Letters, January 24, part three

We must all join in rail freight fight

SIR – Well done to Mr La Riviere for his letter about the rail freight terminal, and thank you for publishing his whole letter. He presents the situation very well.

There are plenty of questions that need to be asked of the developers and those who will actually approve this development:

What happened that made Secretary of State Pickles change his mind?

With the limitations due to railway handling capacity (size of containers, number of trains, and no movements north of the site) what is the positive intent of this development?


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What are the benefits to the constituency compared with the loss of 300 acres of Green Belt which effectively separates St Albans from London and the resultant pollution, noise and all-night lighting?

If there is a real need for this development, what prevents it being located at Upper Sundon, outside Luton, where the local population want it, and the jobs it would create?

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What will be the effect of increased heavy goods vehicle movements on the local roads, which are already very crowded? When there is a problem on the M1 or M25, the local roads become gridlocked. What prevents the developer putting in a direct access to the M25 which passes the site’s southern border?

Who will pay for the damage to the roads caused by the additional heavy goods vehicles?

What plans are there to upgrade the railway to handle international containers, without which the terminal would not appear to be able to fulfill its international role?

Who actually owns the land? Is it only Hertfordshire County Council or are others involved?

What makes it necessary for the county council to sell the land, rather than develop it in keeping with the needs of people of Hertfordshire?

If the sale does go through, what will Hertfordshire County Council do with the proceeds?

So far, there are no satisfactory answers to these questions, and those I have heard are vague and non-committal. What prevents those involved in providing clear answers to those whose lives will be affected by this development?

Anyone concerned about this development should ask their local representative, and sign the petition at https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614. We need 10,000 signatures to force a debate in Council. So far there are 5,470, so over half way which is encouraging, but if we want to do something, then we need to get more signatures.

CHRISTOPHER LANGDON

Lodge End, Radlett

SIR – Further to the excellent letter by Ian M La Rivere in last week’s paper which discussed the inadequacies behind the Secretary of State’s (SOS) minded decision to go ahead with the Park Street rail freight terminal, I would like also to give my concerns on the proposed development.

Firstly, the population in other areas of St Albans and District should not feel that they will be unaffected by the proposed development, if the SOS gives the Helioslough application the full go-ahead, just because it will be sited in Park Street. Planning approval to build the SRFI development on 300 acres of Green Belt will allow a precedent to be set for further protected land to be used for development. Major companies, which have a synergy with the SRFI, will be attracted to the areas surrounding the SRFI. Further Green Belt land could also be taken to allow the additional freight traffic to gain easier access to the motorways and main roads surrounding the district.

The likelihood of further expansion of operations in the St Albans and district area is just one aspect of this development that, in my opinion, the district’s residents should be concerned about. Some of my other concerns have already been covered in the numerous articles/letters posted by people who appreciate all the character, charm and history this city offers the residents of St Albans and Hertfordshire along with the many tourists who visit here.

My other concerns are as follows:

• The disturbance, congestion and pollution that the estimated five-year construction of the SRFI will bring;

• The loss of 300 acres of Green Belt;

• No night-time curfew as the SRFI, when finished, will operate 24 hours, seven days a week;

• Night-time light pollution from a fully lit 24/7 site;

• Noise pollution – both day and night;

• Increase in vehicle emissions from the estimated 3,000 freight vehicles and 1,600 staff using the finished development;

• Increased congestion on already-congested roads;

• Heavy container lorries will further damage already-disintegrating roads;

• What will exactly be stored in the huge warehouses so close to such a densely-populated area?

• Presumably there will be large amounts of fuel stored on site (we all remember Buncefield!);

• Possible contamination of site/water table through storage and workings on site;

• Emergency services’ ability to deal with any major incident, especially as St Albans has no A&E services at the local hospital and Radlett fire station is now closed;

• Increased risk of accidents on roads;

• Increased pollution levels may lead to local schools needing to keep children indoors during school time and especially at times of severe traffic congestion;

• House prices may adversely be affected by the impact of the SRFI which equates to an indirect tax on the district’s households as the county council would gain by selling/leasing the greenbelt land to the developer Helioslough;

• The majority of the labour that will be needed to construct and operate the SRFI will probably either commute into Park Street or be brought into the district as the UK Government seeks ways to handle the increase in people arriving to live in the UK.

I would also ask the question that if this 300 acres of Green Belt has to be used for building then surely, with the country’s shortage of housing, why has a housing developer not been invited to submit a planning application to help address this issue? Hertfordshire County Council would still get a pay day and the impact would be less harmful on the city and its residents than a SRFI.

The question that worried local residents ask me is what can we do to try and stop this development?

Firstly – please do not give-up or do nothing, just hoping it will go away. Apathy achieves nothing!

STRiFE are the local campaign group who are the platform for the St Albans and district residents to air their opposition to this inappropriate development – www.strife.biz

Sign the petition on Hertfordshire County Council’s web-site (10,000 signatures are needed for the sale of land to the developer to be debated at County Hall, 100,000 to trigger a parliamentary debate: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614

Write to both Anne Main, St Albans MP and Eric Pickles (SOS) and make your opposition to the Park Street SRFI known.

Attend any public events that are organised to show your opposition to this proposed development.

Finally, please stand up for your city, if ever your support and actions were needed to protect St Albans and the wellbeing of its residents it is now!

Please don’t let St Albans and the surrounding district be PICKLED!

HELEN TWINING

Butt Field View, StAlbans

New station is key to depot plan

SIR – I must agree with Cllr Wakeley in his recent letter calling for the Strategic Local Plan to be implemented so as to gain from inward developers funding for local projects. The sooner the better.

Now that a rail freight depot looks more likely than not perhaps minds should be concentrated in the three months Secretary of State Pickles has given to ensure there are indeed some planning gains from this very costly episode.

Total opposition always makes for poor gains in the community. Compromise is lost and one side has to pay out fat fees after lengthy enquiries but with nothing to show for it.

The “what if” scenario has not really been dealt with and Pickles only subscribed a few but nevertheless important words in his decision letter. Point 9.3 (i) “encouraging travel by means other than the private car.” But this does allow the issue to be advanced if the county shows leadership.

The County Local Transport Plan has as an “aspiration” a station for Napsbury restated as recently as 2011. They have done little to pursue this real community benefit. Perhaps for this reason Pickles has merely stated the intention for the work force to be encouraged not to use cars?

Many in the area opposed to the freight depot are perhaps unaware of the county and the station aspiration. Lack of one can diminish interest in the railways, hardly surprising as it shut 54 years ago!

Getting to London by train was not high on the tick boxes for moving to the area. Useful as it is the Abbey Line is no equal to a fast train to central London.

A restored station at Napsbury is officially a possibility. Were it to happen there would be far less need to drive to Radlett.

Across the tracks why should London Colney not have easy access to rail rather than just the 84 bus route? A footbridge to the depot will allow them reasonable access for work opportunities too.

In a poor property market the differences would be even more substantial. You only have to look at towns like Dunstable without good access to a rail station and Tring, the difference is reflected in their property prices.

Correspondent Ian La Riviere says that unemployment locally is not high, but it is has nevertheless grown significantly.

There are youngsters jobless and presumably carless too. A station would open up new job opportunities and not be dependent on a car.

The Pickles statement in 9.3 mentioned above is the peg to hang the argument on. A station would also allow a predominantly non-car owning labour force to arrive, but why in a period of high unemployment do jobs need to be done by a shipped in workforce?

The MP Frank Field discovered that out-of-work youths in his constituency deemed many jobs to only be fit for immigrants. Any job should be suitable for anyone of any nationality.

L FREITAG

Cravells Road, Harpenden

Offenders should pay for crimes

SIR – I have to say that I agree with Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Lloyd regarding the issue of meals and refreshments for offenders who are detained overnight – all at the expense of the taxpayer.

Many of these culprits are violent drunks, or others stoned out of their minds through taking drugs.

I sometimes watch a programme on television called Rapid Response – British Cops and I’m horrified at times at what our patrolling police have to deal with. They get spat at, bitten and abused by people so drunk that all their inhibitions have flown straight out of the window; and one charming man walked along a street whilst exposing his penis and urinating on the pavement.

The cameras on screen don’t lie, Mr Thornton, so why should you expect the taxpayer to provide free bed and board for this sort until they sober up? If they can afford that much drink, they should be able to pay for their requirements while they are being restrained, and the same goes for drugtakers.

I’m quite sure, by the way, that if any of these offenders have a mental health problem, that will be allowed for, but I for one, and I’m sure many others, object to the lenient treatment handed to these people while in custody.

If your house was burgled while you were away from it at any time, Mr Thornton, or even while you were still in it, would you still feel so benignly towards these robbers as to believe they should be treated with kid gloves? Of course you wouldn’t.

Please stop making excuses for these lawbreakers and show a little sympathy towards the beleaguered, law-abiding tax-payer who, let’s face it, makes a big contribution to our society, as opposed to these wasters.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON

Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Pedestrianisation would be safer

SIR – As someone who frequently walks along Harpenden Lower High Street I find the section between Vaughan Road and Station Road at best unpleasant and at worst unsafe.

I would, therefore, welcome any changes that give greater priority to pedestrians and improve their shopping experience in that area of the town. I would hope this could be achieved without any significant expenditure of public money. Whilst supporting retailers in wishing to keep shopping local, I expect that the vast majority of their customers arrive on foot and that trade is not that much affected by the cars driving along in front of those shops and cafes or parking in the very few spaces opposite.

DONALD ROBERTSON

Lodge Gardens, Harpenden

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