Letters January 14 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

SIR - I received the news of Butterfly World’s closure with great sadness having been a regular visitor since its opening and with concern over the future of this important site which lies between St Albans and Watford

The project started with the best intentions but perhaps with unrealistic ideas. It has been clear for some years that the Dome would never be built. But this has not sopped thousands of visitors enjoying what Butterfly World did offer.

As the former CO of a national charity I learnt a little about fundraising and could never understand why the environmental project was owned by a construction company and not run as a charity. If it had charitable status there was a real chance of raising the funds to take it forward.

So what now, I feel the best thing would be to allow nature to reclaim this former agricultural site where I hope butterflies would continue to thrive. As the information around the project told visitors butterflies desperately needed a suitable habitat in a part of the country where they struggled.

Should an alternative more profitable plan emerge for the site, I for one would want to both ask questions and oppose them and I am sure many readers would join me.


Valley Rise, Watford

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SIR - I write in response to the letter from Mr John Cummins in your paper (December 31).

Mr Cummins clearly does not understand the reason for or how Residents Associations are formed. They are not, as he states, unelected or undemocratic. Each Residents Association has to have a written constitution for it to be officially recognised by local authorities. Each has a committee which is elected by the membership at an Annual General Meeting. The associations are usually formed to provide a combined voice for the people who reside in an area of the city.

APRA was formed because there was no representation for those who live in the streets surrounding the Cathedral, including College Street, two and a half years ago to consider the problems of parking, road and pavement conditions, school coaches and other environmental issues which affect the lives of residents.

The problem with The Brickyard did not arise until later and it was not only APRA who was involved but also Aboyne Residents Association and Verulam Road Residents Association who were concerned with the local noise problem. All three Associations are, with others, represented in the Combined Residents and Community Associations of St Albans (CRCA). Mr Cummins criticises Mr Peter Godwin, SRCA Secretary, for commenting on but not living near The Brickyard. It is of no consequence where individual CRCA committee members live, one could comment on George Street, where Mr Cummins resides, as not being near The Brickyard either.

Mr Cummins seems to think there is some kind of vendetta against the owner of The Brickyard, there is nothing of the kind. The Residents Associations are simply supporting members who live in close proximity to the premises, including the writer, whose summer evenings have been spoiled by raucous and rowdy behaviour emanating from the pub garden. If the owner can control this situation we do not have an axe to grind.


Chairman CRCA

College Street, St Albans

SIR - Following a letter in your paper from Mr John Cummins.

In the 44 years I have lived alongside The Spotted Bull and now the The Brickyard I feel confident in expressing my thoughts on the problems incurred over the last year or so.

I was pleased initially when the pub was taken over as it had become a rather sad blot on the landscape of Verulam Road and, indeed, was in need of some tlc.

Unfortunately, although it is water under the bridge now, it all started off on the wrong footing when the large extension to the rear was built without planning permission. (Later retrospective planning permission was passed). This new extension, trebling the size of the original pub, meant that the building became extremely close to the rear wall abutting the gardens to College Street. During winter months there isn’t so much of a problem but it is in the summer, when we all want to use our gardens, on weekend afternoons and evenings, we are subjected to a party atmosphere whether we want it or not. We are constantly being told that the clientele is sophisticated, if only! The language we have been subjected to couldn’t be described as such.

The suggestion of double glazing by Mr John Cummins, is not possible as we are Grade II listed and this would also obviously not help with the garden issue which is the main problem!

The comment by Mr Cummins made about the outdoor space the pub has had since 1832 and the fact that the decibel levels are the same now as in Victorian times is simply not correct. This new venue has a licence for up to 300 people, very different to the pub in its original form and the garden has always been grassed which absorbs sound unlike the new paved garden. It should also be taken into account that our gardens slope away significantly from the rear wall elevating the sound.

It is all very well, for people like Mr Cummins, to suggest that we knew about the pub when we purchased the houses. The position we find ourselves in now is SO very different and simply not comparable. We are community minded residents who are keen on seeing our city thrive and businesses grow. (Very keen, in fact, so as to keep the identity of the city rather than letting it become a dormitory town).

We are also mindful that we have to respect each others space where noise is concerned due to the proximity of our properties. This we have all done satisfactorily for the 44 years I have lived here, until now.

It is all very well for people to criticise us, you try living with it!


College Street, St Albans

SIR - I have just read the correspondence from Mr Ian Boyd, responding my article in the Herts Ad. His letter is full of insults, namely that I pollute the Herts Ad with my views and I am skulking at home drinking bargain booze. He also makes totally outrageous suggestions that I would support more supermarkets to get in his words 30p off my next six pack, I am uninformed, supercilious, deviant and in his opinion I do not have a voice to disagree with him. Wake up to the real world, Mr Boyd. Never mind the interpretation of the adjective vacuous which might well apply to you. The licensing trade is changing drastically, get used to it. With over 30 pubs a week closing this is reality.


New House Park, St Albans

SIR - Your story about the 96-year-old pensioner who was refused help from Goldline Taxis is sadly not an isolated incident. A friend whose mother is 97 reports similar treatment.

The first taxi driver refused to deliver them to the town centre, to a destination they had agreed on the phone when making the booking. His reason – there would be too much traffic! On their return, having failed to find a Goldline taxi in St Peter’s Street prepared to accept a taxi voucher, they asked the first one to take them for a standard fare. The driver took them most of the way but refused to drive the last 50 yards because a short stretch of unmade road ‘might damage his car’ and this on a road used day and night without incident by many other residents’ cars. They were left to inch their way slowly on foot along it and down a slope.

Goldline’s office manager, Maureen Mack, expressed concern about the previous case already reported in the Herts Ad (December 24). Clearly some of her drivers need a better understanding of the job. Another elderly couple report being dropped off at the end of their road, a cul-de-sac, on the grounds that the driver would otherwise, on leaving, have to reverse along it! Michael Loveday of St Albans Council might also be concerned. Either there is a taxi service for older people in St Albans, or not, – and if there is, taxi firms need to be called to account. Drivers also need to show a bit more charity and awareness; one day they may be old enough to need some help themselves.


Fishpool Street, St Albans

The vast majority of Harpenden parents and residents agree with Herts county council on the need for a new secondary school. County figures show that the demand is centred on Southdown with Harpenden East already having two secondary schools and Harpenden North one. However officers and their outsourced consultants at HCC seem mind-set on Site F off the Lower Luton Road.

They refused to even re-consider sitesin Southdown and near Wheathampsted. Both sites are in the Green Belt and both have land purchase requirements though officers say F is easier to buy. Unfortunately Site F is the other side of the Lower Luton Road and the River Lea. The direct pedestrian link across the busy road is a narrow lane with no footpaths, used by lorries and leading to a footbridge and ford to another narrow road. Where is the HSE?

Batford residents have told us that the Lower Luton Road is jammed with traffic mornings and evenings with no room for more school coaches and cars. With new housing and the expansion of Luton Airport this traffic is only going to get worse.

From using Harpenden Station mornings and evenings I witness Station Road jammed with traffic worsening as the new free school becomes full. HCC’s suggested traffic solutions included nightmare sticking plasters of widening Batford Bridge and the Station Road/High Street roundabout.

Their statements of £5-6M HCC infrastructure monies for Site F seems unavailable when we challenged them nine months ago to consider alternatives. We tried to professionally encourage them by suggesting the extension of Piggottshill Lane across to the school with a detailed engineering report. They even denied receipt from a Right School Right Place FoI request when we have both their and their consultant’s acknowledgements.

Kids need the school now. It should be being built. Infrastructure (not just roads) is an essential and not just a tick-box. It just does not seem understood by HCC officers perhaps because they have outsourced most of their highway duties.

The free school still after a year does not have the promised pedestrian crossing, the primary school at Aldwickbury waited over a year for yellow lines and in my day job as civil engineer a key new international pharmaceutical facility suffered from highway bureaucracy. Perhaps county responsibilities should be devolved back to district councils to be closer to the community?


Oakfield Road, Harpenden

SIR -At the edge of the Abbey View business park off Holywell Hill and lying between Argos amd the Grindcobbe housing group is a 3/4 acre site which was designed to remain open to the sky and act simply as a temporary gathering/balancing tank for any excessive rain which might fall on the business area.

That empty space above the tank could be utilised at ground level as a commuter car park, relieving congestion in the town centre, then an upper level could be the base for up to 20 town houses.

These could be set out in three groups all facing south for maximum solar gain to the rooms but also with voltaic panels each capable of 4kWp power generation. This site could of course be considered for planning reasons as a brownfield site. One might say it’s a win-win idea.

Currently the land is administered by Thames Water but I have no idea of the actual ownership. I would appreciate some indication of a reaction to this proposal.


Riverside Close, St Albans

SIR - I am surprised that there has not more anger shown regarding the Christmas lights in St Albans. They were a disgrace. Those responsible should have visited Harpenden to see how it should be done with a promise to do better next year.


Portman Close, St Albans

SIR - St Albans Lions Club would like to thank all those people who generously donated to our charity over the Christmas period.

Lions Clubs are based in most towns across the country and, in fact, around the world.The money we collect in St Albans district goes to help the local community, be it groups or individuals who are struggling in one way or the other. We also help support disaster funds in the wider community.

You may have seen us with our sleigh and Santa’s helpers outside stores, in the city centre or coming along your road in Jersey Farm, Bricket Wood and Park Street!

The residents and visitors in the St Albans area helped raise over £4700 this Christmas which we will be distributing over the next few months.

If you are interested in finding out more about Lions Clubs please contact us on 0845 833 5785 or go to the Lions website at www.stalbanslionsclub.com

Once again many thanks to all who donated.


President St Albans Lions Club

Gurney Court Road, St Albans

SIR - Having read your update (Herts Advertiser, December 31) on the long drawn-out preparation by St Albans district council of its Strategic Local Plan (SLP), one must deduce that councillors and full-time SADC planning officials are relying on deliberate obfuscation of key issues in order to force the plan through. They also appear to be hoping that, with the passage of time, concerns about crucial proposals in the SLP will be assuaged by public bewilderment and resulting apathy.

But residents who are now inclined to pass up the chance formally to express their views on the updated version of the plan, perhaps regarding it as a legislative fait accomplit, should think again. In particular and critically, councillors have ignored an independent environmental report commissioned by SADC itself in 2012 which concluded that, in relation to building on Green Belt countryside, it would be “unwise to permit further urban development in the district on undeveloped land”.

On the whole question of future housing need, one is entitled to ask whether those SADC planning committee councillors who will decide on the final wording of the SLP, really understand the implications for so-called affordable housing in St Albans district, as set out in the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, which covers important right to buy issues and a proposed new law on starter homes.

In the light of that Bill, many would argue that the draft SLP’s 40 per cent affordable homes target, designed to help lower income earners, now needs a complete re-assessment. Today’s property prices are such that only a minute percentage of new homes currently under construction in the district meet local needs, that is affordable by young families – typically first-time buyers – who grew up in the area. The vast majority of new-build houses and apartments are being bought by well-heeled incomers.

As your December 31 report indicates, if proposals in the current draft SLP were to be adopted, and building on Green Belt countryside on the scale envisaged was to go ahead, without detailed assessments of the effect on local infrastructure, especially up-to-date traffic modelling by Hertfordshire Highways – to say nothing of the hugely increased pressure on school places and everyday public services – it would be to the detriment of everyday life for the population of St Albans, Harpenden, Redbourn, Wheathampstead and the district’s outlying villages.


Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

SIR - In your December 24 edition, Vicki Rodger raised several questions in relation to the impact of the district council’s draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) on Harpenden.

It is important to remember that this is a 20 year plan to 2031. The impact on supporting infrastructure such as school places and the capacity of GP practices will take place over the life of the plan. Indeed new development from 2011 contributes to meeting the proposed housing targets. The SLP is a central government requirement which the district council has a statutory obligation to produce.

Whilst we appreciate the concerns of Ms Rodger and many residents about local councillors’ perceived indifference to the provision of infrastructure to support any new homes, which of course is not true, it is essential that residents recognise that the national planning regulations provide for the funding for infrastructure to accompany new development and not for its provision prior to development. The SLP and the forthcoming Detailed Local Plan will specify what is needed, where it is needed and the planning obligations and Community Infrastructure Levies developers will be expected to contribute.

In relation to the schools’ question, the county council has set out infrastructure requirements it expects the SLP and DLP to address. So for example, parents should continue to be confident of securing a primary place in Harpenden at an excellent school. Since 2011, 240 temporary and 735 permanent primary school places have been provided in Harpenden to address demand.

Our three secondary schools, the county council and the Education Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education, have all concluded that the rising demand for secondary school places should be met by a new school in Harpenden. Challenges in relation to this initiative include selecting and acquiring a site in the Green Belt and the transport and road safety aspects of a given site. In 2014 we sought more detailed, current and technical analysis of nine Harpenden sites - particularly to reflect current and future traffic conditions. It concluded that the Lower Luton Road site was the most viable. The analysis and supporting information has been made available on the county council’s website and can been seen at http://bit.ly/1NTY3LR. Subsequently, the Education Funding Agency has not identified any suitable alternatives to the Lower Luton Road site.

Again the concern about road congestion and parking in the town is well known to councillors. The provision of more parking at Harpenden station has been a longstanding priority for local councillors and the train operating companies. In 2013, Network Rail was regrettably unable to secure all the funding required to deliver a scheme to add a deck to the east car park. Councillors have continued since then to lobby the train operator to provide a decked car park and as a result, a proposal for a £3.3m scheme is currently being considered by the Department for Transport with a decision anticipated early in the New Year.

There will also be a review this year of off and on street parking in Harpenden, including CPZ provision, where the question of another decked car park, apart from the station will be considered. Funding will be a challenge, but councillors will also need to consider whether more can be done to encourage residents to use other forms of transport. Buses are not controlled by local government and bus operators will only run buses that are profitable, but councillors, local business men and a local charity are working to deliver a form of Community Transport for the town. Any new development will also bring with it funding for sustainable transport which may enable the introduction of dedicated cycleways. At a County, strategic level there is also a Strategic Transport Vision exercise underway to consider the effects of development on the county until 2050.

The question around whether GPs will be able to cope with more people, is being addressed by the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group in its strategic review of all health service provision in the West of the county entitled ‘Your Care, Your Future’. Consultation has recently closed on this and the final outcomes will be known later in the spring about thinking for Harpenden. This review has taken into consideration all proposed new housing and demographic changes. Councillors and local representatives from patient participations groups from the various GP surgeries have played a major role in this exercise.

Finally, a key objective of the SLP is to ensure a better balance of the sort of homes delivered over the SLP plan period. The provision of smaller homes that are attractive to first time buyers, young families, key workers and downsizers, whether affordable or for purchase, would represent a change in the pattern of the town’s development that many consider long overdue and are essential for the sustainability of the Town. Whilst the SLP has laid the foundations for where major development may take place in town, the DLP and the Neighbourhood Plan, which will be initiated by the town council, will identify where smaller scale, but perhaps more impactful development will take place and provide the rules and regulations to control the design, siting and delivery of such development.

Whilst we appreciate that change is challenging and brings uncertainty, we have to remember that Harpenden has always played an important role in Hertfordshire not only as a Town of immense character and charm but also as the place where people want to settle due to its beautiful commons and greens, excellent education, access to London and surrounding towns for work. The SLP brings the next phase of growth which your local councillors will do their best to deliver sensitively and with the best interests of residents at its heart.


Hertfordshire County Councillor for Harpenden North East


Hertfordshire County Councillor for Harpenden South West

SIR – In reply to the main point in Laurie Gibson’s letter (December 24), namely the apparent contradiction between a ‘God who is love’ and God’s rejection of ‘faithful loving gay relationships’. This is simply resolved by examining the nature of that love in both cases.

In the expression ‘God is love’ as the Bible puts it, God’s love is totally self-giving, a love outpoured to all people; it certainly is not a sexual love. So the love in this description of God is fundamentally different from the love found in ‘faithful loving gay relationships’. The nature of love in such a relationship may indeed have a degree of self-giving and a measure of unselfishness but a gay relationship usually means a sexual relationship. This is where the difficulty comes.

God indeed is love but is also totally righteous and moral, laying down laws for our own good. The bible only allows intimate sexual relationship in heterosexual marriage and not in any other relationship. It has been well established in previous letters that all the relevant passages in the Bible, Old Testament and New, clearly condemn homosexual practice in any form. It’s the sexual aspect of ‘faithful loving gay relationships’ that is displeasing to God.

Laurie Gibson appears to want to totally dismiss these same Bible passages on the basis of a handful of unrelated texts, mainly from St Paul, which he also seems unable to accept or interpret. Such a sceptical view of the Scriptures does little to help his case; it even undermines it.

Labelling those Christians who believe the entire scriptures to be the Word of God, who take them at face value, in context (not leaving out the difficult passages) as ‘fundamentalist’ is a pejorative term that is popularly used to discredit both Christians and the Bible. We are not homophobic, there is no place for fear or hatred. We are not intolerant except against sin. More importantly the Christian Scriptures are not homophobic. God loves all, he sent his son to die for all, whether straight or gay (John Ch. 3, v. 16). We too seek to reflect that love but at times this requires us to engage in controversy in order to support God’s often unpopular agenda.


The Ridgeway, St Albans