Letters, July 10, 2014

Car park coin confusion

SIR – In response to Wendy Sharp’s letter in the Herts Advertiser (June 26), I would like to advise her, and others, that the machine in Gombards car park is probably not faulty but has not been updated to take the “new” (I use the term advisedly) shield design coins which were brought out in 2008! Yes I did say 2008. I have contacted NCP on several occasions with regard to this problem relating to the London Road car park but have been advised that: “At the present time there are no plans to update the machines.” I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it is trying to ensure that you have enough of the “old” coinage each day. It is bad enough if you are aware of the problem but I wonder how many people don’t realise and just put it down to a faulty machine. Considering the amount of money that NCP charge and make out of the St Albans car parks I think it is about time they did something about the situation. On another issue concerning the London Road car park, a colleague has been in correspondence with NCP for approximately six weeks because the weekly ticket is only printing out six days. NCP have given various excuses for the fault and have made several promises that the problem will be rectified but to no avail. This time last year I contacted the council regarding faulty machines in the London Road car park but my complaint was passed to NCP. Wouldn’t it be lovely if instead of washing their hands of the problem the council woke up and did something about this poor service.

L BUDGE Manor Road, Wheathampstead

Relatives found

SIR – We were in touch with you a couple of weeks ago, about tracing my late mother’s cousin William de Vere Hunt’s family. We believed they came to St Albans, but thanks to some very nice gentlemen from St Albans, who read our story and decided to see if they could help, we have found they actually lived at Chiswell Green, later moving to Yorkshire. One of the gentlemen actually found some addresses of his children, so we shall be getting in touch via snail mail. So a very big thank you for printing our story, and to the lovely gentlemen Denis and Matt, who did their utmost to help, we shall forever be very grateful. St Albans has some very nice people, you should be very proud of them.


Appeal for some guerilla gardeners

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SIR – What a terrific facility Westminster Lodge is, I use it many times a week and am delighted our council made the decision to build it. However, have you looked around the car park opposite the entrance and noticed just what a poor state it’s in? 18 months after the new facility was opened, the weeds are huge and sprawling in the wood-chipped ‘beds’ and discarded parking tickets, cigarette packets, fast food and fizzy drinks bottles litter the pavements and parking bays. I often take it upon myself to pull the weeds and bin the litter and on one recent visit, I chatted to a bright, committed member of the John O’Connor team – the company responsible for maintaining the grounds on the council’s behalf – who agreed that there’s insufficient budget for upkeep. It’s like so many other things in St Albans, such as the paving slabs on St Peter’s Street (outside what’s now Pret) that were dug up and then replaced with tarmac rather than paving, because it was too costly. This is a UK-wide problem, not just St Albans. If we’re going to have new things I implore the council to encourage people to look after them and to set aside budget for maintenance. On a final note, I wonder if I could interest others in joining me in doing a spot of guerilla gardening in the car park at Westminster Lodge? If 10 or so of us came together to pull weeds and plant some lavender, rosemary and other hardy cuttings from our gardens, imagine how great it could be. Do contact me via Twitter @jesschivers if interested. The other thing we can all do is make sure we bin our parking tickets (not let them tumble from our cars to the car park floor) and gently remind others to take their litter home when we see them drop it, accidently or otherwise. Come on people, let’s show our pride in St Albans.

JESSICA CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

Time to build on our allotments?

SIR – Threats to the Green Belt in the area subject to St Albans District Council’s planning decisions have become a hot topic, nowhere more so than in Harpenden, where a number of ‘parcels’ of land in the town’s surrounding countryside have been designated as potential housing development sites.The strength of feeling among local residents was evident at the specially-convened meeting of the Harpenden Society on June 12 at Rothamsted Conference Centre, which was attended by over 150 townspeople. Predictably, and commendably, numerous references were made at the meeting to the identification of so-called “brownfield” sites in the district, which could provide housing land without encroachment on attractive and agriculturally-sustainable Green Belt farmland, of which the most prominent example under threat in Harpenden are the fields to the north of the town on the eastern side of Luton Road. Before destroying that treasured rural landscape, while nevertheless recognising the need for new housing in and around Harpenden, the powers-that-be should look first at another alternative which arguably almost edges into the brownfield category. I refer to the many acres of ground within the town’s existing urban boundaries given over to domestic allotments. In particular, to the south of High Firs Crescent, between Piggottshill Lane and Dark Lane, and between Grove Road and Oakley Road, there are large areas of allotments which could be used for housing. I can already hear the howls of protest at the very idea – from the allotment holders themselves of course, who would be deprived of green-fingered satisfaction and their valuable source of home grown produce. Others living nearby who value the peaceful open space that allotments afford would also be quick to condemn any such proposal. But I counter those objections with an assertion that, if some environmental sacrifice of open land has to be made to provide more homes, then use of allotment ground, to the dismay of a limited number of those in the near vicinity, is a lesser evil than destruction of precious Green Belt countryside which would be a traumatic loss for Harpenden’s population as a whole.

ALAN BUNTING Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

SIR – Having read the letters from Gillian Webb and Rhoda Harrison last week made me realise how nothing ever changes for the NIMBYs of Harpenden. I moved to Harpenden in 1978 to the new Cross Farm estate and looking at our title deeds saw how long it had taken to get agreement for the development. Opposition at the time was intense and I remember the new residents being referred to as immigrants who were not wanted in the town (sorry village!!). Has it really turned out that bad for Harpenden letting these new young families in?? Here we are now in 2014 and still the same prejudices exist. Exaggeration is the norm with reference being made to us ‘being concreted over’ and there being ‘one huge conurbation from the M25 to Luton’. Of course no-one would support the disappearance of all the countryside but that is not going to happen – let us simply acknowledge that the ‘Green Belt’ should no longer be sacrosanct and there is scope for sensible development on a controlled scale. The impression is always given there is very little countryside left – but when you fly into Luton everyone can see this is definitely not the case. One argument usually put forward by opponents of housing development is the problem of inadequate infrastructure yet those very same people when faced with the possibility of Harpenden having a new senior school are the first to object as it will spoil their view. Our first child went to senior school here in 1992 and school places were a problem then as they still are now – let’s support the new school proposal as hopefully this new school will address the shortage of places once and for all. What we will see of course is that whatever site is chosen – is Batford really that bad? – local residents will object. An ironic twist to all this is that many habitual objectors themselves are living in nice houses that were once built on green fields – they can enjoy living in this lovely town but don’t want anyone new to share the enjoyment. As Gillian Webb admits she was a newcomer here in 1970 but now is determined to stop any more people arriving – selfish or what?

Steve Pryor

Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Sir – Page two and three of your July 3 edition give starkly contrasting approaches to land use for designated Green Belt. From my drive at the bottom of Barnfield Road this week there was a pastoral scene of hay making in the field opposite – sometimes there are sheep. As you report that soon will be destroyed by our neighbour Oaklands College who are using profits from house building to expand and develop the college. Twenty years ago it was gravel extraction but that never happened. Now surprise, surprise, once a bit of Green Belt is eroded there are plans for a further 1,250 houses up to 1,600 swallowing up any break between St Albans and Smallford. So next logically the airfield site onward to Hatfield. Let’s hope that the page three salute in Heartwood forest remains thanks to the Woodland Trust an example of what the Green Belt is really for – or in a few years time will we be fobbed off with Heartwood Avenue? Just what patch of open space is actually safe from developers? The irony of course being in 1955 someone – probably Elsie Toms (former Mayor) – would have been saying the same about Barnfield Road.

Jonathan Devereux

Barnfield Road, St Albans

Wrong decision over recycling centres

SIR – I’m extremely alarmed at the proposals to shut the busy waste recycling centre at Waterdale two days a week and to curtail the hours to 4pm closing and two centres in Hertfordshire at Elstree and Hoddesdon shutting completely. This is madness when we’re meant to be encouraging recycling. It will almost certainly lead to more fly tipping and a considerable reduction in recycling. I regularly use Waterdale a lot for recycling waste and see it as an excellent service. We must not throw out all the good work we’ve been doing. I have asked my local councilor to fight this disastrous cut which seems to be quietly slipping through. Please Herts County Council, reconsider this short sighted proposal – Hertfordshire residents will be the losers.

STEPHEN MACAULAY Coates Way, Watford

Distance should be no obstacle

SIR – I completely fail to understand the criticism of St Albans councillor Seema Kennedy by the chairwoman of St Albans Constituency Labour Party, Helen Ives Rose, concerning her recent adoption as a Tory parliamentary candidate. The call for her resignation as a councillor because of her selection is utterly ridiculous. I certainly hold no brief for Ms Kennedy or the Conservative Party, but it is a nonsense to suggest, as Ms Ives Rose does, that she, or anyone else in a similar position, cannot combine the two roles. Being a ward councillor is certainly not a full-time job, otherwise no-one in employment would be able to do it. As long as Ms Kennedy does not now neglect her responsibilities to the residents of Marshalswick South ward, I can see no reason why she should not also pursue her Parliamentary ambitions. The two are not incompatible. More importantly, Ms Ives Rose’s sanctimonious criticism reeks of pure hypocrisy as any examination of the CVs of many Labour parliamentary candidates will quickly confirm. I give you just two examples. In the 1983 general election Paul Boateng stood as the Labour candidate in Hertfordshire West while serving on the Greater London Council. Similarly, Jack Straw, the ex Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, also stood in a general election for a constituency in leafy Kent while serving on Islington Council and on the Inner London Education Authority. But presumably, Ms Rose Ives, as they were Labour Party members that’s quite all right?


Althorp Road, St Albans

SIR – I thought your comment last week on the selection of Marshalswick South councillor Kennedy as prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Ribble was a bit over the top. The fact that it has come so soon after her election to the district council is really quite irrelevant as I am sure she will continue to perform her local duties in full until (and if) she wins the South Ribble seat. There are times when opportunity knocks but it does not do so for long or very loudly so those opportunities must be seized without hesitation. An analogy might be for the editor of a provincial weekly to be offered an opening on a national newspaper by someone who recognises his potential as has happened with such notable journalists as Sir Harold Evans (Shields Gazette – Sunday Times and The Times), and even Andy Coulson (Basildon Recorder, The Sun, News of the World). So I think Ms Kennedy is right to accept the nomination for South Ribble and with her background of a successful professional career in the City of London I am sure she has many of the attributes which will enable her to succeed in a parliament which is singularly lacking in members of quality. I wish her well as I think will many electors in Marshalsick South who will be able to look back with satisfaction in having chosen her to represent them for what may turn out to be for a shorter period than they might have wished.


Townsend Drive, St Albans