Letters February 11 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

When we could swim in park lake

SIR - With yet another letter in the Herts Ad drawing attention to the unhealthy state of Verulamium Lake, I’m reminded of the time during the early ‘80s when it was not uncommon to see kids from the nearby Sopwell estate bathing in the lake during the summer months. Whilst the bottom of the lake might have been a little muddy, the water was never regarded as a health or safety hazard. The park keeper was well-known for turning a blind eye to the bathing. His only concern was that the bathers should keep clear of the sluice gates at the Causeway end of the lake. However, complaints were voiced and the council were obliged to install notices prohibiting bathing in the lake. A few years later the River Ver dried-up at one point which had a profound effect on the health of lake with build-up of algae and unsightly sludge accumulating at the eastern end of the lake. Thankfully, due to a wetter than usual winter, the lake is at present looking both cleaner and healthier. Not only is there a healthier flow of water flowing through the lake’s sluice gates, the rubbish and sludge normally seen at the water’s edge has disappeared! Now, whether this is as a result of the council’s actions or this winter’s rains I do not know, but hopefully we have reached a point where the health of the lake will be restored to how it once was.

PETER WARES Ramsbury Road, St Albans

Conflicting views on climate change

SIR - I would just like to respond to the letters challenging my views on man-made climate change. Firstly, John Davis’ assertion that I have to explain away carbon dioxide’s role as a greenhouse gas? The question is how much, if any, of the reported warming is due to our emissions? The problem for the natural cycle sceptics is that whichever way you slice it and despite rising CO2 levels, the temperature record since 1997 has been flat; announced by the Met Office I hasten to add. It goes against all the computer model predictions and those predictions from the IPCC. They still have no adequate explanation except possibly that natural cycles are holding back global warming! The irony that natural cycles could also have caused any warming is lost on them. What about the hottest year records though? Well if you look hard enough you’ll find they are mostly measured in hundreds of a degree ( he margin of error is around 0.15°). It’s also worth remembering that it’s fractions of a degree above an average 30 year period from 1960 not in human history. Citing a spike in temperature due to El Nino and a warm December is clutching at straws I feel, and it should be remembered, as Mr Spinks pointed out, we should not confuse weather with climate. I would like to say that I have no problem with Friends of the Earth or Mr Davis. The problem I have is with the cycle of government’s throwing billions into climate research and I believe tempting alarmist statements to keep the funding going. I quote: ”We have to offer up scary scenarios make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest.” - Stephen Schneider, leading global warming theory advocate. If it’s so settled we should divert the money to finding a reliable, economical energy source to replace fossil fuels as we cannot build a single wind turbine with only renewables. Dave ”the world is in peril” Cameron favours fracking by the way!

CLIFF KEECH Flamsteadbury Lane, Redbourn

Safety should be key during wall repairs

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SIR – Further to your article of January 28 ‘Work finally gets underway on St Peter’s wall’ (actually to occur during April and May), you state the public footpath is again to be closed for the duration of the work – some 10 weeks. Are we once more to be forced into using a hazardous temporary footway in busy St Peter’s Street where pedestrians are separated from the passing buses and lorries solely by the flimsy red plastic barriers shown in your picture? Stopping people being injured by a collapsing wall only to put them in danger of being in a traffic accident is no way for the council to proceed. I trust this time a different and safer route for the temporary footway will be found – such as by adapting for use the grassed area between the existing footpath and the road or by forming a route behind the wall through the grounds in front of the Age Concern building. When you interviewed Cllr Ellis, he omitted to inform you about the council’s intentions regarding this most important safety aspect of the work so I invite him to inform the public, through your newspaper, what their intention is in this regard. Concerning cost, I’m sure, like me, many readers would be most interested to know the overall cost of this whole wall saga (or, at least, the cost to date and the anticipated total cost) and to be told how much of our council tax is involved. Perhaps Cllr Ellis would also like to provide information on this matter at the same time.

TOM SAMMONS Belsize Close, St Albans

Branch line musings

SIR – Mr Johnson (January 28) is correct in saying there have been several proposals to divert the trains off the St Albans-Watford branch into St Albans City Station via Brassey’s old contractors line from How Wood station to Napsbury. Land on the ‘down’ side of the St Pancras line was purchased for this purpose and in the 1930s, the North Orbital Road bridge was built with the additional arch to accommodate the line. The London and North Western Railway authorised the points to be put in on the branch in December 1865; then in 1873 James Allport, general manager of the Midland Railway, ordered, “that as the St Albans Park Street branch was not likely to be used for traffic the rails and materials might be removed”. However, a length of the branch was left in situ at Napsbury as a shunting neck for Mr Silvester’s Hedges Farm manure siding; then as a refuse siding for down freight trains in the two-track main line days; and then as a siding for stabling excursion carriages during the winter in British Railways’ days. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old branch was reinstated as rail access to the proposed rail-freight depot on the old Handley Page site. The Watford branch was built in the ‘horse and cart’ days. The terminus was built at the bottom of Holywell Hill – near the then centres of population at the town centre and St Michael’s. In fact the original proposal was to run the line across Verulamium and build the terminus in St Michael’s Street. A thriving branch developed with freight to the gas works, and a passenger service using warm, comfortable, steam-heated push-pull compartment carriages with two trains passing in the loop at Bricket Wood. But then times have changed and railways are not particularly flexible. Converting the branch to some sort of ‘bus-way’ would enable the buses to run to both St Albans and Watford town centres, avoiding the traffic chaos on the Watford-St Albans Road.

HOWARD GREEN Jennings Road, St Albans

Rare birds flying high over district

SIR - Further to Michael Walker’s letter in your January 28 edition, I would like to add some information for him and any interested readers. Kites and buzzards have been nesting for several years in Gorhambury and egrets in Verulamium Park - on the heronry- for a couple of years. They are regularly reported by Ver Valley Society bailiffs - they do a wonderful job checking the river and wildlife. It is good to read a “good news” letter from Mr Walker.

CLLR SUE FEATHERSTONE Mount Pleasant Lane, Bricket Wood

Do you have photos of old hospital?

SIR - Each May the Highfield Park Trust conducts a history walk round the park stopping at points of interest in the former Hill End and Cell Barnes Hospital grounds. I am currently creating a History Trail leaflet (supported by the Hertfordshire County Council Locality Budget Scheme) and am anxious to obtain photographs of the old Cell Barnes Hospital which used to stand in part of the current park. If any of your readers have any photographs which they would be prepared to lend to the Trust so we might copy them for our archives, we would be delighted to hear from them. We are aiming to hold another history evening, this time centred on Cell Barnes Hospital, at the Trestle Arts Base in November.

SUE GAYLARD (Trustee) Highfield Park Trust, West Lodge, Hill End Lane, St Albans Time to invest in our festive lights

SIR - As St Albans council is on a merry spending spree at present, could they please invest in new cheerful Christmas lights for St Peter’s Street. I am not the only local council tax payer who is heartily sick to death of the nasty little blue lights they have been inflicting on us for years.

ULI ROBERTSON Abbots Park, St Albans Calling time in row over city’s pubs

SIR - In reply to Ian Boyd, I must state without contradiction that I have visited every public house in St Albans apart from The Brickyard, but it is on my list. I was born in St Albans and have seen many good pubs fall by the way. Does he still think that I do not visit a local hostelry rather than scoffing cheap beer from supermarkets. If so he is sadly deluded. He then goes completely off the point by trying to promote a recent communication attributed to him which he says was published by The American Chemical Society, namely ‘Nanocathodlumiscence reveals mitigation of the Stark shift in InGaN quantum wells by Si doping’ purportedly published in their Nano Letters Journal. Yes, Mr Boyd, I bow to your superior knowledge of nano science, but it is a huge field with thousands of applications and what has it to do with local pubs? I suspect that your article will be widely read by at least one of the good readers of the Herts Advertiser. I respect your views, so listen to mine and let this debate finish so as not to clutter up the pages of the Herts Ad.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Many benefits of Lea Springs homes

SIR - First of all I feel the Herts Advertiser was wrong to publish a petty remark about Lea Springs, which is a brand new development for the residents of Harpenden. This is a scheme which gives residents a chance to live longer in their own apartments and meet new friends, where they have a restaurant and hairdressers on site, but also for public use giving other local residents some where to go. Lea Springs provides entertainment and activities throughout the day. At night we have just one careworker on so how on earth does one justify the noise? If only people could see the benefits we have given and a better quality of life to the residents of Lea Springs. Surely people living around Lea Springs should have taken it up withe the proprietors and planning people? They had two years while it was being built. As a fully qualified carer of 30 years duty to Harpenden residents i can asure you carers have no time for partying. Besides this a majority of Lea Springs residents are resting in their own homes by 8pm.


Lea Springs, Harpenden

Is there still a place for Trident?

SIR - On Saturday February 27 a large contingent of Albanians will be making their way to London to demonstrate against the renewal of Trident. Even a wealthy place like St Albans is feeling the effects of government cuts and we surely need to question whether or not we should spend billions on an expensive Cold War relic! Below are five reasons why we should not. 1. Far too costly - Renewing Trident is now estimated to cost the enormous sum of £100 billion and this keeps rising! Surely there must come a time when we just have to say that enough is enough? The NHS needs more cash so does Education, and the Armed Services are being run down. Severe cuts to Welfare. Would it not be sensible to redirect the Trident money to some of these areas? 2. Ineffective due to underwater drones - For Trident to be effective it has to be undetectable in the deep oceans. However in a few years underwater drones will be able to find it easily and it will then become a complete white elephant. It is financial madness to spend billions on a system that will be redundant before it is deployed. 3. Not independent - Not many people realise that the Trident missiles are serviced in the USA and its targeting system relies on the USA too. We could not use it without their say so. 4. Unnecessary - Most countries get along fine without nuclear weapons. Why do we need them? Even if we needed a nuclear umbrella, NATO provides one. 5. No use against the real threats to our security - Terrorism and threats from organisations like ISIS, are not countered by nuclear weapons! Nor is climate change, another major international problem. Dealing with these real threats needs resourcing rather than renewing a weapon designed for the Cold War. The St Albans contingent will be setting off from the City Station at 11am on February 27. Join us!


St Albans Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Verulam Road, St Albans

When is a bedroom not a bedroom?

SIR - Many of your readers will have read of the fate of the Maryland Convent care home in Townsend Drive, St Albans, and subsequent sale of the site to Beechcroft Developments for £8.7 million. Indeed, the developers’ plans for the site and early concerns from residents were reported by your newspaper in November. Since then the council has been inundated with objections, demonstrating the enormous strength of local feeling on this matter. The principal objections are, in a very small nutshell: n Overdevelopment and subsequent visual impact on properties in surrounding roads; n Insufficient parking in an area where this is already a problem; n Increased traffic movements that will put residents and schoolchildren at risk; n The threat to a part of St Albans that is distinctive and perhaps unique in character; n A high risk of ground movement caused by excavations for underground parking. I’m sure your newspaper will flesh out these concerns when the issue is considered by St Albans district council’s planning committee, if not before. However, the reason for this letter is to highlight the inadequacies of current planning policies, the exploitation of these by the developer, and the refusal of the district council to accept responsibility for ensuring facts presented during the consultation process are accurate and transparent. While you can understand the developer’s commitment to consultation, expressed in its Statement of Community Involvement, to be hogwash, one expects more of the council. Let me explain… The entire consultation process has been headlined with the description of Beechcroft’s proposed development as “42 two-bedroom and six one-bedroom retirement flats”. This is completely misleading as the full application states that houses will be built on the site. Also, rather arrogantly in view of the fact that planning permission has not been granted, even the developer’s own website is marketing three-bedroom flats and houses for sale from autumn 2016. Scrutiny of the floor plans submitted confirms the developer has included a potential third bedroom in some houses and some flats. In fact, the floor plans show that 26 of the 48 properties have an additional bedroom. Therefore the proposals are significantly different from those stated by the council in its statutory consultation documents. This has implications for the various silos of local government called upon to have input into the consultation process. It begs the question: When is a bedroom not a bedroom? The answer: When it is marketed by Beechcroft as “an undesignated habitable room”. In these circumstances, parking provision is also questionable. Without the headline description skewed in the developer’s favour, the number of spaces it is obliged to provide could be as many as 106 - 42 more than stated. Of course, the figure of 64 comes only as a result of Beechcroft describing the properties as retirement flats and riding on the back of archaic stereotyping of those aged 55 and over. This allows the company to cram a plot with more homes, as it is deemed fewer cars are owned by householders of that age. Quite the contrary, as has been stated by many objectors. And we’ve seen this scenario play out before and involving the same developer - at the King Harry development, where homes for the over 55s were agreed by the council - only for Beechcroft to later appeal for the age restriction to be lifted. This misrepresentation over the nature of the development also has implications for Beechcroft’s financial obligation to community services, which is calculated by dwelling size and occupancy. The council has arrived at a figure based, erroneously, on one and two-bed flats, not three-bed properties. Despite the issue being raised with local councillors, St Albans MP Anne Main and a host of local residents, the council is persisting with this misrepresentation. Even if the factual misrepresentation of plans is not a material planning consideration, which is quite shameful because of the influence it can have on the outcome of a consultation process, the council has a duty of care to its residents to ensure that process is an accurate reflection of what a proposed development will entail. In the circumstances, the consultation cannot be considered anything but flawed.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

Why is cost of park gateway so high?

SIR - There is certainly a need to improve the Hatfield Road entrance to Clarence Park but at a cost of £120,000? What are we going to get for that – something like the Gateway to India maybe? The mind boggles at such a colossal amount for such a seemingly modest need and I do have to wonder if our councillors have done their “due diligence” on the project when a terrace of four house could probably built for that price in Co. Durham with enough change for Banksy embellishments to boot. The finished product will be interesting to behold but whether it represents value for so much (public) money only time will tell.

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans

Still no let-up over greyhounds on bus

SIR - Well it’s happened again! On Tuesday February 2 I was waiting for the Uno 653 along with another lady when one bus turned up. The driver said to hold on as he wasn’t sure if he was running, he phoned up Unio and they told him to transfer us to the next bus, which turned up two minutes later. The driver of that bus was the same person who won’t allow me on with my greyhounds. The first driver asked him if he would take us and he flatly refused. The first driver couldn’t believe, and phoned up and reported him and so did I. I am full of praise for the first driver, he did everything he could to help us, but the other driver should be sacked. He has attitude by the bath-full and doesn’t like animals or people. He shouldn’t be allowed to drive a bus!

MARION FOSTER Arundel Grove, New Greens

Warning over survey

SIR - A company called iceniengagement has sent out a questionnaire to residents living in Colney Heath ward. It asks residents how they would like to see Colney Heath Ward developing over the next few years, including housing, infrastructure, sites for development, traffic, schools etc. The survey is from an outside company and not from St Albans district council or Colney Heath ward and is designed to get replies that may help them feed into the Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which is now out to consultation. It could also allow outside bodies to use their findings to feed into the Local Neighbourhood Plan. In any submission they might make to the Draft SPL and the Neighbourhood Plan they could use the data gathered as supporting evidence. So please be aware iceniengagement are not doing this survey on behalf of SADC or Colney Heath councillors, this is for their benefit. Please only reply to the Draft SLP and the Draft Local Neighbourhood Plan directly and not to outside bodies.

CLLR CHRIS BRAZIER Park Lane, Colney Heath