Letters, January 30, 2014

Nothing new about rail freight M25 link

SIR – With regard to the article by Madeleine Burton dated January 16 and with due respects to Anne Main, where she has written that “M25 link could have stopped rail freight bid”, this situation has not just manifested itself in the last few weeks. Having moved to St Albans eight years ago, I was made aware of the Radlett Aerodrome project by HelioSlough. Being aware of Slough Estates’ consideration for the feeling of local communities, I proceeded to read up on the Government’s recommendations regarding rail freight terminals situated around London for London. It was quite clear, there should be four terminals each connected to the M25 so as to minimise traffic disruption. At the time I contacted the relevant local MPs, councillors and Herts Highways. It was explained to me that they were not allowed to connect to the M25 because there were too many junctions at that point, also there was no room to fit a junction adjacent to the site and there was no connection going south from the M25 for the M1. At that point I submitted a plan showing there was ample room to fit a junction at Frogmore, without removing factories or houses. A simple slip road for southbound traffic could be added to the existing slip road for northbound M1 traffic. All that was required then was to close the existing London Colney junction and the traffic could join the new junction either by Harper Lane or via a new Park Street by-pass. Is it just possible that somebody higher up the food chain just wants HelioSlough to get approval?

JOHN BREEN Parkstreet Lane, St Albans

Parking farce

SIR – The letter by M. Georgiou (Herts Advertiser, January 16) perfectly epitomises the farce of the Westminster Lodge parking complex and the attitude of all relevant parties. Many experience the same problems of failed ticket machines – often lasting for weeks on end. One machine had half failed, and, illogically, only gave tickets for the free parking! However, its warning notice confused frustrated customers into driving past assuming a complete failure. Too often in facilities involving local government, there is the pass the buck attitude; in this case involving St Albans council, Westminster Lodge and the car park operators. The buck should stop with the council who are responsible for local residents. However, management of the operators of Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre (aligned with the council) should be more pro-active on behalf of their customers and aggressively pester the council for results. In short the council must, via the car park operators if necessary, ensure the manufacturers and service technicians of the faulty ticket machines get them working immediately. The elephant in the room is, of course, the farce that virtually all customers are entitled to free parking yet have the inconvenience of having to tramp around searching for a working machine, return to their car, apply the sticker, etc., etc., often with children in tow. This madness is the responsibility of the council. It is not repeated in other car parks with limited free parking time, such as at supermarkets or motorway service stations. Surely, tickets only need purchasing by those wishing longer term parking; the system monitored by modern equipment. Indeed, with only one entrance to the whole parking complex, ticketless technology could be applied. The council would still be free to do what it does best... gaining money from fines from transgressions such as parking outside allocated spaces.

P H FIELD St Stephens Avenue, St Albans Spend Napsbury funds locally

SIR – I’m writing as a parent from London Colney, who has learned about the council’s intention to spend the Napsbury development funds on improving a school outside of our local community. If London Colney had outstanding schools and facilities then we would not have so much of an issue with it, however our local facilities could really benefit from financial help. Using the funds to improve an already “outstanding” school miles away seems completely unjust and we are going to let the council know this. I have already been in touch with Cllr Dreda Gordon and we are currently looking at what we can do to prevent this money being taken from our local community.

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AMY BURNETT Five Acres, London Colney

A better alternative to speed traps

SIR – I have lived in Chiswell Green now for more than 15 years and the Watford Road running from St Albans to Chiswell Green has always been an attractive site for the police to collect revenue and award points to drivers exceeding the speed limit over the M10 bridge. The problem is that leaving St Albans towards Chiswell Green motorists think that road changing from single carriage way to dual carriage (is actually a sign ‘DUAL CARRIAGEWAY’) to go over the M10 (now A414) means the speed limit of 30mph has ended. Many years ago the limit was reduced from 40mph to 30mph by the removal of the signs. When the limit changed to 30mph, 30 roundels were painted on the road but were removed (by sand blasting) at the request of Herts police due to it “being too confusing for motorists”. Watford Road should be a 30mph road with a restriction of 20mph near the Killigrew School crossing at school starting and finishing times. For me to enter Watford Road from Ragged Hall Lane can be dangerous due to idiots speeding (over 50mph) from the direction of Watford towards St Albans, this direction is rarley enforced but never at night! What I am actually advocating is a SID (speed indicator device) to be erected on both approaches towards the M10 bridge to warn motorists it is a 30mph speed limit. I know that this will deprive the police and Herts camera safety unit of significant revenue but I really think something positive needs to be done for the community’s safety. The fact that police have stationed themselves at the Midway Surgery for 13 years to enforce the speed limit and the mobile camera unit sits at Laburnum Close on a specially constructed hard standing (with a sign saying “parking for police vehicles only”) indicates a total failure and a classic example of “meeting the targets but missing the point”. I think that the small environmental impact and modest cost of a SID would be justified in safety and better utilisation of police time and paid for many times over from previous speeding fines. In fact it would actually contribute to the environment particularly as they could be solar powered!

RICHARD BLACKMAN Ragged Hall Lane, St Albans

No let up in town’s school site row

SIR – I write in response to Ben Bardsley’s letter of December 19. First of all I will clarify that my comments about the regeneration and housing prices were in response to another letter published in the same week by an ‘F Georgiou’ and not attributed to Mr Bardsley’s letter. Once again I question Mr Bardsley’s insistance that the HPG and himself knew no earlier than anyone else about the proposed sites. To make my point clear maybe we can refer back (as copied below) to what was/is published on the HPG yahoo group in January 2013 (yes 2013). On January 8 Mr Bardsley posted an email he had received from Kate Leahy of HCC planning department stating amongst other things: “HCC has also undertaken feasibility work to consider potential for sites which could accommodate a new secondary school in the event that such provision is required to meet forecast demand. Representations have been made to St Albans District Council as the local planning authority to allocate an education reserve site as part of the Local Strategic Planning for the District to the north of the town to facilitate additional provision in the town.” So a mere nine months before the “general public” were aware, Mr Bardsley knew that certain sites were under consideration. Now we move forward a day and when, on January 9, Mr Bardsley was queried by presumably a fellow HPG member as to why HCC were looking at a school in the north of Harpenden he replied as follows (and this is the point I really need Mr Bardsley to clarify in view of his repeated denial of having any prior knowledge). “One “clarification” from Kate Leahy was the following [quite a fundamental “clarification”!]: ‘For clarity in relation to secondary, it may be more accurate to describe the site as to the east of the town.” My reading of that is that the preferred site is in Batford – the big field on the left by the mini-roundabout as you leave Harpenden along the Lower Luton Road.’’ Maybe Mr Bardsley can now see my and a lot of other peoples frustration and suspicion as to who has been involved with these ongoing discussions and what HPG’s role has been in them. I would also add that I asked the exact same HCC planning department in May 2013 whether there were any potential plans for a new secondary school in Batford and I was told in writing they had no knowledge, so why are HPG group given the information and not other members of the public? There are various other emails and documents which have been retrieved through the FOIR system which again show a strong link between HPG and HCC for many months prior to the public announcement and I do wonder therefore what else has been discussed with detriment to finding the right location for a new school rather than the blind approval HPG has given to promoting and actively pushing the poor choice of Site F. In fact I would go so far as to question whether HPG is actually an independent organisation these days or whether it is merely a puppet being heavily influenced by HCC who are using it for their own gain.

ALEX COLLINS Salisbury Road, Batford

SIR – I take strong exception to the remarks of Maija Palmer in the Herts Advertiser (January 16) regarding Batford as being the area of Harpenden with the highest level of social deprrivation. I would like her to know that the Batford estate has one of the highest number of owner/occupier homes of any former council estate. There are other areas with more social deprivation but I will not draw attention to them. There are many reasons why the proposed new school should not be built on the site selected. The main concern is the volume of traffic that uses the Lower Luton Road at a time when children would be going to school and the speed of that traffic. I have lived in Roundfield Avenue for nearly 57 years and my experience of the Lower Luton Road is that no driver ever bothers about sticking to the speed limit. Children from other parts of Harpenden trying to cross the road to the school would be taking their life in their hands. Traffic also travels down Common Lane coming from the Batford Nursery School and many are in a hurry to get to work and do not always heed the speed limit. Imagine many parents dropping their children at the new school and you get the picture of the utter confusion that would ensue. Furthermore, there are old people’s flats being built on the opposite side of Common Lane with more cars or other vehicles visiting this site. There are many problems with the current traffic volumes and with a school on the site things will only get worse. This is not the ideal site and the whole matter should be reconsidered.

JOHN OLLEY Roundfield Avenue, Harpenden

Seeking information on Scouts’ history

SIR – I am researching a member of the district council, Cllr Part, who nearly 100 years ago enabled the purchase of waterproof capes and boots for the Scouts of St Albans to be able to carry out their duties on the Home Front during the Great War. Can anyone please help with more details of his profile or put me in touch with his descendants?

FRANK BRITTAIN Archivist & Historian, Hertfordshire Scouts 50 Slimmons Drive, St Albans AL4 9AP 07850 818600

Mencap responds to Westfield debate

SIR – Letters from Carol Hedges and Mr and Mrs Baird are invariably stimulating and often challenging. Their comments about the suitability of Westfield as a home for some learning disabled people deserves a response. First, Elissa Baird’s suggestion that Harpenden Mencap should build in the centre of Harpenden is very much to be desired. Places like the James Marshall House, Gleneagles and the Victoria Road school have all been considered, but all proved impossibly expensive when competing with the deeper pockets of developers. There is a possibility of good news. The Red House hospital site is large and the focus of an ambitious NHS scheme to create a Health and Welfare Centre together with other activities, all fully supported by the Harpenden Society. Harpenden Mencap has requested some of the available space for a new build; maybe something will come of it. Carol Hedges is right to question the validity of my view, unsupported by an opinion poll, that the community at large is in favour of a Westfield location. But polls are fickle things much subject to loaded questions and biased sampling, and should be viewed with circumspection. The truly valid poll is the democratic vote of the people of Harpenden and it is to be hoped that Carol, through perhaps the Harpenden Independent Partnership, will field candidates who can present their views to the test of the plebiscite.

PATRICK FISHER Trustee, Harpenden Mencap Stairways, Douglas Road Harpenden

No change over planning bids

SIR – I have noted that a few letters have appeared in your newspaper attacking my standpoint on housing numbers. Could I point out that I have always been consistent regarding planning applications, I support planned developments not solely housing developments, for example. If a developer plans to build 70 houses at Beaumont School, 350 on Oakland’s College and 22 at Chester Nurseries all adjacent to one another in the Green Belt Settlement of Smallford. Where is the infrastructure to support these houses? Health facilities need to be provided, school places allocated, public transport laid on, water supplies imported, road improvements along the Hatfield Road designed to deal with 422 new houses and a minimum 844 cars? I’m not against any development as long as it has merits, brownfield development in the Green Belt that saves our green fields. But if you keep building with no plans for supporting the extra housing chaos will ensue. That is why I insisted that the local development plan included support for the new housing and income that would benefit the local communities.

CLLR CHRIS BRAZIER Park Lane, Colney Heath

Bearing the cost of tree removal

SIR – I read with much interest and concern about the diseased ash tree in St Peter’s Churchyard, London Colney, and the huge amount that will have to be paid to have the tree felled and the contents carted away. Having lived in London Colney during my younger years and with my parents, eldest sister and beloved niece interred in the churchyard, I have a very close connection with the church and the churchyard and have seen for myself the tree which I can well remember as a very young child. I know that many of my school friends and their families are buried in the churchyard and with this in mind, I do wonder whether their current family members would consider, like myself and others, offering a donation towards the huge bill for carrying out the dismantling of the ash tree. This would, of course, also help with the continuing upkeep and general tidiness of the last resting place of our loved ones. Perhaps, through your newspaper, there might be those who would wish to donate towards this very worthy and necessary cause.

AVRIL FOSTER Chiltern Road, St Albans