Letters, June 2, 2011, part one

Cherry-picked stats in 20mph argument

SIR – In his recent letter (May 19), Eric Bridgstock wrote about the scheme to set a 20mph speed limit for a large number of streets around the cathedral in St Albans.

Not only did he claim that there was no evidence to suggest that the roads would be safer but he also asserted that the roads would be less safe.

To support his claim Mr Bridgstock referred to the report for the Department for Transport published in September 2010 on the extensive area wide 20mph speed limit scheme in Portsmouth.

However, rather than quoting the balanced conclusions of the report itself, Mr Bridgstock cherry-picked only those figures which fitted his view that “Portsmouth has wasted over �500,000 on a scheme that has made their roads less safe”.

The Executive Summary of the report by Atkins Transport and Planning Management, for the Department of Transport, says: “In conclusion, early figures suggest that the implementation of the 20mph speed limit scheme has been associated with reductions in road casualty numbers. The scheme has reduced average speeds and has been well supported during its first two years of operation.”

For Mr Bridgstock to claim that this report for the Department of Transport in any way supports his view that “slower, calmer traffic can lull pedestrians into a false sense of security, leading them to be less careful when crossing the road” is a travesty.

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The Atkins report also compared the results in Portsmouth (which had only speed limit signs and no traffic calming) with those from the 20mph zones in London and Hull (which had both speed limit signs and traffic calming). The changes in injury accidents following implementation of the schemes were as follows: London – decrease of 43 per cent; Hull – decrease of 56 per cent; Portsmouth – decrease of 21 per cent.

Of course any individual can selectively extract figures which suit her or his own prejudices but a reasonable person looks to the well-regarded authors of reports such as these to weigh all the evidence and come to a balanced view. In this case we have Mr Bridgstock’s view as against Atkins and the Department for Transport.

I think Mr Bridgstock will have a hard job to convince people of his view that slower and calmer traffic is bad news for road safety. I have yet to see any petition from residents asking for faster and more aggressive traffic on the streets where they live.

I think residents and visitors to the cathedral area will use their common sense, backed up by research and expert opinion, to conclude that a 20mph speed limit will make a modest contribution to a more pleasant environment for all.


St Albans Cycle Campaign

Litter louts must face prosectution

SIR – It seems the battle to keep our roadsides clear of litter is never ending. This situation is not helped by the current legal loophole that lets litter louts get away with it scot-free.

Currently our local council can’t take effective action against people who throw litter out of their cars because the existing law requires the council to prove the identity of the individual who threw the litter, rather than just proving that litter was thrown from the car in the first place.

As a member of Park Street Litter Pickers, I support the work being done by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Local Government Association and Keep Britain Tidy to amend the existing law, so that whoever owns the vehicle is responsible for what is thrown out of it.

Similar to the way laws on speeding, wearing seat belts and fly-tipping work.

I’m sure there are hundreds of councils, citizens and motorists who are sick of roadside litter.

Clearing up this litter is expensive and dangerous and this simple change to the law would provide our council with an effective deterrent against the careless and thoughtless behaviour of litterers.

I would like to encourage your readers to write to their MP about the issue – there is a draft letter available at www.cpre.org.uk.


Mayflower Road, Park Street

Labour’s still a contender

SIR – I am writing in response Mr Graham Ward’s letter published in your newspaper of May 19.

Whilst I can understand Mr Ward being in celebratory mood about the election of a Green Party councillor in St Albans, I must take issue with his suggestion that Labour stood still in the district council elections. Labour’s share of the vote in St Albans rose substantially, at 23.5 per cent it was up by 6 per cent on 2010 and by 7.5 per cent on 2008.

What is more, it rose across the board. Though the Greens did very well in St Peter’s, and I congratulate them on their campaign, their overall vote rose by little more than 1 per cent from 2008 levels.

I put Mr Ward’s assertion down to enthusiasm, rather disingenuousness. But the hidden message of these district council elections is that St Albans is moving back to being the three-horse race it was up until 2005. This means that next year Labour will be in the strongest position to challenge Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors across the district.

Despite repeating for many years that “Labour can’t win here” – then having spent the 2005 general election saying “The Tories can’t win here” (something I’m sure Mrs Anne Main MP is still making jokes about!) – the Liberal Democrats in St Albans consistently failed to offer effective opposition to the Conservatives at a district, county or Parliamentary level in Westminster or in the EU.

Labour in St Albans stands reinvigorated and ready to take up that challenge.


Bernard Street, St Albans

Benefits of 712 bus service

SIR – Those readers who commute by rail to work in London’s West End, and pay for parking on top, or those wanting a day out in London, might want to think about trying the Uno 712 bus as an alternative.

It is much cheaper: only costing �10 for a peak time return, �38 for a weekly.

It goes via Brent Cross, Finchley Road, Lord’s, Baker Street, Oxford Street, Hyde Park Corner and Victoria. Off peak travel is even cheaper – �6 return and free for OAPs with a travel pass. Buses leave St Peter’s Street at 6.47am, 10am and 1pm.

With rail fares bound to be rising again it is important that we keep the direct bus to London as an alternative and we can best do that by using it!


The Pastures, Chiswell Green

Hedgerow horror

SIR – For some years we have enjoyed the view from our front windows northwards towards Gorhambury.

A hitherto attractive and reasonably healthy hawthorn hedge of some 10 metres, accomplished over its presumably 30-plus years lifetime, nurtured by some amateur gap-filling now and again by residents over the years, insulates Fryth Mead from Bluehouse Hill.

Last Wednesday at 6pm I return home from work to find a several metre gap in the hedge replacing our original vista with an unimpeded view of A4147 traffic.

This total removal of a section of mature hedgerow comes on top of the previously-noticed cutting of roots close to the trunks of the hawthorns over an adjoining 20-metre stretch to enable the publicised “deep excavations”.

This, during the extended period of drought during which these cut roots have remained exposed, can have done these trees no good at all, to say the least.

The work is carried out under the auspices of the Gas Alliance. My immediate call to the published number yields a polite response from an employee of National Grid.

We both Google-map it while conversing so we are clear about the hedgerow in question. Regarding the hedge, everything will be put back like-for-like and a supervisor will call me the next day.

Also gleaned was that National Grid utilise their alliance partner Skanska to replace gas mains, the latter sub-contracting out the work.

Thursday 8am – I trundle round to enquire from someone on-site if there is an intention to remove further sections of hedge and what’s the expectation in terms of replacing like-for-like.

A mature and courteous man (Skanska) tells me that they are very green, doing everything they can to minimise damage and that he will convey my concerns to his project engineer (National Grid). I can’t help thinking that he is used to these encounters.

Today, Friday 1pm – I receive on my voicemail the awaited call from National Grid informing me that they can confirm that there are no plans to replace any gas mains in Fryth Mead or indeed any streets in the vicinity so I don’t have to worry about any damage to hedgerows. So that’s alright then.

It may well be that the main needed replacing and it is clearly situated inconveniently under ‘our hedge’ so you appreciate the logical problems.

We are told by the council that that planning is not required where utilities are concerned so residents don’t get to know about these things until they have happened.

But is there a body locally which oversees this kind of utility work and has the power and will to ensure the contractors actually replace trees like for like: dense, mature planting, protected by a fence or posts and nurtured until well-established?

If such an individual or body exists their assurance would be warmly welcomed.


St Michael’s, St Albans