Letters, July 24, 2014

End of an era for popular greengrocer

SIR – I have just seen the article in the Herts Advertiser regarding the closure of E S Hulse in Cell Barnes Lane after 50 years of trading. This business has been much more than a shop, it has been a meeting place over many years for the local community. Obviously any business needs to move forward. The late Eddie and Pam Hulse founded this establishment and worked extremely hard to make it succeed, often through difficult times and having to cope with the inexorable rise of impersonal supermarkets who only see the customer as a number going through the checkout. The service afforded in this shop was always excellent. They produce top quality and a warm welcome always afforded by the friendly staff especially Jackie Webb who has been with the business for over 40 years. Where else can you spend two minutes buying your vegetables and fruit yet leave after 30 minutes having had a full update of local events? There are no doubt many reasons why the business had to relocate, but it will be sorely missed as a focal point for everybody and the choice for the owners must have been very difficult when they had to make this sad decision. Once more a fine local shop has gone and it is a sign of the times. In the future our choice will be even more limited, but I do hope that some who share my views will use their local shops. Without our support they will just fade away and what will we be left with? I can only end by sending Laurence and Beverley Hulse my best wishes in the future at their new wholesale location in Batford.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans Harpenden divided over developments

SIR – I perused Alan Bunting’s letter (‘Time to build on allotments’, Letters, July 10) with a growing sense that I was inhabiting some parallel universe. Surely this was written as a joke? Apart from the legal obligation of local councils under the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act to provide allotments for their citizens, the benefits of allotments are well known and universally recognised. In straitened times such as these, they supply cheap and healthy food for hard-working families. They are a source of community, and collaboration. A chance for older people to get out and socialise and have some exercise. Many allotments are used to provide therapy for sick people. And they can be an opportunity for local schoolchildren to learn how to grow fruit and vegetables locally, all this offsetting the air miles that contribute to global warming. I’m not even going to mention the wildlife, bees and insects that rely upon allotments for their existence and whose current loss of habitat is already beginning to impact upon us all. Mr Bunting’s letter reminds me of a certain local Tory councillor who once expressed bewilderment that anybody would want to grow their own produce – after all, we had two supermarkets in the centre of town! I do agree with Mr Bunting upon one point, however. There are indeed many acres of ground within the town’s existing urban boundaries that could usefully be turned over to new housing. I refer to the numerous golf courses that take up so much of the green space around the town. These feed no impoverished families and are not a source of valuable wildlife. I see little benefit in preserving all these rolling swathes of green grass for a small and exclusive elite to wander around hitting little balls into holes. I therefore suggest that before they destroy the precious Green Belt, or the equally precious domestic allotments, the council might consider sacrificing these frankly unproductive acres for the good of future families.

CAROL HEDGES Harpenden Independent Partnership Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

SIR – I thought Alan Bunting’s letter concerning potential sites for housing development in and around Harpenden was rather vindictive towards allotment holders, in suggesting that their allotments should be given over to housing development. Then I noticed that Mr Bunting lives close to the area to the north of Harpenden which is earmarked for potential development, and – surprise, surprise – the two allotment sites he suggests for development are on the opposite side of the town. Need I say more?

PETER JEFFERY Marshalls Way, Wheathampstead

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SIR – With reference to the letter from Alan Bunting concerning the building of dwellings on allotment land, I wish to point out that part of the town’s success is its ability to respect its roots and hold on to those things that define its origins. To build on allotment land that has served several levels of the population over many years would be a mistake while there is a demand. Is Mr Bunting aware of the current Government’s thinking of the need to go out and get more exercise applies to everyone, not just those who have retired? If one accepts the housing argument, why stop at building on allotment sites; why not the Common; how about Rothamsted Park? By suggesting that a new estate, albeit small, be located in South Harpenden hints at an underlying fear by the writer, who lives near one of the proposed sites for development in North Harpenden, is trying to pass the problem down the line. Or, does he genuinely harbour fears that this end of town could eventually become part of Greater Luton?

RICHARD WHITE Park Hill, Harpenden SIR – It is a pity that Steve Pryor did not read my letter objecting to the erosion of the Green Belt round Harpenden more carefully before calling me a selfish NIMBY. I expressly said that excessive development “would not benefit either those of us who already live here or newcomers, who would not find the pleasant rural homes and lifestyles they imagine”. Many individuals and groups agree with me. Are the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Harpenden Green Belt Association, the Harpenden Society, and many walking, horse riding and cycling groups, to name but a few all comprised of selfish people? Hardly. It is obvious that residents of any area want to have a say in any future plans for their home town and/or county and are unlikely to be deterred by name calling. The only comment that I made about the proposed new secondary school off Common Lane was that “the site off the Lower Luton Road is strongly opposed”. This is a fact. Steve’s comment that we should “support the new school proposal as hopefully it will address the shortage of places once and for all” is very naive. A new school will soon be inadequate if our area continues to grow at the proposed rate. Since writing my letter I have heard from Harpenden Green Belt Association asking me to pass on their observations. They make the following points: n SADC could legally set a housing target that would leave the Green Belt undisturbed. It can meet the likely housing needs of residents of this district for the next 20 years without building on Green Belt land. n Luton Road carries over 11 million vehicles per year and the now confirmed airport expansion will add an extra 7,500 per day. More than 20 per cent. n SADC have ignored one of the reports that they have commissioned. This report begins: “There is overwhelming quantitative evidence that the current level of urban development in St Albans is unsustainable.” We were asked to contact our local councillors to let them know our views. My local councillor, Mary Maynard, replied instantly and very helpfully and is fully supportive of maintaining the Green Belt wherever possible, though the pressures to develop are huge. She also stressed the urgent need for a Strategic Local Plan without which there are few constraints on developers.

GILLIAN WEBB Browning Road, Harpenden

SIR – My response to Mr Pryor (July 10) is that the most selfish act of all is to destroy the environment for future generations. Any future development in the district, including a new secondary school, must be on previously developed land. Farmland is too valuable a resource to be sacrificed to bricks and mortar, too much has already been lost and this cannot continue. Likewise sporting and recreational sites, including allotments, must be protected, particularly those facilities such as Greenacres (Letters, July 3) which appeal especially to the under 18s, over 50s and women – all groups which the Government is keen to engage in sporting activity. It is also important that no more historic buildings are destroyed if we are to preserve the remaining character of the area.. I agree we need another secondary school but most certainly not in Harpenden. I can think of no site in Harpenden that will not cause utter chaos. Batford and Southdown as well as Harpenden are gridlocked at rush hour and most of the surrounding roads are narrow country lanes which have already become rat runs, carrying a high volume of speeding traffic. Adding further traffic to these roads is madness. The search for a new location has been shrouded in secrecy, for who knows what reason. The initial site at Batford was known only to a small select group until the initial announcement was made as a fait accompli. The location of the other sites considered was kept highly secret. The new search for a site is being carried out in the same manner. The first indication the owners of one of the sites had was “a very arrogant letter” a few days before a feasibility study was carried out. Surely any new school must be built in Wheathampstead. Harpenden already has three excellent secondary schools and it is children from Wheathampstead and the villages who struggle to get a place. It needs to be in the centre of the settlement so that as many as possible can walk to school and the school can be part of the community. If a new school is built in Harpenden then Wheathampstead and village children will continue to be at the back of the queue for places. There was, of course, a secondary school in the perfect location which HCC sold to developers a few years ago in the full knowledge that the current situation would arise. I think those responsible for the sale should be held to account, if necessary in court. Their action has caused untold stress and expense to the children (and their families) who would have attended this school rather than travelling miles away for their education. It has also cost us taxpayers millions of pounds in finding an alternative site and eventually building a new school. I understand that a similar situation has arisen in other towns in Hertfordshire, so we can only conclude that HCC has been asset stripping the county by selling off property which is in public ownership. I cannot recall county councillors ever being given a mandate for this. They certainly do not appear to understand the concept of public service.

RHODA HARRISON Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Welcome decision over incinerator

SIR – We are delighted and relieved that Mr Pickles has rejected the plan for a rubbish incinerator in Hatfield. Greens have consistently opposed this scheme since it would have cost millions, blighted the area and been an inefficient means of dealing with waste problems. Now we have an opportunity to pursue less costly, more efficient and sustainable methods of waste disposal. There is an urgent need for informed debate within the district and the county council – this must begin with a series of questions about why they continued to pursue this project long after its disadvantages and unsuitability had been expertly explained to them by the anti-incinerator campaigners and local Greens. We will ensure these questions are asked on behalf of local taxpayers.


‘Vandalism’ of our heritage continues

SIR – Ever since the iron railings protecting the Roman wall on the Causeway were removed there has been serious damage caused by people climbing onto and walking along the top of the wall. A few years ago I can remember there was a warning sign against climbing but that was removed or lost. When the fence was removed two years ago and the new path constructed I contacted the St Albans council and asked when the fence would be reinstated as I feared that damage would occur. The council referred me to English Heritage who said the the fence would not be replaced as “free access” by the public must be allowed. The trouble is that now climbing onto the wall and jumping down is a magnet and seen as an attraction by some people. When are English Heritage and St Albans council going to wake up and see that our Roman heritage is being destroyed and replace the Causeway railings?

PHILIP BAKER Augustus Close, St Albans

Have your say on NHS data plan

SIR – I am writing to tell your readers about the National Health Service’s “care.data” plan. It requires GPs to transfer patients’ medical records to a central data base supervised by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). After public controversy and concern the national transfer of data was postponed from the end of March to later this year. Patients will be able to tell their GP if they agree to their records being transferred to the central data base (opt in) or disagree (opt out). Supporters of the plan argue that it will have benefits. It could improve the treatment of patients in out-of-area hospitals and provide a large “sample” for research into the development and use of new drugs and treatments, etc.. Opponents say hospitals already have treatment-related data and that most medical breakthroughs are not made by sampling. Opponents make several other points. A leaflet about the plan was delivered to each dwelling but many people confused it with junk mail and threw it away, so do not have enough information to decide whether to opt in or opt out. The plan will involve risks: data might not be anonymous, it might be obtained by hackers or leaked by employees, and could be sold to commercial firms, etc.. If your readers want to find out more about the “care.data” plan they should contact England.cdo@nhs.net, a web-site which the NHS has established to give information, receive views, answer questions, and provide speakers. The NHS has also set up an information line at 0300.456.3531. If readers want to “go to the top” and contact the NHS official in charge of information and publicity about “care.data” they can do so at tim.kelsey@nhs.net A non-NHS view point can be found by consulting the campaign group Medical Confidential. After considering relevant facts and views readers should then visit their GP’s surgery and ask for a form which they can use to opt in or opt out.

JOHN WIGLEY Chair St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group