Letters, July 3, 2014

Harpenden’s Green Belt is at risk

SIR – I attended the meeting called by the Harpenden Society on June 12 to discuss Green Belt development round Harpenden and despite massive opposition from many individuals and organisations it appears that we are going to be concreted over. Institutions opposing the proposed excessive housing development include Harpenden Green Belt Association, the Harpenden Society and Campaign to Protect Rural England, horse riding, walking and cycling groups and local and national access groups. Our situation is particularly dire as we do not yet have a Strategic Local Plan. This means that developers, as the very happy and confident spokesman from Jarvis made clear, can and will apply to develop all our Green Belt as fast as they possibly can. They are impervious to warnings of lack of infrastructure, water shortages, road congestion, lack of facilities like doctors’ surgeries, schools, etc. The Green Belt Review Sites and Boundaries Study prepared by SKM identifies two areas in Harpenden, near Ambrose Lane and in Batford, with land “suitable for release from the Green Belt” – as if the land is being illegally held! The Batford site is off Common Lane, opposite the strongly opposed site of the new secondary school for 2,000 pupils. SKM suggests the mind boggling number of 687-1,145 residential units on 38 hectares of land, for this Green Belt site, which is also crisscrossed by many well used footpaths and bridleways. This site also takes in the whole of Greenacres Equestrian Riding school and their grazing land. The proprietors have never indicated that they wish to sell Greenacres, as it is a thriving British Horse Society-approved riding school and the only one in Harpenden, as well as being a popular Riding For The Disabled venue, an excellent hacking centre and a successful training centre for both show jumping horses and riders. Horse riding allows children, adults of all ages and the disabled to partake in a wonderful sport. Around 4.5 million people enjoy horse riding annually and numbers are rising fast. It also brings considerable revenue into the area. Both existing residents and newcomers will want to ride in our area, also walk, dog walk and cycle. They will not be able to ride through housing estates. We moved to Harpenden in 1970 when the population was 17,000. It is now 33,000 and feels like it! It must be possible to say “Enough – stop” both for the sake of those of us who already live here and newcomers, who will not find the pleasant rural homes and life style they imagine.

GILLIAN WEBB Browning Road, Harpenden

SIR – I find the proposals to build on the Green Belt around Harpenden and other parts of the district beyond belief. Once this land is built on it is gone forever, and I do not believe we have the right to destroy the environment for future generations. I think it is also apparent to everyone who lives here that the district is full – public services and utilities are already stretched to breaking point, and the infrastructure cannot cope with the present population. These proposals would result in one huge conurbation from the M25 to Luton and from Watford and Hemel to Hatfield, with the consequent impairment of the quality of life to all those living there. This is totally unacceptable. Of course developers want to build on the Green Belt, it is much easier and far more profitable for them, despite the fact that they already have large land banks with planning permission in place. However, in other parts of the UK there are thousands of empty houses. If property developers and politicians want to address a perceived housing shortage they should refurbish these properties and invest in the creation of employment in these areas. Of course they say “people want to live in Harpenden”. I do not think people will want to live in a Harpenden that is in the centre of a vast urban development with not a green field in sight. Will any of the three main parties stand up against the destruction of the Green Belt? Dave – no, we know where your allegiance lies. Ed – the Green Belt was the achievement of a previous Labour government, but I don’t think you will defend it. Nigel – where does UKIP stand on this? I suspect we are very much alone in this fight.

RHODA HARRISON Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Shame of hospital’s gradual decline

SIR – Thank you Elizabeth Dumpleton, for putting into words what I am sure the majority of Albanians are thinking (June 19). Several years ago our hospital was absolutely brilliant, both my mother and my father spoke highly of it, having both experienced it first hand. My father fought tooth and nail to save all its facilities, all in vain! What stupid decisions have been made in the name of saving money, i.e. closing a brand new maternity unit, which cost millions, not to mention the coronary care unit. A town the size of St Albans should have its own hospital, with an accident and emergency unit. Fifty years ago we had all this, and a population of 50,000. Now we have a reduced hospital in danger of complete closure and a population of 129,000 and growing. Is this progress? I would also like our MP to know that I had to make a rushed journey to Lister Hospital in Stevenage in the middle of the night a year or so ago, but when I arrived my husband had passed away. If we had had a proper hospital in St Albans, I would have been in time to say goodbye. This regret will stay with me for the rest of my life. So if our MP comes round, she will get the same short shrift that Elizabeth Dumpleton gave her!!

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WENDY LEWIS Sewell Close, St Albans

SIR – How dare Anne Main talk about building another state-of-the-art hospital on the Crown estates off the M1! Is she completely mad, in view of the fact that our NHS is practically on its knees already? It wasn’t many years back that people suddenly became aware of the creation of a brand new hospital being built at Hatfield, apparently, a teaching hospital, even though the Trust at the time could not afford to sustain our St Albans amenity. I’m pleased to report that after an understandable outcry at that time, the building of this not-needed hospital was curtailed. Phew! But think of the money wasted on the initial construction of this project. I suspect now that matters regarding our hospital (the shutting down, for instance, of the hydrotherapy pool), has quite a bearing on what’s happening behind the scenes at present – even though David Laws assures councillor Roma Mills of his negotiating a deal whereby people might be able to have access to same at one of the county council’s special schools. Promises, promises! We’ve heard it all before, Mr Laws. Regarding Kerry Pollard’s statement very recently that: “Health bosses should repay bonuses totalling tens of thousands of pounds to the financially-struggling hospital trust covering St Albans... Senior staff who received lump sums of up to £45,000 in recent years.” Not a chance I’m afraid, Mr Pollard! And anyway, it’s a bit late in the day and the payments should never have been permitted in the first place. Ultimately then, and in view of Anne Main’s startling statement that we need another state-of-the-art hospital elsewhere, even though the NHS can’t sustain what we already have, will somebody now come clean and give us some assurance that all these muddled people will stop feathering their own nests and start to do right by us – now, and not after the elections! I suspect that Anne Main has her own private healthcare arrangements, which might explain why she cannot understand the need for a hospital in St Albans for those of us who live here and use it! Not everyone in St Albans is wealthy! Are we completely lost? I just hope that some noteworthy person will come to the fore immediately and put the wheels in motion for some sensible, ethical plans to put our treasured hospital back to what it was intended to be: a state-of-the-art facility for the people of St Albans. These so-called qualified people who have got us into this terrible mess, should pull their socks up and do what is right for the hardworking majority who pay dearly for the NHS and deserve better than all the underhand claptrap that’s been going on for so long.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Have your say on Luton flights

SIR – There has been much coverage of the huge expansion of Luton including the current consultation on aircraft overflying St Albans. The airport and the CAA are looking to redirect the flights which currently splay all across the city. The initial proposal is not perfect because it still touches the north edge of St Albans but it does represent a good first step. Luton have stated they will look to narrow the swathe from the proposed 2km to 1.5km and 1km, further reducing the number of local houses overflown. Details are at www.london-luton.co.uk/en/content/8/1235/rnav-consultation.html or complete the survey on line at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CZQW59N. The consultation closes on Friday, July 9. Save our Skies (the St Albans pressure group) will continue to press the airport to engage in the public transport issues inevitably caused by 18 million Luton Airport passengers.

JULIAN GRIFFITHS Save our Skies Stanta Business Centre, St Albans

Bodge job is a waste of time and money

SIR – Another almighty bodge in House Lane. Some weeks ago House Lane was closed for the repair of major holes. Nothing new there, a job they seem to do on a regular basis, however they only repaired half the holes leaving equally bad ones right next to the repaired ones. Last week they closed the road yet again to “surface dress” the whole lane (without filling in any holes). What a total waste of time and money. Over the years House Lane has been closed on many occasions for various repairs, none of which last for more than five minutes. Why don’t they do a proper job, close the road, put a kerb along the whole and save a mint of money in the long run.

NORMAN DAYTON Highfield Road, Sandridge

Bad experiences at branded coffee shop

SIR – I have to offer a hearty slap on the back of reader Helen Campbell after her impassioned plea for coffee drinkers of St Albans to consider the independents as opposed to the sanitised, formulaic, zero customer service, smile-less faces of the mass high street coffee companies. Last week, I entered into one such major brand named coffee house in the centre of town. The service was atrocious, you would have thought I was speaking Martian when I asked for an iced mocha for my daughter, my coffee was only luke warm and the indecently priced pastry I purchased (one that ‘cost a’ lot) was obviously baked the day before. Oh, and none of the staff smiled and looked like they were in purgatory instead of a customer-facing job of work. I complained, naturally (would readers expect anything less) via Twitter and received a compensatory voucher after the refund I was entitled to of, wait for it, £2.50, not even enough to buy another stale pastry! Undeterred, I popped in the same coffee house (masochist that I am) to spend said voucher and found that, despite written assurances from head office that staff would be re-trained and greater efforts made to make a customer feel welcome instead of an intrusion, the anticipated smile had not changed much. In fact, the staff I saw was actually grimacing (probably in recognition of yours truly!). This time, they managed to serve the wrong items to our table, spilt drink over my daughter and messed the bill up, a bill which they never hand you incidentally unless you request one (something about saving the planet by saving paper waste!). Needless to say, I could without such poor service and quality products and of course being shoulder to shoulder with yummy mummies, pretentious folk with iPads, laptops and other workplace ephemera and of course this new generation that seems to want to emulate Italian and Spanish chic by adopting café culture. People of St Albans and in that I include myself, with Chinese granite pavements, a £1 shop within coughing distance and a Premier Inn up the road, we never will – and so I will follow Helen Campbell’s advice and take my caffeine in places where the clever ones drink it – in the independents where service is key because they simply don’t have the funds to convince us that a corporate logo means ‘best.’


Green Lane, St Albans

Recognising some great service

SIR – I would like to publicise the helpful service given to me by the CarpetRight store in St Peter’s Street. Recently bereaved I was clearing a flat and was unable to give a nearly new bed to charity as the base was missing its flame retardant label. The bed was bought from the CarpetRight store in St Peter’s Street. Although I contacted the manufacturer they were unhelpful. Tom the store manager followed this up for me and obtained an appropriate certificate so allowing the bed to be accepted by the charity. I cannot praise him enough and hope that this example of service will encourage people to use their local stores.

ANNA HENRY Northchurch, Berkhamsted

Councillors must be more accountable

SIR – Your report last week that the expansion of Garden Fields School is going to take place despite initial “consultations” showing that 81per cent of respondents to that consultation disagreed with aspects of the proposals. Such is the democratic process! I suggest that it is about time for our ruling authorities, both district and county to become more accountable to their electors. I can only hope that more notice will be taken of the objections which will inevitably be raised on publication of the statutory notice. I think that one of the major problems is that we have to suffer the effect of “the Midlothian question” whereby decisions about purely St Albans matters are decided by mainly Harpenden based councillors and in the wider field by county councillors based in the far corners of the county who probably rarely visit the city. This situation is in urgent need of major revision.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

Thanks to Breast Cancer Clinic

SIR – I would like through your paper, to thank the St Albans Breast Cancer Clinic at St Albans City Hospital. I have recently had two operations for breast cancer at the age of 75. The care, help and support I have had has been wonderful. The first time I had breast cancer was 28 years ago so I recommend all women to have regular check-ups.

SONIA PYWELL Pipers Avenue, Harpenden