Letters, July 31, 2014

Delivery drivers were gentlemen

SIR – I was walking into town this morning along London Road, pushing my 18 month old son in his pushchair.We came to the Odeon cinema that is being restored and a delivery was holding up all the traffic in both lanes. The delivery vehicle was parked on the pavement blocking our way, so I stopped and waited. One of the workmen made the decision to let the traffic go past and continue the delivery in a few minutes. He said to me “you can go past too if you like?” I pointed out that there were two lanes of fast moving traffic and that I wasn’t going to push my pram out into the road. The workman said that I had a fair point, so he walked into the road, stood in the middle and held the traffic back so that I could safely go into the road and round the delivery truck and the goods. I was very impressed that he was thoughtful enough to consider the traffic flow during his delivery, and very pleased that he cared enough to help me safely negotiate walking into the road with my young son. A big thank you to him.

LARISA O’SHEA Orient Close, St Albans

Dangers in the dark

SIR – I am writing in regards to Hertfordshire Highways Agency’s policy of turning off street lighting in various parts of Hertfordshire at night. I do agree that some street lights should be turned off at night to save energy and money. However, I do not agree that complete roads should have no lighting at all, for up to seven hours or more. I live near to St Albans main line station and when I and others arrive at St Albans station, on a Friday or Saturday night, after a night out in say London, we are met with some street lights being off. This includes Lemsford Road, Beaconsfield Road and Alma Road. Having the entire street lighting switched off on any road is a disaster waiting to happen. Members of the public are left vulnerable to street accidents, robberies, assaults, vehicle accidents and worse. Walking in pitch blackness is psychologically very unnerving. Must it take a tragedy before Hertfordshire Highways Agency reviews this practice? Would it not be more appropriate for every other light or if not possible, smaller sections of the lighting are switched off but some lighting remains on all roads, for safety sake?

ANTHONY LEWIS Lemsford Road, St Albans

Allotments not golf courses!

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SIR – Your correspondent Alan Bunting suggests that in order to preserve the Green Belt we should build houses on allotment sites in Harpenden. Allotments are relatively cheap to rent, family friendly, a shelter for wildlife and a source of pesticide-free vegetables and fruit. Unlike allotments, golf courses produce little of value to the community and are not particularly family friendly. Rather than building on allotment sites, perhaps one or more of the golf courses in and around Harpenden should be the site of affordable housing, thereby helping to preserve the crop-producing Green Belt.

COLIN T WALKER Shakespeare Road, Harpenden

Time to sort out hospital at last

SIR – “Big is not always best” and your recent report regarding the failings at Watford General Hospital bears this out. The old adage from chief executive Samantha Jones of “learning from these failures’ and imminently” employing failsafe mechanisms to prevent these issues arising again, will not bring back those people who reputedly might have died over time regarding these errors. Anne Main of course, is making the most of this situation to distract people’s attention away from her own issues, where she recently announced her wish for yet another new hospital to be built, on the flimsiest of excuses and her feigned concerns that “of course our own St Albans City Hospital should be retained for services” certainly cuts no ice with people who just want their hospital back to what it was first intended – a state-of-the-art amenity, providing all essential needs. Please don’t make the excuse Anne Main that there would be an encumbrance to this regarding space, considering the fact that it was allowed, soon after our hospital was first built, for land belonging to the people to be grabbed for the very lucrative gain of building houses and I think that it was disgraceful that this was allowed to happen. In the meantime it is absolutely preposterous to have to remember that our poor mothers are having to get all the way to Watford for their maternity services and to visit their sick children… I do wonder if it is just a matter of time before serious issues might arise regarding this very unsatisfactory state of affairs. So come on Anne Main, stop hiding behind people’s skirts and get your own house in order… Tell us outright that you intend to do right by people, that you will stop this flannel about building another new hospital which would undoubtedly soon be in the same mess as the others anyway, and concentrate now please on doing right by what we already have. I think people have been very forbearing in their long spell of adversity and it is time now to give back to them what is long overdue – a fully functioning hospital. So please Anne Main will you now speak out regarding this and once again stop all this nonsense about building yet another hospital which, in all probability, will just finish up being merely another white elephant.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Rail freight no place for party politics

SIR – I was pleased to see there was cross-party support and condemnation of the decision by DCLG to grant planning permission at full council. We will continue to work together in a consensual fashion to try and see off this rail freight proposal. This was why I was disappointed to see Kerry Pollard claiming he was let down by Anne Main MP. It is without dispute that Anne has dedicated so much time and effort opposing the rail freight, including meetings with ministers, parliamentary questions, and attending and speaking at local public enquiries. The official government decision paper alone shows that Anne made 32 individual representations on behalf of her constituents, whereas trawling through the long lists of respondents I could not even find one from Mr Pollard. At council I spoke of the need to consider housing, or perhaps even a football stadium. Almost anything that would benefit St Albans would be preferable to a rail freight terminal. Ultimately I did not want to touch the land at all Park Street, but we must work in a cross-party fashion to achieve our ultimate goal. This is why petty party politics will only damage our case.

CLLR M SALIH GAYGUSUZ Marshalswick South ward

Southfield Way, St ALbans

Will there be blood on Pickles’ hands?

SIR – Now the verdict is in and, leaving aside for a moment all the glaring obvious reasons why this rail freight development should not have been given the go ahead, the most frightening aspect of this is the reality that residents will die while ambulances try to get to nearest A&E in Watford in an emergency. St Albans gets gridlocked when accidents occur on one of the motorways and the situation will only get worse. I hope the Secretary of State realises the blood will be on his hands by ignoring the welfare of thousands of residents in favour of a money making developer.

PATRICIA MAITLAND Ashley Road, St Albans

Paying the price for incinerator plan

SIR – While I share the general euphoria about Eric Pickles’ decision to reject the planning application for the Hertfordshire County Council’s giant Incinerator, there are still some issues to be resolved before it is completely dead and buried. Firstly, the county council and Veolia, their contractors, have the right to appeal the decision and may well do so. It seems unlikely that they would overturn it though as Mr Pickles’ letter contains some very compelling arguments about inappropriate use of Green Belt land and its adverse effect on the environment, for example in respect of its proximity to Hatfield House and Gardens. Next, they could look for alternative sites in Hertfordshire. There was extensive work on possible sites before deciding on New Barnfield which ruled out all except that one. (The runner up site was in Harper Lane, Radlett, and you can be sure local residents here will be watching very carefully for any suggestion of revisiting that site!). So they probably won’t be able to find another site and, even if they did, they would have to run through the whole process of planning applications and quite possibly another public inquiry. So another year or two of delays. The most sensible and obvious thing to do is cancel the whole project. However this raises a number of questions which I have been asking county for several years now. What would be the costs of cancelling the contract? In a similar situation in Norfolk, the county council – after years of public protests and many councillors losing their seats as a result – cancelled their incinerator project and discovered that they were liable for huge penalty payments to their contractor of over £30 million. Hertfordshire have told me that their contract is different but will not disclose what the penalties would be. Norfolk County Council is having to make huge cuts in services to try to meet the penalties and we could be facing the same issues here if they are anything near the same scale. My most recent inquiry to Hertfordshire asking them what would happen if planning permission was refused or they cancelled the contract was dismissed as being “hypothetical” so they refused to answer. It is not hypothetical now.

CLIVE GLOVER Woodfield Road, Radlett Who is paying for resurfacing work?

SIR – So Drovers Way has been closed for several days to allow resurfacing following the damage caused by the work done during the construction of the new hotel. The question arises – would the work have been necessary had the hotel development not taken place? I very much doubt it and so I put the question to the council – who is paying for the work? Or put another way, what proportion of the work is being paid for by the hotel developers? I note also that work is taking place between the hours of 9am and 9pm. What has happened to the practice of construction workers starting work at 7am? At least one day could be saved were an earlier start to be introduced and since the work needs to be done anyway why not have 24 hour working to get it done quicker and so reduce the time of disruption to the absolute minimum?

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans Infrastructure is essential for homes

SIR – In November 2012, the Harpenden-based Conservative cabinet tried to promote the building of up to 350 homes on green field Green Belt at Oaklands College in its Strategic Local Plan. This number of new houses was necessary, we were assured, to fund the college’s refurbishment. I supported housing on the Oaklands site to fund improvements, but I wanted the houses built on the agriculture site not green field. I worried about the effect of so many new houses being built in just one location, I wanted them distributed across the Oaklands campus. I wasn’t alone. The “No Oaklands Housing Action Group” was established by local residents and because of the quality of its planning arguments, the Cabinet’s plan was shelved by the full council. At great expense to the taxpayer, consultants were commissioned to produce evidence of what housing numbers were needed in the district and where they could be distributed more fairly. That evidence identified (amongst others), two sites on the edge of St Albans as suitable for release from the Green Belt. One in the Marshalswick North Ward (which is represented by three Lib Dem councillors), and one in Marshalswick South (where there happens to be three Conservative councillors). Now guess how the Harpenden-based Cabinet has decided to distribute the 1,000 new homes it says are needed on the edge of St Albans? That’s right, all 1,000 in Marshalswick North, at Oaklands College, and not a single one in Marshalswick South. This number of houses on one site will also affect Ashley Ward, and in Colney Heath Ward the impact will be enormous if allowed to go ahead. Before a brick is laid for new housing we need to see an infrastructure plan which includes roads, schools, health facilities, water supply and an environmental impact study. An application is already before the council for 350 houses on Oaklands’ site which is to refurbish the college. This application raises two fundamental questions: first, what was the point of commissioning consultants to identify other Green Belt sites which are equally suitable for housing, if the Conservatives were just going to revert to their original plan? And, secondly, if refurbishing the college is the intention of 350 houses, what are the extra 650 houses going to fund?

CLLR CHRIS BRAZIER Park Lane, Colney Heath