Letters, July 12, 2012

Lights switch-off debate continues

SIR – You assert in an article published on June 28 that readers are united in their call for the lights to be switched back on. I however applaud Herts County Council in its efforts to reduce both energy consumption and light pollution and know that I am not the only reader to take this view.


Netherfield Road, Harpenden

SIR – Having read with interest many of the comments regarding the lack of street lighting from midnight onwards may I raise a point that does not appear to have been considered.

On Sunday I was driving, for the first time since these switch-offs commenced, after midnight from Watford to Radlett and was regularly blinded by oncoming vehicles driving on full beam headlamps along secondary and winding roads.

Apart from the security issues that have been previously raised by correspondents there is the possibility of a serious traffic accident being caused by the need for full beam headlamps on dark, unlit roads.

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Watling Street, Radlett

SIR – I wish to comment on your front page headline from June 21, “Dangers in the darkness as man mugged by unseen assailants”, which I find hysterical and without any factual basis. There is absolutely no evidence to connect the crime with the switching off of street lights. Having the lights on all night is a fairly recent event – introduced in the 1990s, and I do not recall a public outcry for all-night lights before that time.

I am afraid your reporting is absurd.


Derwent Road, Harpenden

Call to support Grow campaign

SIR – I am a 15-year-old pupil at Sir John Lawes School, and, like many people, have become aware over the past few weeks of the desperate situation in the Sahel region, West Africa, where more than 19 million people are facing serious food shortages.

I was shocked and appalled by the scenes depicting communities clearly desperately in need of food. These people clearly need our help in the here and now, and I find it heart-warming the number of people who play their part in making the lives of people in an emergency situation better, and trust that our generous community will, as always, play our part in solving this immediate crisis.

What bemuses me is why it has to get to this desperate state before the food crisis becomes an issue people are talking about. The crisis currently happening in West Africa is by no means sudden, unexpected or with an immediate end in sight.

The undeniable fact of the matter is that the food system is broken. This leaves us with two choices. We can allow people to constantly go hungry, with another crisis always around the corner. Or we can put things right.

Oxfam have decided to try and put things right, which is why they are prioritising their Grow campaign. Grow is working to control land grabs, so that innocent farmers and their families can’t simply be evicted from their land with little warning or compensation, to sort out food spikes, sudden rises in the price of food that leave millions of people hungry and to help small scale farmers, particularly women, who already provide food for one third of the world’s population, and, with the right support, can provide a sustainable way forward for the food system.

In order to solve a problem rooted so deep in society, we all need to play our part. This could be by supporting the Oxfam Grow campaign, and adding your voice to the 31,000 people already supporting Grow.

This could also be by making simple changes in our lifestyle – we can buy locally sourced food, such as from our wonderful farmer’s market, and therefore support our local small-scale farmers. I hope that you’ll agree that the only way forward which is fair, sustainable and kind to our fellow humanity is to make a change and put things right.


Waveney Road, Harpenden

End of HJMPs will be an improvement

SIR – I read with interest the article re: the blow to democracy concerning change in highway spending. I am a member of HJMP but have been refused the right to give my opinions at my parish’s Highways Liaison Meetings.

I am thrilled Herts County Council are making it possible for me to share my electorate’s views’ where the budget could be spent, at meetings which the county councillor and area engineer attend.

I now will have more chance to put my point accross than I had as a member of the HJMP.

Lib Dem Cllr Giles-Medhurst is wrong in my case. My residents will now have more chance to say how their roads are maintained.

My fellow ward councillors and I, will now have a more democratic way of sharing facts.


Mount Pleasant Lane,

Bricket Wood

Good manners in local politics?

SIR – On returning from holiday, I have just come across the June 14 issue of the Herts Advertiser, in which Philip Webster castigates me for accusing him (in my letter of June 1) of hating the Lib Dems. (I was referring to the “body politic”, not to individual Liberal Democrats, hence the use of the definite article.)

I based my judgement on the tone of his letters to your organ during the time that the Lib Dems controlled the district council and his recent uncomplimentary letter. What to one person is plain speaking, to another is offensive. Nonetheless, as my remarks were interpreted as falling into the latter category, of course I apologise to Mr Webster for the distress he clearly suffered.

On a more positive note, it would be helpful if Mr Webster could list the policies and actions carried out by the past Lib Dem administrations which he feels were disastrous, or at any rate disagreed with, so that a rational debate could be held.

At least, when I had the honour and good fortune to represent Harpenden North on the district council, we considered it good practice and good manners to respond to correspondence from residents of whatever political colour, which is more than can be said for our new councillor who is also the deputy mayor, I understand. (Does she actually exist, I wonder?)

At least Mr Webster agrees with me that the present voting system is not the most satisfactory. He rejects proportional representation, but unfortunately does not suggest a viable alternative to give meaning to votes cast by opponents of the status quo in non-marginal constituencies and wards. I repeat that a proportional system can work well provided that safeguards are built in to exclude lunatic fringes.

After all, if proportional systems of voting are alright for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, why not for English local authorities and the UK Parliament?


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

To incinerate or not to incinerate?

SIR – It would be difficult to think up a more problematic mixture to dispose of than our domestic rubbish.

It has a high moisture content, contains metals such as zinc and lead and contains chlorides which are corrosive and which form small amounts of poisonous dioxins when the rubbish is burned.

Added to which, the glass contant melts at fairly low temperatures, possibly clogging furnaces.

The dream method of disposal would be to burn the stuff in a conventional power station so as to produce electricity.

This was tried at a power station in Germany and the power station boiler was corroded away after only 18 months.

Burning rubbish in an incinerator can produce a small amount of electrical power using very inefficient boilers designed to withstand the corrosive chlorides.

The dust and dioxins produced in these mass-burn incinerators must be caught and disposed of, adding one-third more costs to an already large and expensive industrial plant. The burnt residue is sent to Hertfordshire. Is there an alternative?

Sorting the rubbish to produce Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is the only large-scale possibility at the moment. The non-burnable remainder is then sent to landfill. Unfortunately, this RDF is not a good fuel and sells at a very low price. It can be used in cement kilns, but even this use can lead to complaints about the smell of burning plastic.

On a smaller scale, the BTA wet pre-treatment process (developed by what is now BTA International GmbH) churns the rubbish with water to produce a slurry of organic material and an inert residue which can be landfilled.

The slurry is then fermented with micro-organisms to produce gas which can be used to generate electricity. Because they are smaller than incinerators, BTA plants could be spread across Herts, reducing the lorry movements which are such an objectionable feature of having a centrally-located incinerator.

None of the alternatives are cheap, but, if it is any consolation, there are places with worse rubbish problems than Hertfordshire.

Japan has little space for disposal plants and has even more difficult rubbish. The chloride content of their rubbish is high because of the very high salt (sodium chloride) content of Japanese food.


Park Avenue, St Albans

Vinegar sauce

SIR – I think your correspondent Mr Gledhill is wrong on both counts (Herts Advertiser, July 5). It’s now known that it was Harpenden’s mayor and deputy clerk who ordered the arch to be taken down, a nervous tick in advance of possible enforcement proceedings by St Albans council?

And Thompson’s Close is so named after a notorious 19th-Century footpad Archie Thompson who robbed innocent citizens passing through this dangerous corner of the town at pistol point. Word soon spread in the nearby public houses the Painter’s Arms, Cross Keys, and Cock Inn – “lock the door and stay inside, Thompson’s close!”.

The name ‘Vinegar Lane’ was surrendered in favour of Thompson’s Close when Vera Kewmie’s fish and chip shop closed down.


East Common, Harpenden

Shield of support

SIR – May I through your paper not only express my admiration and gratitude but also make other people aware of this protective “shield”.

Along with the fire and ambulance services, the members of Harpenden and St Albans police, not only for their time and meticulous work, but also for their ongoing support, patience and good humour towards me.

The staff of West Herts Against Crime – the gentleman from this organisation not only checked and improved the security of this house, but also stopped the loo seat wobbling. The loo is probably not too happy but I am.

The lady at the Harpenden Citizens Advice Bureau for her time and advice.

The Herts Trading Standards for leaflets on doorstep crime. Until a police constable in the car I fortunately flagged down told me, I had no idea of the seven day cooling off period. Perhaps such leaflets could be in libraries and supermarkets, etc.

To my neighbours who had a horrid time being pestered in their homes but still cheered me up and the friends who also cheered me up – to all a heartfelt thank you in lifting the burden.


Hadleigh Court, Harpenden

Secrets beneath the market place

SIR – With regards to the proposed Town Hall museum the pre-application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and ground investigation have been undertaken. The investigation is using professional (possibly to the envy of some amateurs) deep penetrating ground radar in front of the Town Hall and boreholes from the present limited basement to explore the potential for new gallery basements.

Our archaeological expert has advised that “the archaeological potential for under the market in front of the Town Hall is possibly better than that for beneath it”.

Market Place dates from the medieval period and is a classic A-shaped market place that is dated to the 12th to 14th Century. This neatly coincides with the vast majority of the finds from the area which are difficult to put before this date.

The main sites in the area suggest a mid-12th Century date onwards for a developing medieval town independent of the Abbey, and may have included the formal planning of the tenements.

The medieval market probably constituted temporary and semi-permanent structures and continual re-surfacing. To find these would be potentially very significant as they would help date the first and subsequent uses of the market place which would help to elicit the narrative of the development of medieval St Albans.

The potential for medieval deposits has to be high as modern development in the area is apparently limited to roads and market surfaces, with more sporadic deeper services trenches. This may suggest that any “modern” disturbance could be limited. There is the possibility that there may be deeper features such as pits, wells and ditches which would have definitely survived the apparently limited recent interventions.

The market place also has the potential for earlier material from the prehistoric and Roman periods. Limited prehistoric material has been found in the area, notably at the White Hart Hotel.

In addition, Roman features and finds have been observed at the top of Victoria Street. The observation comprised pits and other features although this has not been confirmed.

On the slightly more hypothetical side there is the continuing, but totally unsubstantiated theory, that St Peter’s Street is the site of the Roman circus.

There is also evidence for one “modern” tunnel under St Peter’s Street but he believes that this is towards the church end of the street.

Radar is an excellent choice of geophysical technique and should illicit the stratigraphic sequence across the market place. However, what it is unlikely to accomplish is any firm conclusion as to the character of any surviving archaeology except that it is there or is absent which in itself would be a step forward.

No existing basements, evidence of Roman or later edifices or gold were found.


Conservative Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage

Oakfield Road, Harpenden

Royal Mail’s business failings

SIR – Like Jim Rushby I also had a kind Father’s Day thought spoilt by Royal Mail.

Having extorted �1.09 from me (for an unidentified underpaid item) Royal Mail eventually delivered my daughter’s card three weeks after it had been posted with a first class stamp. Yes the envelope was slightly wider than Royal Mail’s idiosyncratic sizing guide, but who in the real world has time to visit Post Offices to push their letters though plastic test slots?

In future I will ask my daughter not to send me cards through the post – an electronic greeting will do – and who will then be the loser? So for the sake of a trifling 9p the Royal Mail will lose considerably more revenue in the future. Good business acumen, Royal Mail!


East Mount, Wheathampstead