Letters January 21 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

Curb population instead of building

SIR - William Baxter’s letter (January 2) makes a point with which most of your readers probably heartily agree, that population growth leads to loss of countryside and of wildlife and that this matters, and matters deeply. His solution is for the government to try to achieve a balance between immigration and emigration. Even better would be for greater emphasis to be put on providing family planning to all women, who would like it. Much greater emphasis could be put in our overseas aid budgets on providing education, especially to girls, and maternal and child health services. Even better still, would be for the government to resist cutting its funding to local authority sexual and family planning services in this country, especially at a time when bus services are being cut. These cuts are quite perverse in that they are likely to cause huge costs further down the line e.g. in social workers having to help children in families which never felt able to cope with a child, or an extra child, in the first place. Please would readers consider signing a petition or, better, writing to your MP about it? See the Population Matters website, where under “Our Work” and “campaigns” a petition to stand against public health cuts can be found.

HELEN HARAN Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

The true reality of global warming

SIR - as a member of the Royal Meteorological Society I cannot help but try to bring some ‘balance’ to Mr Keech’s own letter (January 7). Firstly, what we are surely concerned with is what’s been happening, and may happen in future, to global temperatures during humanity’s presence on the Earth, rather than eons ago when the fluctuations in temperature only occurred over long periods of time and were probably largely due to the ‘imperfections’ in the Earth’s orbit round the Sun (Google ‘Milankovitch Cycles’ if interested). Secondly, humanity’s more recent contribution to the equation is the billions of tonnes per annum of CO2 we’re adding to the atmosphere, our life-support system, a gas which is transparent to incoming solar radiation but partly blocks the nightly cooling caused by the outgoing infrared (back to your school chemistry books!); so climate sceptics have first to explain away that “simple fact of life”. Some then follow the ex-Environment Minister(!), Mr Patterson, who claims that by selecting two particular years in the recent global temperature record 17 years apart (signs of clutching at straws!) you can show... But we are talking trends and overall the trend has been up since the 1950s - and will be for 2015, likely to be the warmest yet - just as December locally was the warmest on record, at “5 degrees above normal” (same issue of your paper). And by “normal” we should stick to comparison with the 1961-90 period, certainly not with 1890-1900 that Mr Keech found somewhere, because it’s only during recent decades we’ve had enough reliable global land and sea temperatures to use as a baseline. If the climate sceptics are right and we take no action to curb CO2 emissions, so temptingly easy, but it turns out there is in fact a real problem looming for future generations, then we’ll have wasted even more time before getting to grips with the issue; and higher temperatures also mean more moisture in the air and more rain to come down... Meanwhile the debate has also usefully focussed attention on energy security in these uncertain times and the useful and growing contribution from renewables

JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden

SIR - Your correspondent C Keech confuses climate with weather and one-off events with long-term trends, as well as repeating several myths which are popular with conspiracy theorists (for example, the fallacy that CO2 rises “always” follow warming). These and other populist claims are debunked at skepticalscience.com and grist.org/series/skeptics.

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PAUL SPINKS Elliswick Road, Harpenden

SIR - I would like to assure C Keech that we at St Albans Friends of the Earth are not in any way seeking to support the mantra that “man is bad, it’s all our fault”. On the contrary we try to find positive solutions to help people live lives that are happy and fulfilled and tread lightly on the planet, not using up more resources than can be sustainably replenished, and not causing pollution or other harm to our environment. I wish it were true that temperature and greenhouse gas level rises were part of a natural cycle and comparable to pre-industrial levels, but it is simply incorrect and dangerous to pretend. Whilst there will likely always be unusual events happening such as an unexplained hurricane “drought” in the USA this year, it seems disproportionate to focus on this when large parts of this country have experienced unprecedented levels of flooding in recent weeks, and extreme weather events abound around the globe. After Storm Desmond dumped 341mm (13.4 inches) of rain in Honister in Cumbria, researchers at Oxford University and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) calculated that climate change had made the flooding 40 per cent more likely. At the Paris climate talks, nearly 200 countries reached an historic agreement to cut emissions and keep global temperature rises “well below” 2C. David Cameron declared that “the world is in peril”, Barack Obama that “we must act now, it is almost too late” and it was the impassioned pleas by poorer nations already affected by climate change that particularly compelled our leaders to act. Now is the time to hold them to account to deliver the promises that they have made, and with over 97 per cent of scientific papers supporting the argument that climate change is real and human caused – to put our scepticism aside.

SARAH MACLAREN St Albans Friends of the Earth Ambrose Lane, Harpenden

Infrastructure is an essential factor

SIR - 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 sites in 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?

CLLR MIKE WAKELEY Oakfield Road, Harpenden

‘Only hetrosexual relations are not sin’

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.

JOHN TREDENNICK, The Ridgeway, St Albans

Butterfly World: what happens now?

SIR - Any talk of development at the Butterfly World site must be strongly resisted. When planning permission was originally granted the planning permission was on the basis that the site was returned to its original state if the business closed. The business has now closed so as I see it the council should be insisting that the site be returned to its original state. Perhaps the Herts Advertiser can get a statement from the council as to when this return to original state will happen.

ROBERT BOLT Forge End, St Albans

SIR - It is very sad news that Butterfly World is still in such severe financial straits. Its sole saviour to date, Messrs Breheny, is to be applauded for trying for so long to keep the project afloat. However, in the absence of external project funding, it is apparent that the inevitable has now come about. Your article of January 7 identifies the absence of a plan which will turn a seasonal project round financially as the major sticking point. The catch of course is that until the dome is complete, to render the project as non-seasonal, the problem is intractable. I assume that Breheny concur that the base business plan of a fully operated facility is sound, and that the bugbear is in the external stopgap funding which is required to facilitate this. Assuming that is so, then they are due the necessary backing for this to materialise, with some certainty of an amelioration of their losses to date. I have suggested some time ago (to Future Gardens) that they should perhaps consider a crowd-funding approach, with fairly chunky shares of say £500 being offered to the public. In the halcyon situation that all the reported 30,000 petitioners invested, then the £15m realised should surely exceed or at least dig a major hole in the total required? There would be some time before any dividend was payable of course and the conditions of a share sale should also find a way to incentivising Breheny. This would require some form of external audit - could SADC fill the breach? Is there still time? Has this appoach ever formally been considered, and is there now a chance that it may be implemented? We should do all we can to save this marvellous project.

ROGER JONES Park Street Lane, St Albans

Hard line needed on fly-tipping blight

SIR - I have just read the correspondence from Jack Hill and his concerns and frustrations about fly-tipping. On January 6 I drove to London Colney, via Mile House Lane and Napsbury Lane. I saw at least six bags of household rubbish dumped by the roadside plus other items including a mattress. The answer to this appalling situation is not spot fines, but maximum fines. Only one perpetrator needs to be fined £5,000 and this will send out a clear message to those who indulge in this criminal practice. Over the festive season bottle, newspaper and cardboard banks have not been emptied and this has contributed to the problem. I suggest that if the council wants to encourage recycling it gets its act together by providing the means for residents to do so.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Don’t put a sock in it, please agents!

SIR - I agree with N Hawkins (January 7) that the amount of marketing material received from estate agents is very annoying. Last week I received a bright red pair of socks through my door with a card from an estate agent attached advertising their services. This was a most irritating gimmick and I’ll try never to use the services of that particular agent. If an agent would like me to use their company can I suggest that they put a note through my door on recycled, non-glossy paper telling me that they have made a donation to a local charity rather than wasting money on annoying marketing! In fact I’d go even further and recommend donating to Home-Start St Albans, a fantastic charity that helps local families with young children which has had its funding withdrawn by the county council and desperately needs funds to continue i’s excellent work.

DEBORAH HARRIS Cunningham Avenue, St Albans

Bus cuts shock

SIR - It is shocking news that more bus services have been cut (`Village bus services axed’ 7 January). As your article highlights, these cuts are causing unacceptable harm and disruption to the lives of people who rely on these services to get to medical appointments and generally get around. There will also be detrimental effects for local economies if village communities become even more isolated. Bus services in the county are already woefully inadequate. The remainder should be preserved or we risk further isolating non-car drivers whilst choking everyone else with congested traffic. However, the record of Conservative-led Herts council is extremely poor with regard to supporting bus services. In St Albans and across the county, local people are already bearing the brunt of other cuts caused by the county council withdrawing funding for a number of bus services last year. Cuts in bus services can have a drastic effect on many people’s lives, especially people who don’t have a car or who have mobility problems. Younger people can also be affected if they rely on bus services to get to college or to and from work. The Green Party is calling for Herts county council to carry out a proper review of bus services from the standpoint of bus users, local communities and the environment, and to use its huge financial reserves to support these services. Affordable buses are among the essential services we need to be able to rely on.

CLLR SIMON GROVER St Albans Green Party Clifton Street, St Albans

Duckling deaths are source of shame

SIR - Around a dozen ducks nests were recently discovered on Verulanium Lake’s main island. Sadly these nests were full of unhatched eggs. Normally mothers do not abandon their nests during the incubation period, the likely reason for this was the mother ducks were amongst the 100 plus ducks and two swans who died slowly during the early summer time due to the pollution in the water. Alternatively it may have been due to the poison being present in the ducks’ systems and they laid complete batches of addled eggs. Either way, last year’s duckings did not hatch. Furthermore, the nests on the island are the one’s we are aware of but ducks do make nests in the gardens along the River Ver, therefore the number of ducklings lost is roughly 125-175. There has been a great deal of concern for the wellbeing of Verulamium Lake and the need to remove the poisonous stagnant silt in the lake. Those St Albans councillors closest to the lake are well aware of the public’s concern but not one of them seems to want to scream out loud enough for the public to believe something urgently is going to be done about it! The deathly silence seems to go hand in hand with dead ducks and aborted unhatched ducklings. Councillors do you take genuine pride in representing your ward? Do you not think a positive statement given in good faith could begin to help us all believe in your good higher intention of serving your community? Councillors, do you walk or jog around the park and lake as thousands of local families do? What do you tell children when dead ducks, swans or now all these unhatched eggs have been discovered? Do you think children care? They are tomorrow’s guardians and learn what is right or wrong by example. St Albans council is significantly cash rich. The money can easily be allocated for cleaning the lake. Understandably, value for money is very important. Once the lake is cleaned and fully recovered it then provides breathing space to experiment with natural cleaning solutions to keep down the silt build up but these cannot be considered until the basic problem of removing the cancerous silt is dealt with first of all.

COLIN HILL Hopkins Yard, St Albans

Fighting for equal rights for veterans

SIR - The article on veteran Fred Minall, who has the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma is very moving, local journalism at its best: as a former St Albans resident I am delighted that Anne Main MP is very timely in taking it seriously. On Monday January 11 between 5pm and 6:30pm, when the Herts Ad article appeared online, there was a debate in Parliament on the subject and also there was an interview on Forces TV with Mr Minall and with his MP and the minister. Few could watch without shedding a tear. The campaign for a level playing field between veterans and civilians continues but not yet fully successfully. The debate in Parliament was inconclusive, but there seems to be a faint light at the end of the tunnel. The minister promised to try, but obstructed the passage of relevant legislation, so it is a matter of trust. But Fred may die before Easter because his chemo treatment has failed. We believe, using figures from the Royal British Legion, that maybe 10, maybe 30 veterans have died of the disease since the minister for veterans, Mark Lancaster said in November: “My officials... consider... this complex matter, I intend to remain fully engaged... I am dedicated to... a swift conclusion.” I hope that Anne Main can persuade all Hertfordshire MPs to get together and try to discover all veterans with mesothelioma in Hertfordshire. There should be several, but the issues surrounding these poor sick veterans will have been missed by many MPs, because despite thousands of cases over the years, the numbers living in the county are low, because death soon follows diagnosis. If readers know of cases, even a few years previous, please tell the Herts Advertiser and/or Anne Main. These veterans need help: readers can help by identifying suspected cases. It seems about 200 veterans a year are probably diagnosed, nationally, but the government only knows a small fraction of these. What happens to the rest? Is the Minister still engaged? Is a swift conclusion still expected? We wait and hope, but sadly some brave veterans will never be helped: it remains a moral issue.

DR PETER HARBOUR Member of Fred Minall support group and former resident of Garston, St Albans and Hitchin South Avenue, Abingdon