portfolio holder’s head will not be on the block.

MIKE WAKELY District council portfolio holder for sports, leisure and heritage Oakfield Road, Harpenden

Keep a lid on it

SIR – Can I please ask you to put a message in your next communication to residents about putting the lids on their recycling boxes. We all know it has been windy lately, so it would seem logical to try and stop the contents getting blown down the street. Apparently not, as I have just been picking up other people’s recycling before the collection vehicle arrived. Also, it would be much appreciated if the waste collection operatives could replace the boxes and bins far enough on to residents’ properties so that they will not be blown into the road/pavement and cause a hazard. Is it an offence to leave them on the pavement?

JANE WATKINSON Campfield Road, St Albans

Where is integrated transport scheme?

SIR – It was revealed at a conference yesterday that St Albans leads the country in negotiating with bus companies for services. There is much to celebrate here, however we were also told that Hertfordshire is the third worst county in the whole country for cutting bus services. Evidence shows that these services connect young people with jobs and customers with businesses. We need an integrated transport system, where town traffic planning favours buses, bikes and pedestrians. Bus companies say this is the most important factor in delivering efficient, reliable, cost-effective bus services. Retail research shows that footfall in high streets depends on bus services – St Albans is no exception.Why is our county council not working towards sustainable integrated transport?

JILL MILLS St Albans Green Party Sandridge Road, St Albans

Hazards of cyclists on Alban Way

SIR – How I agree with Joanna Tatlock about the danger of cyclists versus pedestrians on Alban Way! I like to walk my dog along the track, but cyclists do not ring their bells to let me know they are approaching, and they whizz past so silently and quickly that I am constantly looking over my shoulder to see if one is approaching. In Peterborough there is a track along the river which has a white line down the middle. One half is marked for cyclists and the other for pedestrians. Why can’t the same scheme be adopted here? It is such a shame that such a very useful facility cannot be enjoyed in a more relaxed way by us hard-done-by walkers!

WENDY LEWIS Sewell Close, St Albans

Thanks for your appeal donations

SIR – The Harpenden Trust would like to say a huge 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 of £6,806 we raised a record total of £41,888. This truly wonderful result will provide 40 per cent of the money we are currently spending on supporting Harpenden families and individuals in need, a task as crucial now as when the Trust was founded 65 years ago. Our Community Fund, which is separately funded, continues to develop the work of giving grants to local community groups and welcomes applications. Our 240 collectors, who braved the very wet weather to deliver and collect back the appeal envelopes, have also earned our gratitude.

GRAHAM WESTWELL Appeal organiser, The Harpenden Trust

More room if bags are emptied

SIR – Laura Berrill (Herts Advertiser, January 9) advises a problem getting all her rubbish bags into her wheelie bin and complains that the bin men put the overflowing bags on the pavement. I wonder if she has tried emptying her bags into her wheelie bin? She would almost certainly find they would take less room. Perhaps the bin men are trying to tell her this?

ROBERT PADGET Pirton Close, St Albans

Roads to ruin

SIR – Delighted to read your “Editor’s comment” in the Herts Advertiser of January. 30, and I echo and support your comments regarding the state of the roads in Watford Road and approaches to Russell Avenue car parks – both disgraceful appearances for visitors to our city. Repairs to Watford Road have been promised for some 20 years. However, I was amazed this week to note that the 100-yard service road adjacent to the top of Bluehouse Hill had been completely resurfaced! Is it subject to heavy traffic? No – then how come the money can be found to carry out this work when there are so many potholes on the main roads highlighted above. Please continue your help to repair the roads in St Albans; thank you.

TIM MORGAN Cassius Drive, St Albans