Letters, June 2, 2011, part three

Lack of vision over new school site

SIR – I have hesitated to comment on the proposed primary school on the art school site as my earlier concerns about the loss of the Margaret Harvey Gallery raised little interest.

However, the photographs of Cllrs Donald and Perks with David Partridge displaying a banner ‘Right idea-Wrong location’, this week’s article ‘Kept in the dark…’ and your editorial comment, demand an informative response.

Having been responsible for the design of the original building (with Michael Tempest, the job architect from the HCC architects department), I am very aware of the unsuitability of the site for a primary school, especially in relation to parking.

When the Pemberton School site was chosen the plans for an inner relief road were still being considered (hence the positioning of the College of Building). Also, it was proposed that the upper part of Hatfield Road should be closed to create a ‘cultural island‘ comprising Marlborough Alms Houses, the Museum of St Albans and the art school. The project was abandoned but, meanwhile, approval was given for the school of art and the major part of Pemberton School was demolished. Phase II was added later which included a specially designed ceramic centre with a separate kiln room. The remaining part of Pemberton School would have been the site of phase III, incorporating, most significantly, enhanced parking areas.

Kate Morris is absolutely right in criticising the proposal to use the former car park as a playground, ultimately for 400 children. Most importantly, during my time as principal, I was continuously asked to deal with illegal parking, parking on the pavements and parking by lorries servicing nearby public houses and shops. To add to this the movements of primary school children conjures up a nightmare of Dantesque proportions.

The art college (and subsequent School of Law) is well suited for adults: adaptations for primary school schoolchildren will be very costly. There appears to be a lack of vision in the proposals. Why not consider the demolition of the former tax offices and other unsightly structures on the Oaklands site and build a purpose-built school that would enhance and service the developing nearby estates?

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PS. Cllr Grover’s comments reported in the edition of May 26, supports the need to investigate further sites, especially in relation to new developments. Cllr Perk’s report of the meeting at County Hall confirms the perceived indifference of HCC to educational facilities: such a depressing change from their predecessors in the ’60s and ’70s.


Hillside Road, St Albans

A bus driver’s view

SIR – Safety measures or pollution control, which is more important for the city centre?

In recent years the “safety” measures put in place by the council and Herts Highways to slow traffic down has just ground traffic to a halt, causing delay misery and exhaust pollution in our city.

I may not have a distinguished or glorified job title, but as a local bus driver for 11 years I see day in day out what is happening.

These measures frequently cause gridlock: having a loading bay in the middle of the road in Chequer Street; disabled parking and loading bays outside NatWest and Waterstone’s made too narrow so vehicles stick out into the road preventing big vehicles such as buses from getting past; allowing too many vehicles to park at the top end of Victoria Street resulting in gridlocked traffic trying to get up; pedestrian crossings that can have seven to 10 second periods where vehicles and pedestrians cannot move because they both are facing a red light!

I suppose this does make it safer for the pedestrian as vehicles spend more time stationary than moving. But then breathing in high exhaust fumes and listening to rumbling engines is hardly pleasant!

How about letting traffic flow, but not at a fast pace. How do we do this? Synchronise traffic lights so vehicles do not have to keep stopping; give full-size parking bays for disabled drivers; only allow a couple of disabled bays at the top of Victoria Street for parking; use amber flashing lights at pedestrian crossings so if there is no-one crossing traffic can move.

Safety could be improved by teaching people the Highway Code. Every day this is what I see; people walking across the road paying more attention to their mobile phone than the oncoming traffic; without looking, mothers pushing out their pushchair into the road before quickly pulling it back realising they cannot make it across; people walking across a pedestrian crossing on a ‘red’ man because they are fed up waiting!

Of course by allowing traffic to flow more there is the danger that this will cause an increase in vehicles coming through the city and we will be back where we started.

Pollution control is just as important as safety. The best answer then? Take cars out of the equation. I would fully support a ban on cars going through St Peter’s Street. When I’m not driving my bus I never drive through the city, I always use other routes. Yes, your sat-nav may disagree because it’s quarter-mile longer, but it’s still quicker!

People who argue the shops suffered a few years ago when St Peter’s Street was closed off for renovation works forget that high metal roadside barriers prevented shoppers from crossing the road for quite a while. Access to shops was not easy for many during these works.

By just allowing buses, taxis, disabled drivers and controlled delivery vehicles through St Peter’s Street will make the city centre a safe pedestrians paradise!


Britton Avenue, St Albans

Tree-felling shame

SIR – It is a month on from the savage cutting down of trees in Birkland’s Common, but there is no closure, no attempts at restitution or consequences for those responsible for desecrating a pleasant corner of St Albans.

Madeleine Burton reports (Herts Advertiser, May 27) that councillors will be informed of future tree-felling. This made us visit the despoiled site again this weekend.

Here we must state a declaration of interest since we and the rest of our immediate family were among the local volunteers who planted those trees. We have watched them grow and enjoyed the consequent locality. But now as you have shown in your pictures there is a group of 17 unsightly waist-high stumps.

The statement by a harassed officials that this was either pollarding or removal of self-seeded trees is plainly unwise ‘spin’ by an official under pressure. This was neither pollarding nor weeding out of over-crowded trees. The trees are cut at waist height, the most convenient way for a man with a chainsaw to cut down trees quickly.

Seven at least were ones we and others planted as they are of identical age (number of rings), shape and size. The trees are mostly together so there is no sense of removing self-sown trees to prevent over-crowding. This was not tree management as implied by the officials This was tree-destruction.

For those who know their Tolkien, the gang that did the work were fortunate there were no ‘Ents’ about! We can only speculate how far the cutters would have gone if the local residents had not intervened and we give warm thanks to the latter. So this was either a gross error of contracting, or of supervision of contracted work. However we have not yet seen an apology, or heard of any contractor being fined for breach of contract, or officially reprimanded.

There is always speculation about the hand of developers in this locality wanting to make open spaces less attractive, but we do not subscribe to that view. To us the most important issue now is what is going to be done by those responsible. That is to remove or coppice the ugly stumps and put in place new trees. That is a worthwhile topic for local councillors to pursue.


New House Park, St Albans

Beaumont decision

SIR – It is disappointing that Beaumont school has been given approval to build up to 75 houses on their playing fields by a planning inspector who is not local and does not know the area.

He does not know that Hatfield Road is so clogged with traffic that it often comes to a complete standstill. Given that most families have two cars, his approval for the new houses could bring an extra 150 cars onto the road.

No-one disputes the need for a new entrance road to the school. But are 75 houses really necessary? The average house price in St Albans is about �400,000. So 75 houses could net a total of �30 million. I can’t believe that a new road, sports pitches and a few new school buildings will cost �30 million. This means someone will make a massive profit. At the expense of the long suffering motorists who will have to endure even more delays on local roads.

The number of new houses should be limited to only those needed to pay for the scheme, with no profit whatsoever.

Even better, as safety issues are the reason for a new access road being approved, the new road should be fully funded by central Government, with no houses being built at all.

In addition, the new road should be linked to Hatfield Road by a roundabout and not by traffic lights as planned, which would further add to delays on Hatfield Road.


Boissy Close, St Albans