Letters, February 27, 2014

Still on about the buses...

SIR – I must respond to Ken Surbaws’ letter (Herts Advertiser, January 23 “Rerouted service to improve efficiency”). The purpose of the 653 is not to be a trunk service between St Albans and Hatfield/Welwyn Garden City but to provide local links. If he wants a faster service I would suggest he uses the Arriva 300/301 and the several Uno bus routes which take a more direct and more frequent route along Hatfield Road. The 653 is the only bus link between the city centre and Jersey Farm (where it replaced the S3) and was created in September 2013, by joining the S3 with the S2 and 603 to give new direct journey opportunities from Jersey Farm and Marshalswick to the university, Hatfield, QEII Hospital and WGC, and provide through journeys in both directions from Jersey Farm and Marshalswick to St Albans City Hospital. Therefore the bus operator is showing creativity, a quality that Mr Surbaws says he is looking for. Although he says he’s a frequent user, he doesn’t give details of what time of day he travels; it could be that passenger numbers to/from Hatfield and WGC to/from Jersey Farm are low at those times, but as the connection from Jersey Farm to Hatfield and WGC is still relatively new, the numbers will need time to build up, as potential customers become aware of the new links. Reducing frequency to make the service more reliable is well covered by Maxwell Smallman’s letter (Herts Advertiser, January 16, “Timetable changes might be the answer”). I would only add that study of the new 653 timetable indicates that because of the additional time allowed to complete journeys, there would be an additional vehicle in operation on the 653 route over most of the day.

DAVE AUBERY Richmond Walk, Jersey Farm

SIR – I refer to the letter ‘Where is the integrated transport scheme?’ (Herts Advertiser, February 13). I have an interest in the efficiency of our local bus services – indeed I have previously written to your newspaper regarding this issue – and so I was interested in the view of Mrs Mills regarding the establishment of an integrated transport system. However the cost of bus travel is prohibitively expensive for our young people. But I have a solution. The economies of funding local bus services could be improved by removing the old age pensioners’ automatic entitlement to free bus passes. Most pensioners do not use the buses in any event and if this benefit was to be means tested, the savings could be transferred to running more bus services or perhaps the savings could be transferred to providing free bus passes to the under 30s.

KEN SURBAWS St Stephens Avenue, St Albans Advertorial mix-up

SIR - Your article in the February 13 edition by Barry Hunt, entitled ‘Agents in the St Albans area, shortage of stock’, lacks a degree of candour. The supply of housing in the district may well fall short of demand; it has done for many years and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Conversely, the supply of estate agents, both real and virtual, has mushroomed in recent years to an almost embarrassing level. Taking a snapshot of just those listed in your “advertorial”, where no less than 29 are named, and reflecting upon the plethora of unsolicited “cris de cours” regularly put through residents doors, it is probably fair to say that there are too many agents chasing a reasonable pool of property. Halve the number of estate agents and individual stock levels would return to normal. The problem is not quite as bad as you suggest.

KEVIN KEENAN Cunningham Hill Road, St Albans

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(Editor’s comment: An advertorial is editorial content paid for by advertisers, and should therefore be considered an advertisement.)

Fighting to protect airfield site

SIR – I’m pleased to respond to your correspondent Gerald Stone in the Herts Advertiser of February 13. I have been involved in the Radlet [sic] Airfield site for more than 10 years. In fact 10 years ago I was at a meeting in Park St Village Hall supporting residents in their quest for a by-pass to the village. I suggested that if some homes were built on the airfield site, needed then as now, then we could secure the building of the by-pass – this received little support. About a year ago I again broached the subject of homes on the site as an alternative to the proposed rail freight and tried to find an investor who might be interested in building homes on the site all to no avail. A short while before the sale decision was to be made I was able to secure interest in the homes scheme from a major house builder. I asked the CE of Herts CC if he would meet them, he wasn’t able to but said “get the scheme in the public domain and I will ensure that county councillors are advised”, this I did and the CE was as good as his word. On the day of the meeting the Council Leader, Robert Gordon, proposed deferral to consider other options and mentioned specifically the developer that I had approached Thus because of my hard work – and nobody else’s – we may be able to see off the rail freight option. I make no criticism of anyone else.After the deferral decision I asked Mrs Main, Mr Walkington and each of the group leaders on the district council if we could all work together on a ‘blueprint’ of what St Albans might like to see on the site. Both Mrs Main and Mr Walkington declined to be involved and others didn’t even bother to reply. Matt Briffa, an old friend, and I met to further the “let’s ask St Albans residents what they might like to see on the site”. We approached the Herts Ad who posed the question. Neither Matt nor I have any financial interest in any proposed development, we are doing it because we both have a deep regard for our home city of St Albans. Some suggestions already are, starter homes, affordable homes to rent, re-opening of the railway station (Napsbury Halt) that could serve London Colney and the new homes, a public woodland, a new primary school – all possible. It could be an exemplar of good practice, something we could all be proud of – we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. This is not naïve but a statement of intent from us all as citizens of St Albans. I’ve lived most of my life in St Albans, served my community for 35 years, running summer play-schemes, governor of seven different schools, founded the Open Door Night Shelter 20 years ago and still a trustee today, trustee of Vincent’s Charity, district councillor, Police Authority member, MP – I could go on. I challenge anybody to match that level of continuous commitment and hard work for St Albans – my home city.

KERRY POLLARD Alma Road, St Albans

Harpenden is thriving – for now

SIR – Your tongue-in-cheek (or foot-in-mouth?) correspondent David Solomon (Herts Advertiser, February 6), called on Harpenden to ditch its “regressive and selfish parking scheme” for local businesses to fall into line with St Albans and fail – with the town centre morphing into downtown Detroit? Based on one random visit he concluded that free on-street parking – not exclusively one hour Mr Solomon, we have multiple choices here depending on the shopper’s needs – sustains the retail infrastructure. That’s partially true. But the reason our local shops and businesses are able to attract not especially well paid staff is the availability of free on-street parking away from the High Street. This benefit-in-kind is now at risk with a hastily-conceived scheme to restrict on-street parking and/or charge for the privilege in the tree-lined avenues where few residents cannot park two or more cars within the curtilage of their not insubstantial properties. It’s hard enough to recruit and retain staff, many of whom are minimum wage casual/part-time, as it is; business owners do not need further disincentives. Perhaps local councillors dreaming up pet projects might spend more time talking to the owners and staff and walking the streets and less in City Hall?

ROBERT HILL East Common, Harpenden

Wrong kind of pen?

SIR – I would like to warn passengers using Carnet tickets on First Capital Connect that, according to the station manager at St Pancras, they should get a special pen to write in the date on the tickets. I was delayed for 20 minutes when I handed in my ticket at the barrier on February 18 because the ticket inspector claimed the date was unclear. It was – a bit – the ticket surface scratches easily which was why I had written the date again on the back where the surface is better. The ticket inspector refused to accept this as it was against the rules. He wanted to take my name and address; potentially for fine/prosecution. I refused to give these details as it seemed to me essentially admitting to fraud and I asked for the police to be called. Two policemen arrived and said that they could read the date on the front. It still took nearly ten minutes for the ticket inspector to give up wanting to take action against me. The station manager told the policemen that she could not do anything as the ticket inspector was ‘revenue’ and she was not his manager. Before the police arrived at least three ticket inspectors and one reluctantly acquiescent station manager (she asked the senior inspector, several times, what he wanted to do as he had started it) were not going to let me go until I had, effectively, admitted to travelling without a valid ticket. I would advise anyone travelling legitimately on First Capital Connect, and having a similar problem, to seek the support of the police straight away if they want to be treated justly. Also, perhaps First Capital Connect could advise us specifically which type of pen we should use on their tickets.

VANESSA GIBSON Welclose Street, St Albans

Get pool reopened

SIR – I would like to thank you very much for printing Roma Mills’ comments on the hydrotherapy pool in your paper dated February 13, 2014. I have attended hydrotherapy exercises groups since 2007 and there was another time when it closed for a while but it happily reopened. I really do miss hydrotherapy on Wednesday evenings and always looked forward to it; also it was very friendly and we all talked to each as we were all in it together. Exercising in warm water is so much easier. I would ask the hospital authorities concerned with the pool, please, please do not close it. If I have a huge win on the lottery, I will make a donation towards its restoration – wishful thinking. I do pass by the pool on Thursday evenings to attend cardiac exercises in the Maple Unit at the hospital. I thought work had started a few weeks ago but the equipment was removed. A notice put up on the door about the closure of the pool has been there since about September. So please, please can we have our hydrotherapy exercise groups back again?

ROSEMARY WALTON Windmill Avenue, St Albans

That sinking feeling

SIR – The current spate of stories about sink holes reminded me that a large one appeared in our garden in the early 1960s (probably 61-3). We lived at 10 Battlefield Road which, in those days, occupied three plots (10, 12 and 14 Battlefield Road). Some of the land was later sold and two new houses built. The large hole just appeared one day (and scared we three kids to death). Looking on Google street view, I would estimate the hole would have been either under the back of the house or in the garden of what now looks like number 10 (the numbering must have been changed). You ran a picture story (“It’s that hole” or something on those lines) about it at the time. I’ve often wondered whether the people now living over the top of it have any idea...?

JACQUI MILLS (Née POLLOCK) Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – In an article last week D.B.Campbell indicated the possible path of the lost River Kin. I suggest that the falling water table is far more likely to be the underlying chalk being dissolved rather than water usage. The overlying gault clay and top soils have held up until now, however as seen in nearby Hemel Hempstead, sink holes can easily occur when the top soils collapse into openings mostly created by the underlying chalk being dissolved. Is it not possible that between Kinsborne Green along the A1081 past the Lydecker Park pond through Harpenden High Street on to the East Common Ponds that sink holes will eventually appear? A constriction of the original river course is where the Nicky LIne crosses the A1081. A document search for when the Nicky Line embankment was built across the old Kin river bed might show whether a culvert was installed or foundation work exposed any signs of surface collapse. In any case sink hole risk is present along the line of the A1081 through Harpenden. Once the old river course is confirmed the overlying soil stability could be assessed with auger drilled holes. A possible clue to some earth movement might be the series of excavations needed in recent years to repair utility mains leaks along Harpenden High Street.

SVEN ANDERS Hitherfield Lane, Harpenden Backing campaign

SIR – I am writing to give my support and that of my four sons – three who drive and one who uses the bus – for the Herts Advertiser’s Respect on Redbourn Road campaign. It is poorly lit and there should be speed checks with better signage. I personally think that there should be cycle paths on both sides of the road and enough room for pedestrians to walk on if required – plus the paths should be kept clear of debris and overgrowing greenery, etc.


Flooding costs more than a few fish

SIR – Re: your article on thousands of fish lost to flooding in Park Street and Frogmore Gravel pits (February 13). The current weather conditions are exceptional and many years of relatively dry conditions have led to water shortages and hosepipe bans. However local residents who have lived here for more than 10 years will remember episodes of flooding on the nearby A5183 associated with periods of heavy rainfall. Regular walkers in the gravel pits will recall footpath 35a being underwater for weeks when the water in the lake had risen and in normal circumstances water flows from the lakes into the River Ver. At least one of the lakes is fed by springs. The whole of this area was marshland before the Romans came and when they developed the land they built on high ground to the west of the River Ver. In 1842 Holy Trinity church was built but it was 50 years before burials were possible in the churchyard because the water table was only two feet below the surface. A fortune had to be spent improving the drainage. LafargeTarmac and their predecessors Redlands have maintained the pits for leisure use and have had a good relationship with the local population. In my experience they have let nature take its course as the pits have matured but have been quick to respond when any safety issues have been raised. I am not aware of any complaints from the London Angling Club, who previously held the fishing rights to the gravel pits, even though they occupied the site during many periods of high rainfall. It is a pity that the Verulam Angling Club management have unjustifiably criticised both the Environment Agency and LafargeTarmac with whom they will have to work in the future. The whole of the local area lies in the River Ver floodplain and perhaps your headline should have reflected the concerns of the occupants of Frogmore Home Park whose homes on the opposite bank of the river are at risk, rather than that of a few overpriced fish.

TONY STEVENS Secretary, Park Street and Frogmore Society Ringway Road, Park Street