Letters, July 19, 2012

Stone-crushing claims revised

SIR – Cllr Rod Perks and ex-Cllr Melvyn Teare are pleased to make clear that following discussions with Mr Andrew Kane of Kane Haulage Ltd they now accept that it was never intended to operate a stone-crushing machine on a permanent basis from Plot 16, on the Porters Wood Estate – located in their Marshalswick South ward.

Furthermore they regret the absence of dialogue with the company prior to the recent demonstration and have willingly undertaken not to engage in any further action or public protest involving the Kane Group without first consulting with it and giving appropriate notice of their intention to do so.

They also propose to establish a Porters Wood Forum to assist with dialogue between the respective commercial and residential occupiers of the Porters Wood neighbourhood. It is hoped to develop a vision for Porters Wood that amongst other things helps to renew the economic viability of this important employment zone within the district, where currently it is estimated that more than 25 per cent of the floorspace remains vacant.



Car park failings in Harpenden

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SIR – At last someone else who can endorse my experiences at Amenbury Lane Car Park in Harpenden, despite the Parking Authority’s claim that I am the only one who has had trouble there.

On the first occasion, I put in the correct money for five hours, which it accepted, put the ticket on the car and rushed off. On my return, three hours later, I found a parking ticket! On looking at the ticket it had only registered one hour. I know I should have checked but as it had taken my money I just assumed all was well. I challenged it twice until they said next time I would have to pay the full amount if I failed.

On the second occasion, it accepted my money but no ticket came out. Fortunately, as I had no more change, a Parking Warden was there and rescued me, saying that there was always problems.

On the final occasion, I had just enough money for a ticket, but the machine jammed half way and refused to accept coins. On this occasion, my passenger bought a second ticket, so we paid nearly double in the end.

What infuriates me is the complacent denial of any possibility that it might be the machine’s fault and the seeming “rubber stamping” appearance of these “Rejection of Challenge” letters. Are there any more people who have had similar experiences here?


Dickens Close, St Albans

SIR – Two years ago the metal base of, I believe, 20p, 10p and 5p coins was changed from pure nickel to a steel base coated with nickel. Many vending and parking machines will not take these new coins and the machines have not been updated to take them.

A good case in point is the NCP car parks in Bowers Way in Harpenden. The machines will not take the new coins. Almost every day I see people having coins rejected thinking that the machine was faulty. Typical today was a woman who had all her 5ps rejected and asked me if I had a 20p. I explained the real problem, of which she was totally unaware.

I have previously telephoned NCP and was told that “there must be a programme of update”. I said that this was ludicrous two years on and that I had to separate my coins into two jars everyday so as to ensure that I had appropriate coins.

I had to persist the complaint several times until he agreed to contact the relevant department and find out when the machines would be updated and would call me back. I have yet to hear from them.

I trust that St Albans District Council, who subcontract the car parks will take action!


Dalkeith Road, Harpenden

Keep us in the dark

SIR – I think the street lights being switched off is a wonderful idea. Whilst people complain of it being “pitch black” outside, I suggest they actually turn off their lights and stand outdoors in the dark for a few moments. If you look out from a room full of bright light, of course it will look “pitch black” outside.

You will know what is around your home during daylight hours. You will know where your neighbours houses are. You will know where your plant/trees, etc., are and these things do not move as darkness falls. Everything is as it was during the daytime.

Be patient, let your eyes and ears get used to the night light and sounds. Whisper or be silent for a few minutes. You will be surprised at what can be seen in the “pitch black”.

You will be able to see the stars and the constellations in the sky on a clear night. You could catch site of a satellite working its way across the sky. On clear nights you may see a falling star or meteor shower. If you listen, you could hear the sound of pheasants chuckling, or the deer rutting, or maybe the occasional fox barking.

Certainly you will hear the tawny owls twit-twooing, the little owls’ squeaky calls, and maybe if you are really lucky you could hear the sound of the screech of a frightened barn owl (that can be a blood-curdling sound) but their gentle huffing noise is lovely to hear. You may see bats flying about too.

You may hear rustling under your feet as a hedgehog makes its way across your garden in its quest for worms and slugs. You may even be lucky enough to be able to see the “gentleman in his velvet coat” – the mole – running across the road or garden. There is so much to see and hear in the dark.

We live down a country lane, with the nearest houses about half a mile away.

The darkness after lights out is so tranquil with no bright orange sodium lights masking the beauty of darkness.

When we walk our dogs late into the night, there is so much to see: the outlines of the big trees, the hedgerows and the wild flowers such as cow parsley.

We can see the potholes to avoid and the puddles, and we can see car lights coming in the distance and have enough time to take action by getting up onto the verge in order to avoid being knocked over.

The breeze blowing in the trees gives a certain calmness. The waving wheat in the darkness is like the tide of the sea. We can see the outlines of the houses and the Abbey, with the occasional light left on for children in the houses.

Of course there are still glaring lights in the sky from the motorways around St Albans. It is almost impossible to find complete blackness. During the year, yes there will be the very occasional night when the sky is dull, there is no moon, and it appears to be quite dark, however, standing outside in the darkness reveals that everything is still there, just a little darker than usual.

We walk around our home in darkness (except the stairs) during the night if nature calls. There is no need for lights as we can “see” where we are going.

People have written in to the Herts Advertiser full of complaints about the darkness.

Writer Sheppard comments that “if a cyclist fell off his bike ‘no-one’ would see him lying there.” The cars are fitted with headlights in order for drivers to see where they are going. If a driver cannot see something in the road they are driving too fast. As long as no vehicles are coming in the opposite direction, the driver can put the headlights on full beam and see a long way ahead.

Writer Taylor states that people find it hard to find the curb (kerb) when going to their cars at night. Why? If the car is parked at the side of the road, a huge chunk of metal should be visible to anyone and the kerb a mere few inches away!

The young man who was mugged, I believe, was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and could just as easily have been mugged during daylight hours. If he was walking in the “pitch black”, then his assailant would have been in the “pitch black” too so how would either the victim or the assailant have seen each other?

The police are suggesting that crime rates have fallen since “lights out” which suggests that the darkness is not as bad as people think.

May I suggest people try embracing the peace and tranquility of the darkness. Of course care has to be taken but if people are aware of their surroundings, they should still be able to walk around safely after dark.


Bedmond Lane, StAlbans

SIR – I too cannot understand the attitude of those who want 24 hours of daylight. I welcome the street lights switch-off as I can now sleep without light shining directly into my bedroom.

I can see a few dozen stars now instead of none at all. Vehicles travel more slowly and wildlife stands more chance of seeing you coming along the road. If I need to find my vehicle, I use a torch – remember them? Useful little gadgets.

As a female I feel safer walking in darkness with a torch as no one can tell who you are or which gender. In areas of the country where the switch-off has already been implemented, incidents of night burglary have dropped by up to a third. Apparently because criminals like to see their escape route and can’t!

I also disagree with the Herts Ad over parking on Bluehouse Hill. I never saw accidents, massacres of the disabled or children, daffodils being flattened or any other damage.

The decision to ban this valuable resource has resulted in a big loss to local businesses, which anyone who uses them can see. No doubt the fall in numbers using the splash park and the rest of this open space will result in calls for it to be developed for housing or car-parking.

Green Belt is no protection. Look at Westminster Lodge. Asking parents to park in Drovers Way and walk with children, their equipment and picnics to Verulamium is just a bad joke. Those in the council should remember they are not there to think up ways of making themselves busy and getting their names in the paper but to get on with jobs that actually need doing.

End this ban and open St Albans for business again.


St Leonards Court, Sandridge

Insecurity since lights went out

SIR – Further to the article written by Laura Roberts in the Herts Ad, I would like to add my observations since the street lighting has been reduced.

There is a feeling of insecurity in our road at night at Hillside Road, Harpenden, when the neighbourhood is in greater vulnerability to burglaries and crime (assault) on innocent people trying to make their way home in the dark.

I feel the council is cutting its budget and putting residents at risk as a result. The limited light also puts people who are partially sighted at risk to sustaining injury simply because their vision is impaired and made worse by the lack of light.

The road in Hillside Road where we live is a disgrace with potholes and loose stones everywhere causing considerable damage to motor vehicles’ bodywork and suspension including our own.

If the council’s budget is a problem, I would suggest that they speak to the residents of Harpenden who I’m sure would gladly pay a small increase in council tax if it meant making Harpenden a safer place to live with roads that actually do not do damage to vehicles.


Hillside Road, Harpenden

SIR – There was a train delay late last night and for the first time we arrived at Radlett station from London after midnight. It was pouring with rain (what a surprise!).

We have never come home when the street lights were out before and we found it scary to say the least. Coupled with the rain and dark night and it was slippery, we were very bothered we might tumble in the dark.

In fact we walked along the roadway and avoided the pavements, etc. We know the cost cutting reasons, etc., etc.

Maybe the street lights should be on until (say) 45 minutes after the last scheduled train at Radlett station? That might be a solution? Just about one hour or so longer. The walk home really was not nice.


Letchmore Road, Radlett

Divine right of decision-making?

SIR – I would like to thank the editor for drawing the attention of his readers to the method and manner in which the Barley Mow Gating Order has been decided upon and more importantly who?

For the benefit of those unaware of the daily dangers faced by residents in the vicinity of Barley Mow Lane a quick “search” of this paper and others should reveal the circumstances, and further please note the length of time a simple request has taken, given that the lane in question is a recognised crime hotspot.

So here we have it now, the official decision delivered by executive member Stuart Pile following a request from the HJMP, which itself wholly supported the request for what is effectively a trial period that is open to review by results.

Decision – no.

As instigators of this particular Gating Order request so many years ago, to say that we are “disappointed” would not scratch the surface.

What is evident to me is that Stuart Pile is the one individual who has sole discretion in this decision and not the HJMP who are, it turns out, only there in an advisory capacity.

Well I think that we all should enquire as to whether it is reasonable that countless meetings involving, police and fire service, CSP, district/county members and considered recommendation can be ignored by one individual with what appears to be a divine right.


Barley Mow Lane Safety Forum

High costs of gym prompt obesity

SIR – At a time when we are all encouraged to undertake more exercise I wanted to bring to your attention the new pricing policy implemented by Harpers who run the Westminster Lodge gym.

Despite advertising discounted sessions (10 for �46) the actual price to use Westminster Lodge gym (one of the most outdated in St Albans) now costs �10 per session – double the discounted cost making it one of the most expensive in St Albans.

Surely this extremely dubious practice, of enticing people with price offers, then refusing to honour them, isn’t something you would expect from a publicly subsidised facility or from a contractor chosen by the local authority.

As of today all their promotional literature still carries the discounted pricing, as does their website but they refuse to honour their offer. Fifteen calls to Leisure Connection resulted in an answer machine each time no clear position from them on this important matter.

Is it any surprise we have so many obese in our community when we have such expensive facilities?


Pegasus Place, St Albans

Manners in local politics

SIR – I am grateful to Dr John Coad (July 12) for his apology, qualified as it was and in a desire not to stretch the boredom thresholds of your readers still further I would be more than happy to let the matter rest there but it seems that Dr Coad now wishes me to accept reponsibility for the alleged poor manners of the deputy mayor.

I really don’t think her perceived failings can be laid at my door although I share share Dr Coad’s abhorrence. But I still can’t share his belief that proportional representation is a fair system of electing our governors.

As a Lib Dem he should be grateful that the present flawed system has resulted in the country being foisted with six Lib Dem cabinet ministers – a position they would not have enjoyed under PR. Such small mercies should be clutched at.

As to detailing my criticisms of our former council and their incompetence I give him (for starters) the St Peter’s Street “Enhancement scheme” at vast expense and which has left we Albanians with permanent traffic jams on all major routes into the city, the neglect of Westminster Lodge to such an extent that it had to be replaced – at a cost of millions – when sensible and reasonable maintenance would have preserved an excellent and much used community facility.

Instead they have passed on to their successors a facility which has become a hotch potch which is hardly fit for purpose and as an aside, I hope a record will be kept of the usage levels of the vast over provision of exercise bikes.

I have not kept a record of the other deficiences I may have written about but if Dr Coad cares to wade through your back numbers I am sure he will find plenty and I suggest that most of them will be found to be justified. I make no apologies for penning my strictures as many of them have resulted in environmental improvements and it not just the Lib Dems who have been castigated so I ask the good doctor to show a little less sensitivity and maybe even think occasionally “perhaps the chap has a point after all”.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

Postal profiteers

SIR – Further to my letter dated July 5 and Mr Singleton’s follow up of July 12 following on the same subject regarding the failings of Royal Mail and their deliveries, I am rather curious as to why a letter or card with a first class stamp priced at 60p which by their standards is oversized and requires a further 9p is not still delivered as a second class item with a cost of 50p plus their 9p surcharge making a total of 59p and still giving them an extra profit of 1p.

Perhaps they need to get their slates and chalks out again or I do?


Batchwood Drive, St Albans

Security shortfalls

SIR – Recent news has identified that G4S has made a complete horlicks of managing the recruitment, etc., of security staff for the Olympics. Clearly there is no time for this to be put right what with CRB checks and training (although it seems that Hertfordshire police do not perform CRB checks on incoming officers) so the armed forces have been called in.

Similarly, we learnt that at the time of last year’s riots in London other forces were called in to help the Metropolitan police. Unfortunately, their radio wavelengths were not compatible with those of the Metropolitan police, so their officers could not be used.

And that was solely between police forces. Now we will have the army, navy and air force involved as well. Perhaps the current inclement weather will continue such that potential terrorists will want to stay at home in the warm.

So what has all this got to do with the good burghers of Hertfordshire, I hear you ask? Well this: G4S pride themselves on being the largest security company in the world – security is what they do (but see above, and Wimbledon last year).

What they do not do is manage IT outsourcing which is why Hertfordshire Constabulary is about to outsource its IT (and other) function(s) to G4S!


Gorham Drive, St Albans

Make the most of Pemberton School

SIR – Only just seen your report of the good news that the Secretary of State has decided not to approve the demolition of the Pemberton School.

Contrary to the comments by the governing body’s spokesperson I did in fact take the trouble to look at the buildings and photograph them before lodging my objections. What are however concerning are her further comments that having now lost the argument on demolition, the body’s only recourse is to board up and fence off the buildings.

What a waste of an historic public asset entrusted to this organisation, surely they can be more imaginative and incorporate the building into their grand plan which at the same time would demonstrate to their pupils the value of our built heritage?


Hill Street, St Albans

Support buses to keep them going

SIR – Re: your article about the Uno H1 bus in Harpenden published on July 6. The H1 was was never going to cease running. the route that was at risk was the H2.

The facts as I understand it are that times will be changing on both routes and in fact there will be more buses to serve commuters during the week and shoppers on Saturdays.

As a non-driver, non-bus pass holder, I find the H1 invaluable, it is a shame that more people don’t use this service. If more commuters and shoppers used these buses a lot of parking places could be freed up and the continuation of the service guaranteed.


Mons Close, Harpenden

Lobbying row over rail freight

SIR – Conservative councillor Stephen Bowes-Phipps’ attempt (Herts Advertiser, June 28, “Lobbying in Glass Houses”) to drag Vince Cable into the row over inappropriate contacts between ministers and Helioslough lobbyists seems to have backfired in spectacular fashion.

Cllr Bowes-Phipps accused Vince Cable of receiving correspondence from Simon Hoare of Helioslough and so “getting involved”. If someone sends the minister a letter, he cannot help receiving it – that is what the Royal Mail is for.

It is the reply that Mr Hoare received in December 2011 from Vince Cable which is in such marked contrast to the wholly inappropriate meeting which Mr Hoare was able to arrange with Conservative transport minister Theresa Villiers.

Vince Cable told Mr Hoare “it would not be appropriate for me to accept your invitation for a meeting on this occasion” and commented that the government’s ambition is to see “growth taking place in line with local wishes and priorities wherever possible – there is no shortage of projects, including rail projects, that do have local support and that we are seeking to unblock.”

This is the response that the Conservative minister should have made, instead of arranging lunch and then writing to the Department of Communities and Local Government on Helioslough’s behalf.

Cllr Bowes-Phipps should check his facts before making wild and unfounded allegations in future. In the meantime lets hope that the final decision comes down on the side of Vince Cable rather than on the side of Theresa Villiers.


County Councillor for St Stephen’s (Park Street and St Stephen wards)