letters February 18 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

How many hats in Harpenden?

SIR - Harpenden town councillors must be a great boon to the hat industry. As you point out in your Editor’s Comment of February 11, the current Harpenden Mayor Brian Ellis holds the cabinet portfolio for housing, while coincidentally backing a Harpenden housing development that will cause the demise of one of the town’s last colonies of red-listed Helix Pomatia. Conflict of interest, you suggested? It seems not. I am at a loss to understand why the tiny enclosed green space at Westfield, home to so much LEGALLY PROTECTED wildlife should be the focus of thousands and thousand of pounds of rate-payers money being wasted on spurious planning ventures, plus a three day public enquiry to prevent my Town Green Application from going forward. Surely to goodness it can’t be some spiteful vendetta being enacted against those of us who live locally and have been *foolish* enough to object to having our lives blighted by excess development? I wonder what hats our councillors will be donning in the months leading up to May’s local elections.... perhaps straw ones might be the most apposite.

CAROL HEDGES Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Vision for vaping

SIR - 2016 has heralded two joys in our fine city. The first is the apparent closure of one of the 99p shops at the end of St Peter’s Street - joyous news in itself for those at least with taste, more than a little consumer savvy and real bargain appreciation. The second is the upsurge in vaping shops. For the uninitiated, vaping is a 95% less harmful form of smoking; the “vaper” inhaling a fruity blend of two harmless (everyday agents) with or without nicotine which, when heated, is exhaled as an equally harmless vapour. The great beauty of vaping is (for those who appreciate smoking sheesha or indeed cigarettes), aside from the obvious health benefits, that the streets are far cleaner for vapers’ presence. There are no discarded butts, no gangs of shop workers poisoning the air as you walk past them standing outside their respective workplaces drawing on the noxious cocktail of 3,000 (mostly carcinogenic) chemicals contained in a cigarette and no empty fag packets clogging up bins, ashtrays and gutterways. Indeed, I tip my hat to vapers for the ingenuity and eco-consciousness of their newfound habit; vaping also being infinitely more pleasurable than smoking. Vaping is not illegal (yet), the exhaled “cloud” of deliciousness dissipates instantly leaving a perfumed odour of either strawberries, custard or biscuits, whatever flavour the vaper is vaping - and each bottle of e-juice (the concentrate which the vaper vapes costs a lot more than 99p!!! So, to all you vaping retailers out there, we have one thankfully soon to be empty retail unit available which would make an ideal vaping store. A place where ex-smokers, lovers of fruit salad inhalation and Sheesha pipes can buy their sticks, mods, coils and drip tips - and where you won’t find a cheap jar of flavourless Slovakian chillies or a poor value packet of Russian Weetabix anywhere. I thank you!

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Hopeful about new day centre scheme

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SIR – With reference to the proposed new day centre and the interesting letter by Debbie Fensome (February 4) concerning the Pegasus plans. Last year I wrote to you and you printed my letter telling your readers how we, the remaining members of the James Marshall Day Centre, had to leave there on December 16, 2014, as the buildings were to be demolished. Thanks to our councillor Rosemary Farmer, we moved to the Lea Springs Residence and continued to enjoy our Tuesday activities. And how happy we have been there! Lovely warm surroundings, comfy large chairs, excellent lunches in the restaurant. The residents join us for the bingo session and later we play cards. Although our numbers have dwindled somewhat, due to the age, the rest of us ‘soldier on’ looking forward to our return to Leyton Road. Now it all seems ‘doom and gloom’ according to Debbie’s assessment of the plans. I hope not. Once we move back to Leyton Road, we hope to resume daily meetings and increased membership. I feel sure this will happen. Let us wait and see when the new building is complete.

IRENE D. HEMSLEY Wroxham Way, Harpenden

Why we need Trident option

SIR - I refer to the letter from St Albans Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (February 11). Ukraine is the only country that has voluntarily given up its own viable nuclear arsenal. It had the world’s third largest number of nuclear weapons. On December 5 1994 in Budapest there was an agreement signed by Ukraine, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States that in recognition of giving up all its nuclear weapons the four countries would guarantee the security of Ukraine’s borders and independence. We now know what the result of that has been! Last year, at the height of Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, Russia reminded the west that it is a major nuclear power. Russia has also announced that it is increasing and improving its nuclear capability. The letter from St Albans Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament suggests that as NATO provides a nuclear umbrella the UK doesn’t need to have the weapons itself. This is the height of hypocrisy. It is equivalent to saying that Hertfordshire does not need to provide a fire service because if we ever had a fire someone else would come and save us and this would save us spending money!

KEN SHUTTLEWORTH Reynards Way, St Albans

SIR - Laurie Gibson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament should not be allowed to get away with the misinformation masquerading as “reasons” for opposing renewal of Trident (February 11). He repeats the lie propagated again and again that Trident will cost “the enormous sum of £100 billion”. The real, budgeted expenditure will be £25 billion over its 50-year life, which is £500 million a year to protect our country against any future nuclear threat, a price well worth paying when the safety and security of our people should and must be the No 1 priority of every government. Unless, of course, it is led by that lifelong disarmer and peace-at-any-price campaigner Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Gibson trots out CND’s latest bombshell “reason” why Trident won’t work: underwater drones will soon be patrolling the oceans to detect nuclear submarines. Labour MPs were incredulous last week when Emily Thornberry, the shadow defence minister, spouted this absurdity, prompting Lord West, the former Navy chief who served in the Labour government, to describe her revelation as “nonsense”. Doubtless this MP with absolutely no experience of military matters knows better than one of our most courageous naval leaders who spent a lifetime in the Navy. Remember, though, that Ms Thornberry learnt about these underwater drones from “young Turks”, whoever they may be. Tell us who they are, Emily. Then again, when Mr Corbyn has suggested our new Trident submarines could go to sea without nuclear missiles, we all have to acknowledge the Cloud Cuckoo Land in which the latest New Labour now resides. What’s next, Jeremy, our soldiers to have guns but no bullets? Our fighter jets to have engines but no armaments? Tanks without shells? You could go on and on. Mr Gibson tries to argue that Trident is ineffective against “the real threats to our security”, such as terrorism and the so-called Islamic State. Some of us who know the history of our country recall how in the thirties peace campaigners fought against expenditure on our Armed Forces, assuring us that Hitler was no danger to Europe’s peace. We all know what happened next in 1939. Now CND is expecting us to gamble that there will be no nuclear threat to the United Kingdom in 2019, 2029, 2039, 2049. Those are the sort of time frames the Government has to prepare for. Yet we only have to look at the reckless and dangerous military adventurism of Vladimir Putin to realise the kind of dangers we face at this very moment. When Ukraine became independent, it decided on a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, returning its weapons to Russia. We should all know what happened next. Putin invaded and annexed huge areas of Ukraine. That was a warning to us all, absolute confirmation that we need our nuclear weapons, we need to renew Trident. So let CND have their demonstrations. We hope they appreciate how blessed they are to live in a country where democracy allows such freedoms. But the rest of us must never forget that our enemies, and especially Putin’s Russia, will be applauding their protests and praying for the end of our nuclear shield.

JIM ELLIS Abbey Avenue, St Albans

What does future hold for village?

SIR – It is now more than 20 years since London Colney Village Concern produced the original cassette version of the state of our community in 1995 (later issued as a DVD ‘The Village Video’) illustrating how we were at that time. We were already moving away from many familiar scenes of yesteryear and recording several changes and challenges to our former way of life. The Local History Society summarised numerous aspects of life over earlier decades and there were articles by David Ansell about the High Street shops in the ‘50s. If that time is compared to the situation today, using our DVD as a yardstick, one finally notices the difference now…So, what has happened to us? Perhaps it is the recent pressures from motor traffic along main roads, with the pull of Colney Fields Retail Park and its HGV suppliers, and more commuters pushing through our village to avoid major roundabouts queues at each end of our bypass? Remember the jams on Barnet Road which were predicted and the fight to open a new access to the Riverside Estate? Our film covered the last months of the hospital at Napsbury which is now a huge housing development but it was the end of local employment there just as other work dried up in nearby factories. We were losing on every front, as the police station vanished as ‘an economy measure’ to add extra homes (and cars) to our crowded roads and kerbsides. Now there are streams of vehicles weaving between parked cars, pedestrians and cyclists with scant regard for narrow pathways or any speed limits. So much for a reasonable quality of life in this ‘lovely village’ when you look back over those precious years! Is it still a place you like? Well, it could get much worse. There are plans to stuff every gap with more houses if there is little resistance to the idea but no real way of improving a feeble infrastructure to cope with further pressures on vital public utilities. The latest SLP [Strategic Local Plan] for the St Albans area needs careful study and sensible comment early in 2016 because it will affect us in various ways and we need to know who we can trust to make decisions on our behalf. While we are alarmed by reports on ‘Earth’s Global Warming’ we do not seem to notice that our own neighbourhood is now such a mess: yet we could Do Something Useful about that! The reason for our lack of effort stems from futile attempts to solve problems properly at various levels of local government cursed by political expediency or by devious buck-passing moves to escape responsibility or any blame for mistakes… Village Concern is alert to this situation and has offered valid facts and advice to local councillors for many years. Support has been sought and found with the Taxpayer’s Alliance (TPA, based in Westminster, SW1) who are powerful allies when needed and there are links with ‘The Flood Forum’ at national level and to European experts on IT/Transportation. We now need people who care about the future right here to join us as we try to improve this village by identifying what has to be done, and just how we can make it happen soon – before it is really too late…

KEN PEAK Co-founder of Village Concern. Email: kenpeak@gmail.com

Blind to reality of climate change

SIR - The answer to Mr Keech’s “How much global warming is due to manmade CO2?” (February 11) is we don’t know. But we do know the total amount in the atmosphere has been rising steadily over recent years (as from burning fossil fuels, not sporadically as from volcanoes) and as I noted before, its inherent properties mean it hinders night-time cooling. Similarly we don’t know if global temperatures will creep upwards in future, though 2015 has now been announced as the warmest year globally on the 150-year instrumental record. But it would surely be sensible to prepare for the possibility by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels (including fracking!) by diversifying into renewables. If the climate sceptics are right, well at least we’ll have taken those important steps towards energy security and self-sufficiency. If they’re wrong, we’ll have wasted years doing nothing and finding the climatic and energy problems that much more intractable. As to the ‘billions’ Mr Keech says we’re spending on climate research: I imagine the department concerned (www.BIS.gov.uk) would give a more accurate, and much lower, figure.

JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden

SIR - I want to reply to the letter from Chris Keech in last week’s Herts Advertiser because I fear that his repetition of the outdated mantras of climate change denial might still influence some of your readers. Mr Keech insists on re-asserting this old myth that the world’s temperature has not risen significantly since 1997. He fails to take into account the evidence of 2015 which was by far the warmest year ever (leaving 1997 way behind) and the common consensus of experts that 2016 will be even warmer. Of course there is an intense El Nino now but the 1997-1998 El Nino was bigger still. Allowing for the effects of El Nino/La Nina, the rise in global temperature over the last 20 years is close to the expected value consistent with the measured rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Global warming is still progressing as predicted, as inevitably it must do if atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to go up. There is no doubt that the rise in carbon dioxide is due to the burning of fossil fuels because it is fairly easy to measure the amount of coal and oil etc which is burnt each year and thus to calculate how much carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere annually. The amount calculated from fuel burning is consistent with what is measured in the atmosphere (given that about half of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere is taken up by sea water).If the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not due to humans burning fossil fuels, then where else does Mr Keech think these extra gigatons of carbon dioxide come from? No doubt Mr Keech is exaggerating when he suggests that billions of pounds are going into climate research but even if it were true it would still be a bargain if it stops the world from careering along the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire of climate disaster. I prefer to believe the professional scientists who study these problems and fortunately, most governments worldwide take the same view so there are some recent indications that nations will agree to restrict global warming to two degrees over pre-industrial levels by cutting fossil fuel burning. Two degrees is not good but probably the best we can hope for.

DAVID ALLAN The Dell, St Albans Rail freight site will affect homes quota

SIR - All but a tiny minority of your readers will hope that local MPs Anne Main and Oliver Dowden succeed in blocking the Helioslough freight depot development at Park Street (Herts Advertiser, February 11). If that 119-hectare tract of Green Belt has nevertheless to be sacrificed – which appears to be inevitable – let it be used to greater social benefit, namely for housing, as the MPs suggest. Until the destiny of the Park Street site has been determined, St Albans district council’s Strategic Local Plan (SLP) relating to housing provision between now and 2031, should therefore not be submitted for ‘examination’ – as defined in SLP documentation – by government inspectors. Of crucial relevance, the council is required by central government to sanction the building of 8720 new homes, over the 20 year period 2011 to 2031, an average of 436 per annum. That ‘quota’, as currently projected in the SLP, cannot be fulfilled without removing Green Belt protection from areas of countryside far more attractively rural than the former Handley Page airfield site. I refer in particular to the site designated ‘S5’ in the SLP, to the north of Harpenden, where up to 500 dwellings are planned, and smaller parcels of Green Belt land in Harpenden close to Roundwood Park schools. It is not clear how many homes could be built on the airfield site at Park Street, but it would clearly run into hundreds. If development was given the go-ahead, that number could obviously be ‘deducted’ from the quantity of homes required to be built elsewhere in the district. The number of homes likely to be erected on the site in London Road, St Albans, originally destined for a Tesco superstore, should also be deducted from that total. Those two potential, and substantial, new housing sites, at Park Street and London Road, which were not envisaged when the SLP was being drafted, would greatly diminish the need to build on Green Belt land elsewhere in the district, especially bearing in mind that an independent report commissioned by the district council, recommended Green Belt housing development “only under exceptional circumstances”.

ALAN BUNTING Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Misguided over busway proposal

SIR - Howard Green’s letter of last week is interesting in its history of the old Knapsbury link between the Abbey line and the Thameslink. The restoration of any such links would undoubtedly be useful, if only as a diversionary route at times of disruption. However, it is a pity that he raises once again the idea of the guided busway. This has been well-aired and discussed, in this paper and elsewhere. I would refer him, and everyone else, to Nick Dibben’s excellent article in RailFuture: www.railfuture.org.uk/article1545-Paving-over-tracks. Suffice it to say that as a result of ABFLY’s well-informed lobbying, with overwhelming public support, this idea is no longer being considered by the powers-that-be, who are instead concentrating on the long-awaited improvement of the rail service. With the West Coast rail franchise - including the Abbey line - currently up for renewal, now is the time for all users, actual and potential, to support our campaign by going to www.abfly.org.uk/sendtheflyerhigher

ROBIN WHITE Membership Secretary, ABFLY Juniper Avenue, Bricket Wood

Sludge solutions

SIR - In last week’s letter describing the time 50 years ago when people bathed in Verulamium Lake, my friend Peter Wares ended on a euphoric note which unfortunately was all fanciful thinking. To start with, there is no healthy flow of water through the lake, he mistook a bypass pipe for the real ones. The trickle which does flow into the top boating lake via a half-opened sluice is the same as it has been for several years and can be judged by flow over the weir at the footbridge. The rubbish and sludge which has “disappeared” has in fact sunk down to join the existing layer which now leaves a depth of about 200mms of clearish water. So sludge depth is now about a metre deep even in the middle of the lake where dipping coots hardly have to reach down to get edible shoots to eat. So quite definitely the lake has not reached the point where the health will be restored, this will only happen if the sludge is removed and a good depth of water achieved. As I keep pointing out the obvious route is to employ a floating dredger with a rotary sludge collecting head pumping the liquid sludge to receiver tubes ranged on the banks of the lake to allow the clear water to seep back into the lake. After allowing the silt to dry out it could then be transported by lorry to the Cottonmill Lane allotments where it could be dumped to raise the level of the allotments which are annually subjected to flooding. Of course a nuetralising period would be required before the plots were re-allocated. If this was somewhere like Saudi Arabia the pumping tubes could be laid from the park to the allotment site, distance being no object when booster pumps are used, but there are too many obstacles in the way.

JACK HILL Riverside Close, St Albans