Letters, January 24, 2013, part one

Kicking off over Colts proposals

SIR - I have become increasingly exasperated by the fluffy nonsense put forward by the promoters of the Harpenden Colts New Farm soccer complex in their attempts to justify decimation of the Harpenden Green Belt and the lives of large numbers of Harpenden residents in pursuit of an unnecessary and unrealistic new football facility.

According to various communications, they would have us believe that soccer is practically essential for children, prepares youngsters for life, builds good character, fosters team spirit and furthermore that soccer is good for Harpenden.

It seems almost tantamount to child abuse if children are not given unlimited access to organised soccer facilities and coaching.

Where is their evidence for such claims? Why is soccer regarded as some sort of holy attainment? If you want to see what happens when young footballers become adults, take a look at the Premier League.

There is no other British sport that is more associated with racism, homophobia, cheating, violence and hooliganism. Do they seriously expect us to believe that soccer will develop our new generation in the way that society needs and wants!?

Whilst I acknowledge that there are thoroughly decent people in the sport, let’s face it, soccer is an activity that is and will always be associated with negative cultural attitudes and values.

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Now one of our councillors, Mr Lloyd claims that soccer should be Harpenden’s Olympic legacy! Soccer contributed nothing but disappointment (yet again) for our nation at the Olympics and was nothing whatsoever to do with our glorious achievements.

It was the heroic selfless dedication and self sacrifice of our poorly paid and poorly recognised minority sportsmen and sportswomen that reaped the medals and inspired a new generation, not the grossly overpaid and under talented premadonnas of soccer. And now soccer wants to bully its way into the Green Belt and inflict misery on Harpenden residents.

The Colts decision makers and their political promoters should by now be aware of the damaging implications of their proposed development and yet are still pressing ahead with their plans. And for what?

For the sake of kicking a ball around for an hour or so on a weekend, in a new facility they don’t actually need, the Colts are prepared to permanently wreck the Green Belt and the peace and recreational activity of many local people.

In my view Harpenden’s profile will suffer in any such association and the town should instead be encouraging and investing in sports more in keeping with it’s identity - sports that could justifiably claim an association with an Olympic legacy.

If the Colts turned round now and said no, we already have sufficient facilities for our needs (which it does), what we are proposing is wrong for the Green Belt, wrong for Harpenden and wrong for local residents (which it is), then we could say that there is integrity within the sport.

If they also said this proposal is wrong for the Colts (which it is) we could also credit them with common sense. These are my personal views and not necessarily those of the New Farm Protection Group.


Falconers Field, Harpenden

SIR - Can I assure Cllr Lloyd (Letters, January 10) that Mr Bunting (Letters, January 3) was correct about the lack of transparency in the development of the proposals for New Farm.

Cllr Lloyd says the Council has reserved a site for a school on New Farm and the area was clearly marked on the plans shown at two public exhibitions.

In fact, the literature only used the words “education use”. The part of the plan which used the words “primary school” was hidden.

Setting out precisely where the school would be and allowing change to the other land prevents the school being put elsewhere on New Farm and makes it more unlikely that it will be on a different more suitable site.

The Colts proposals are being used to establish the idea of a school by the back door when the appropriate vehicle for the consideration of the boundaries of Green Belt land and the identification of such sites should be a local development plan. Reports commissioned by the council show the focus for New Farm is a school.

The reports are concerned that the reserved site is some distance from Roundwood Park School’s existing site (which is where all coaches would have to go given the unsuitability of the other access roads) and the pavements on Roundwood Lane are described as “poor... and there is little or no scope to improve these facilities”.

Reports describe visibility at the junction of Roundwood Lane and Falconers Field as “very poor”. As most of the children will be travelling to school from the south, why is the selected school site on the northern-most part of the land?

Cllr Lloyd acknowledges the problems with current access to the Roundwood Park schools but omits to mention the council’s expert report states that there are highway improvements that could be made to the Park Hill access road which make a two-form primary school entry on the current site feasible.

Cllr Lloyd wrote to me that moving the primary is not dependent on the senior school being willing to expand but all the council-commissioned reports I have seen only envisage the primary school moving if the senior school expands.

A council tender authorisation document of January 20 2012 titled New Farm states the site has “potential inter linkages with Football Association aspirations to achieve artificial pitches serving Harpenden” which means these controversial pitches could be used much more every day of the week.

Colts would doubtless be hoping to use them as a revenue stream. No wonder at the exhibitions residents were given conflicting information about how many times the pitches would be used and not given reassurances about a “tournament scale” event ban. Once increased use starts to conflict with school traffic on weekdays then the area’s infrastructure will collapse.

HCC’s planning consultant’s brief of July 9 2012 states the pavilion is a single storey building (which is what is shown on the plans) and that a first floor is to be added at a later date. It actually says “flood” not “floor” in this document so I wonder if the typo was linked to future designs on floodlights too!

This is all indicative of the fact that any change will lead to more inappropriate use and subsequently the destruction of the Green Belt land rather than conferring any protection against further development as Cllr Lloyd has suggested.

I support Colts as a club and the creation of school places in the areas that need them but given the above it is little wonder residents doubt what they are told.


Falconers Field, Harpenden

Pedestrianisation plan costs the earth

SIR - With reference to the front page story in your Harpenden edition of January 10: ‘Retailers condemn bid to ban vehicles’.

I can sympathise with the retailers along the strech of service road that Herts County Council (HCC) want to turn into a trial pedestrianisation zone. What I cannot understand is why it will cost £35,000!

If it is only a trial why cannot the barrier at the Station Road end just be lowered to prevent traffic entering that section. Then if the trial doesn’t work the barrier can be put back up. Or is that too simple a solution?

If the trial is successful - to everyone’s satisfaction - then spend some money turning it a pedestrian zone but not £3,5000!

Councils are cutting back on essential services but HCC seems to have money to burn on something nobody wants. If the trial does not work how much will it cost to put it back to it’s original state. If it is a safety issue that is the concern then the closing of the barrier is the answer. Delivery vehicles could then be allowed to enter at the Vaughan Road end.


Mons Close, Harpenden

Rubbish on our roadsides

SIR - For some considerable time I have been concerned about the amount of litter that can sometimes be seen on the roadsides in and around St Albans.

I have engaged directly with those responsible in St Albans council for maintaining street cleanliness and have developed a clear understanding of the challenges they face and their desire to deliver continuous improvement.

I regularly have a dialogue with them to provide feedback and also offer up ideas that might help lead to a more effective strategy to deter those who wish to act irresponsibly and not dispose of litter appropriately. It appears that very few residents make use of the “St Albans Cleaner District “ website to report a build up of litter that needs picking which is disappointing as the site is very user-friendly.

I believe it would be beneficial if more people took the time to identify and report issues thus giving the council team better information to work with, I know that more reporting would be well received. I am equally concerned about this issue on the motorway network around the area including slip roads and the Highways Agency, in my experience, welcome reports of litter using the e-mail link on their website.

A collective effort will go some way to improving the situation further”


Westfields, St Albans

Time to slow down Mr Cashin?

SIR - How good a driver are you? Barry Cashin’s reliance on last-century stereotypes and doubtful wit (‘No excuse for dawdling along’, Your Views January 10) raises serious issues about his attitude, as well as his ability to share road space with people who don’t measure up to his own exacting driving standards.

Surely it is better for people to drive within their own capabilities than be bullied by “better” drivers like Mr Cashin. He may be able to save around 40 seconds on the trip he mentions, but will probably spend them at the Ancient Briton traffic lights. So how good is he, and how can we make the targets of his wrath into more capable road users?

May I suggest that he joins the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ Skill for Life programme, where he can subject his driving expertise to scrutiny by a qualified police driving examiner in the Advanced Driving test.

One of the IAM’s volunteer advisors will be delighted to coach him over a series of drives in dealing with any situation he may encounter on Harpenden Road or elsewhere.

Mr Cashin’s local group of this national road safety charity offers free driving assessments for anyone who would like an informal review of their driving skills.

If he goes on to become an Advanced Driver, Mr Cashin can look forward to lowering his motoring costs, as well as his blood pressure.

Advanced Drivers would like everyone to drive at the legal limit where it’s safe to do so, but would rather build drivers’ confidence so they can do so safely, than have Mr Cashin putting himself and them in danger. We can all improve; to book a free Enjoy Your Driving assessment email eyd@nwlciam.org with your details.


Chief Adviser

North West London & Chilterns Advanced Motorists

SIR - Let us assume that the unrestricted section of the St Albans to Harpenden Road is one and a half miles long. Most of it is fairly straight but there is a dangerous part with bends.

At 60mph it would take one minute and 30 seconds to cover, and at 40mph it would take two minutes and 15 seconds. Thus the maximum delay that Mr Cashin would ever be likely to experience is of the order of 45 seconds, or something close to that figure. On many journeys he would not be delayed at all.

Impatient drivers are known to cause accidents. It may be safer for everyone else, and indeed for Mr Cashin himself, if he decided to travel by bus. He might even find that bus drivers are one of those sections of society that he could risk finding acceptable.


Holyrood Crescent, St Albans

SIR – Barry Cashin took nine-and-a-half column inches in the Herts Ad of January 10 for a long-winded waffle about slow drivers on Harpenden Road.

Does he not know that brevity is the soul of wit?


Sandpit Lane, St Albans

SIR - Barry Cashin writes of “the guilty offenders of slow driving” travelling at a “boring 38.63mph” along the 60mph section of the Harpenden Road. To him, this behaviour “is one of life’s great enigmas”.

Firstly, government advice is that “the speed limit is the absolute maximum and it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive at this speed in all conditions”. On a twisting road such as this one, with the potential for traffic to enter or exit from multiple side roads, it’s easy to see why some drivers might prefer not to go at 60, even those that are familiar with the route.

And secondly, what difference does this “slow” driving actually make? The 60mph section of Harpenden Road is 1.3 miles long. At 38mph that takes two minutes. At 60mph it takes one minute and 20 seconds.

Allowing for five seconds speeding up and slowing down between 38mph and 60mph at the beginning and end of the section, it’s probably more like one minute 30 seconds.

That’s a maximum possible difference of 30 seconds to your journey; so it will be pretty often that Agnes, Albert and all your other friends of the road will pull up behind you at the first roundabout, pedestrian crossing or traffic light, Barry. And every time they choose to drive that way, they’ll have used a little less fuel, saved a little money, and been a little less intimidating to the other road users.

Our recent survey of residents in St Albans found that a large majority believe it’s important to reduce traffic speeds.

If we are to create friendlier, safer, cleaner, and quieter urban areas, perhaps we should all take our foot off the gas just a little. There’s no good reason to race between the towns and villages of our district either.


St Albans District Green Party

Shameful state of today’s Radlett

SIR - I now live in Totnes in Devon, I used to live near to Radlett and enjoyed the feel of the village and the green surroundings it offered inside the M25.

Over the festive period I returned to Radlett for the first time in many years and I was completely shocked when I walked round some of the streets. It is no longer a green village.

The owners of several properties have been to allowed to destroy the green space and build structures that dod not fit in to the street scene. This included overpowering buildings, buildings built in strange materials, detruction of both front and rear gardens. I walked round Oakridge Avenue, Newlands Avenue, The Avenue, Radlett Park Road and Beech Avenue.

What is the council playing at? I understand that the parish council has done its best but it is not them that make the decision.


Totnes, Devon

Better off without Commissioner?

SIR - Good grief. So our newly minted Police Commissioner, Mr David Lloyd, is floating the idea of charging citizens for spending a night in the police cells, and he has made this suggestion in public unaware of whether it is legal or not (small hint, Mr Lloyd: it most probably isn’t). What a sad indictment of the calibre of this gentlemen for the important public office he now holds.

And he wishes to end up with a “more John Lewis” police service as if a commercial/mercantile model of operation were appropriate for a police service, just look at how successful said model has been in the NHS or our local train services.

It is disappointing that he appears to be blinkered by his previous professional experience as a banker and financial adviser, I would have hoped that a police commissioner would have more to do than restricting himself to counting pennies.

And of course, this all comes with the additional comments on wanting more special constables (ie people working for free) and a greater role for victim support (again, people working for free), whereas he is drawing a £75,000 salary in his new position and holds posts on the county council and a local borough council which have generous expense allowances.

Frankly, if this is the end result, I think here in Herts we would be much better off without a Police Commissioner in the first place.


Halsey Park, London Colney

Menace of the pavement cyclists

SIR - I am very sorry that 84-year-old J Anson was knocked over by a cyclist on the pavement, resulting in severe injuries including a severe fracture of a finger on the left hand, damage to the hand and wrist, a cut top lip requiring a stitch, a severe graze in the mouth, and bruising on the arms and shock for several days (January 10).

Cycling on the pavement is a criminal offence. The Highway Code (Paragraph 64) states: “You MUST NOT cycle on the pavement.” My son, who is a policeman, gave a pavement cyclist a fixed penalty ticket last week.

J Anson should go into the nearest police station and give oral evidence and insist on giving and signing a witness statement.

She should request that the police should endeavour to find the cyclist and her parents with a view to charging them with assault.

J Anson was lucky not to have been killed, unlike Gary Green, 41, who was killed on the pavement by Peter Messen who was cycling on the pavement on March 30, 2006 in Stenalees, Cornwall.

Messen pleaded guilty in the Truro Crown Court on October 5, 2007. I have press reports about many other people who have been injured by people cycling on the pavement or not stopping on a pedestrian crossing.


Manland Avenue, Harpenden

Outsider’s opinion over rail freight

SIR - At a friend’s house in your area last week, I read your account and angry letters from those against the intended rail freight depot.

I was also amazed to see on further pages the pictures graphically detailing the state of the roads in the area.

Checking, I discovered that apparently the local authority has spent around £1 million opposing the depot. I stand to be corrected if this is massively wrong.

The choice for sleepy St Albans is surely good roads or a rail depot or job is it not? Surely all three make an ideal town but at present St Albans has none. Yet the money spent on opposing the depot would have made a big difference to raod. Where are the jobs? Is everyone in Park Street sure of continued employment elsewhere?

I also recall hearing expert Stephen Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport and a local St Albans resident saying on Radio 4’s Today programme that new roads weren’t the attraction to any area but the state of them.

Extra question: according to simple Wikipedia research the site in question, Radlett Airfield, has been such since 1929 and hardly therefore “Green Belt” which were created after the 1948 T&C planning acts. Green Belts are nice but if it was between any colour belt or a job, I think in these times the latter is better.


The Mount, London

(Editor’s comment: Mr Bassingham is probably unaware that responsibility for the condition of the roads lies with Herts county council - the owners of the Radlett Airfield site - and the local authority which has spent around £1 million opposing the rail freight depot is St Albans district council which is only too well aware of the huge impact it would have on an area in which there is very little unemployment as opposed to other parts of the country.)

Call in 007 to tackle land developers

SIR – I read with fascination and incredulity your article last week about yet another public inquiry into the development of what is affectionately known as the Hunston Properties/Sewell Park project to put 116 homes, a 72-bed care home and two tennis courts on acknowledged Green Belt land behind the Harpenden Road opposite the St Albans Girls’ School.

This Hunston proposal has already been dismissed several times by the St Albans district council and by public inquiry led by an independent Planning Inspector and here we are AGAIN!

What is being brought to the table that is new and persuasive?

Six days of council chamber time have been allocated and at who’s expense?

Councillor Daly, the SADC advocate and the eloquent “CLASH [Campaign by Local Residents Against Sewell Housing]” representative have slaughtered the applicants in the past and this HAS to happen again.

Hopefully if Hunston lose they will bear everyone’s costs.

Are Hunston inspired by the equally unbelievable volte face of Eric Pickles? Perhaps like Daniel Craig in the highly successful James Bond film Skyfall Hunston Properties are hoping for a miracle on the verdant pastures of north St Albans.

However unlike Bond they will fall through the ice and die of hyperthermia unless something else is taking place we know nothing of yet!

Do we now need James Bond to rid St Albans of the creeping menace of local land exploitation?


Green Lane, St Albans

Has Oaklands’ ethos changed?

SIR – As a matter of historical interest I wonder if someone can enlighten me?

How, when, where and by whom was a formal decision taken to change the ethos of Oaklands College? Indeed was such a decision ever taken?

As I recall, the very successful course of studies at this highly regarded college was mainly concerned with agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry for which the fields, glasshouses and orchards together with the necessary machinery and maintenance equipment were essential.

The fields remain for the uncertain present but it seems that the rest has been allowed to decay.

An erstwhile neighbour of mine, who was once a lecturer at Oaklands, was shattered when he visited a few years ago and saw the distressed state of the glasshouses and orchards.

What would the successful students of an earlier era think of Oaklands if they saw it now?


Sandpit Lane, St Albans

Working towards better railways

SIR - I guess that if it’s Thursday there may be another weekly rant about me by Cllr Martin Leach’s father. Recently he attacked Cllr Chris White and myself over our opposition to the government’s rail fare policy. Yes, we objected to the previous Labour government’s policy of increasing rail fares by RPI+1 per cent. Yes, we are disappointed that the coalition government has continued this policy.

But thanks to Liberal Democrat influence in government, fare-paying passengers will at least see positive results in terms of investment. The previous government took the money but electrified a mere nine miles of track in 14 years (although they had plenty of money for war in iraq). By contrast, the coalition government is electrifying 900 miles of track in five years, 100 times as much as Labour managed in a much longer period.

Our railways will be cleaner, greener and faster as a result of the £9 billion of investment committed for the next five year period, more than at any time since the Victorian era.

Yes there is much to do. Fare paying passengers deserve a better deal in terms of quality of service and value for money. But the Labour record was truly feeble, and it is typical that this should have been ignored by Mr Leach in his antagonistic and partisan letter.


Hatfield Road, St Albans