Letters, July 15, part two

Quiet please!

SIR – I don’t wish to bore people with another letter from yours truly but it would seem from some letters that needing peace and quiet to work or study in a library is now a crime.

Libraries have become playgrounds for young children instead. When did this happen? There are plenty of facilities for children but none for adults or school children who need to think. While youngsters are shouting and screaming no one can do anything else. Why not at least use the neighbouring community centre in Marshalswick for children’s activities, leaving the library free for others to use? The community centre is empty every time I go past it. It costs a fortune so how about using it?

Anyone wanting to study for exams should be applauded, not told they should get a life! We don’t all live in quiet, detached houses with extensive facilities. Take the excessive noise out of libraries and into community centres. That’s what they’re for. Let’s reclaim our libraries.

KIM THORNTON


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St Leonards Court, Sandridge

SIR – The solution to the library noise issue: put in a door with partitioning and keep the children’s area to itself. When the library was housed where the O’Neill’s pub is, there used to be a notice hung over the entranceway which read SILENCE and it meant just that.

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NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED

SIR – I sympathise with the student Dan Chalkley. I too have had problems with hilarity in the library. Libraries should be “quiet places” where we have access to the books we need for our own use and the quiet in which to use them.

I have also complained to the library authorities but of course no help there. Perhaps one day the mothers of these singing children will need the use of a library for their own offspring. I wish Dan Chalkley every success in his studies.

NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED

Going postal

SIR – No, I am neither aware of the “appalling postal service” described by your anonymous contributor, nor can I relate any “horror stories”.

On the contrary, the postmen and other delivery agents who serve my house are always efficient and friendly, and I regret the writer’s negative view. I have had very few wrongly delivered items over the years I have lived here. The counter staff at post offices, particularly the main one in Ashley Road, are always helpful with advice on best ways of posting. If the mail is wrongly addressed it is hardly the postman’s fault, and if the name of the recipient is clear there is no justification in opening the wrongly-delivered mail – just take it to your neighbour or pop it back in the postbox as Royal Mail suggest on their website. Think positive!

MAUREEN ADAMS

Hamilton Road, St Albans

Too late for change

SIR – I read with interest the letters from Messrs Gilroy and Webster (Herts Advertiser, June 24) concerning the controversial Westminster Lodge Swimming Pool planning application going before the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on July 19.

Both correspondents make some important points. But I suggest they should not build up their hopes too much that the O&S committee can really change things.

I too attended the original planning meeting on April 28 last. It was not a particularly good example of local democracy in action. Voting turned out to be along party-political lines with the chairman using his casting vote to get the plans approved.

The questions about pool size and capacity are indeed important. So too is the actual decision-making process and the question of probity involved. These too should be investigated by the committee. Were minds possibly made up already? How can one really tell?

The key test is said to be: ‘whether a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias?’

Quite! I know what I concluded from observing the April 28 meeting. And I appear to be not alone – witness other letters to the press like Mrs Seabrook’s (Herts Advertiser, May 20) and the perceived attitude of the Lib Dem members. Whatever the outcome of the deliberations of the O&S committee, it should not be overlooked that its formation has a majority of Lib Dem councillors too. So surely that key question of possible bias arises again? Will one group of councillors feel willing or able to possibly criticise a decision taken by their colleagues in the same political party? Something to watch then with interest. But I’m not holding my breath.

ERIC ROBERTS

Fishpool Street, St Albans

Parched patches

SIR – The continued blissfully warm weather we have been able to enjoy recently has produced some interesting consequences. The grass in Clarence Park, though remarkably green in many places, also has large patches of parching.

Most obvious is a long narrow rectangle to the east of the drinking fountain, near where the old entrance opposite Granville Road used to be. Stretching out towards the Crown corner are also four parched squares, presumed to have been the escape hatches for a war-time underground shelter – possibly for the employees of the former W O Peake Ltd factory nearby. If any readers have a recollection of this shelter, or others at Fleetville Recreation Ground, the outlines of which are also now revealed in the present hot weather, I would be grateful if you would contact me: saoee@me.com. There are also many other presently-unsolved questions relating to the eastern side of St Albans, which you may be able to help with. Go to www.stalbansowneastend.co.uk to find out more.

MIKE NEIGHBOUR

Stanstead Road, St Albans

Three for all

SIR – St Albans is blessed with three rugby union teams – not just one! Please make your goal and your paper’s goal to report equally on all three. To not do so is just lazy reporting on your behalf and a further burden that the smaller, but not lesser, clubs do not need.

For example, all three clubs won trophies this year yet Vees and St Albans were summed up in one sentence. Another example, St Albans celebrated 40 years of rugby yet were not even mentioned.

Do not divide the rugby community further. Sort it out Ronayne!

MICK O’SHEA

St Albns RFC

Holywell Hill, St Albans

Still time to fight for new pool size

SIR – I beg yours and fellow readers’ indulgence for writing again on a subject of which even I am becoming weary.

However I was surprised by the timing of your editorial comments of last week on the leisure proposal for Westminster Lodge; as the council’s overview and scrutiny committee are due to meet within a matter of days, to discuss the most contentious aspect of the proposals. This aspect may I remind you was not part of last July’s consultation. I would have hoped therefore we all could have considered the evidence and debate before further comment.

Sadly though, you dismiss this important committee’s debate on the matter as a “paper exercise”. When is it ever “a paper exercise” in a democracy of holding the executive (cabinet) to account, especially in these days of necessary austerity, when they want to spend �26 million of our money?

Everyone is entitled to their views and to the Herts Advertiser’s credit, through your letters pages you have allowed a debate which some within the council have done all they could to avoid for about four years.

You claim the decision has been taken by the cabinet and they will not change their mind. Even if a convincing argument can be produced which should compel them to do so? After all Cllr Donald only recently, rather defensively I thought, proclaimed they (the cabinet) were not a dictatorship.

Your most powerful argument, which could be unassailable in the absence of evidence to the contrary, is that a larger pool is unaffordable.

For �26 million Hillingdon have received a 50-metre eight-lane pool, leisure pools, gym, exercise studios, badminton courts, netball courts, cr�che, cafe, restaurant, athletics track with covered grandstand, floodlit five-a-side astro pitches, a conference room, spin studio and a sports hall. I have omitted the 67-metre lido which was also provided, as outside funding contributed to this element of the development.

The planned Luton Aquatic Centre is contractually constrained to cost no more than �26 million. Luton residents have been afforded the privilege of being informed by their council during consultation of its cost, which is in stark contrast to our overly secret council.

Amongst the facilities the good people of Luton are being provided with for this sum is; a competition-standard 50m eight lane pool with integrated diving area and spectator seating, a diving training centre, a 20m x 10m community pool with 100 per cent movable floor (this pool is also larger than the new St Albans project’s teaching pool), a flexible sports hall, 100-station fitness gym, two aerobics/dance studios for flexible use, a community function and social room with licensed bar plus a caf�, cr�che and meeting room!

So, it beggars belief that our council cannot come up with a comparable offer for the same price tag. Are both these councils’ business plans less sound than ours?

Since the scheme’s inception we have had a reality check nationally and probably within many households in St Albans, that we cannot go on spending without ensuring that we can afford it and such a ‘big ticket item’ is value for money.

Yes planning permission has been given, but to suggest this makes the development a fait accompli is extremely misleading I feel; it is not a contract. Despite your assertions that the size of the pool was aired fully at the planning meeting, those who observed will remember that this was not considered by the council as a planning matter and therefore not thoroughly examined.

If this scheme goes ahead and is found wanting in a few short years time and other vital services are cut more deeply as a consequence, the �5 million pound spent by the county council, which Cllr Donald sought to seek political capital for as long as he could, on the ill planned city-centre enhancement scheme will seem as small beer.

Westminster Lodge may be seen in years to come as a short-term political gain for long-term taxpayers’ pain. Danny Alexander, if only you could give your colleagues in St Albans some wise counsel.

VANESSA GREGORY

Tennyson Road, St Albans

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