Letters, June 20, 2013

Questions, questions, questions...

SIR – At the Annual Council Meeting of May 20, 2013, I felt it necessary to put a question to Harpenden Town Council publically. They advised that they could not answer as they had not been given my question in advance.

They have now also received the question in writing but still, to date, I have had no response whatsoever and the minutes have not been made available on their website. I thought perhaps a little reminder might encourage them to reply. It begins with a short statement from the previous year’s Mayoral report.

In regard to the devolution of various assets in Harpenden, including Marquis Lane, the Mayor added ‘the Town Council were looking forward to working with the local community in realising their ambitions for the sites that were being devolved to Harpenden.’

It was stated that the first corporate objective was ‘To serve those who live in the town’. It was also stated that to achieve these aims they would ‘consult with the community to establish its aspirations for the future’.

They then went on to erect a fence and gate along Marquis Lane without any consultation with residents whatsoever. Worse still, they cited various excuses for this failure to consult such as urgency, health and safety, complaints from residents and finally duty to protect the grass, none of which they have been able to support or justify.

After months of attempts, on our part, to assess how and why these measures were put upon us by the Environment Committee and many complaints from other residents regarding members and officers involved, the previous Mayor Nicola Linacre’s simple response was: ‘Well we’ve put it up now, why should we take it down?’

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Our question was: Is this seriously how the residents of Harpenden should expect their representatives to behave?


Marquis Lane, Harpenden

Airport parking fees soaring skywards

SIR – When is somebody going to do something about the “rip-off” parking fees at Luton Airport? Not only do we have to pay a drop off charge for 15 minutes, and a trolley charge, but now we are not allowed to return to the mid-term car park within four hours, or we will be charged the exhorbitant parking charge (the original free time was one hour, but was reduced to half an hour).

Have the people who set these limits ever tried to meet passengers at Luton using the arrival time as a guide?


Bloomfield Road, Harpenden

Euro-only battling over the scraps...

SIR – I do not wish to intrude upon the private grief that is the Ukip and Green Parties arguing over the relative merits of fourth and fifth place finishes in the recent county council elections in St Albans. But I cannot allow your UKIP correspondent to get away with repeating the myth that 75 per cent of UK laws originate from the EU.

It is a common UKIP tactic to invent or distort a fact or figure and to keep repeating it in the hope that people will eventually come to believe it. Thus readers may recall the ludicrous claim during the election campaign that 27 million Bulgarians and Romanians will soon be coming to Britain despite the fact that the combined population of the two countries is – 27 million!

The 75 per cent claim comes from the same locker. The politically-neutral House of Commons library actually did some extensive research on this issue in 2010, which suggested that the percentage of secondary legislation in the UK that resulted from EU requirements fluctuated between eight and 10 per cent over the previous decade.

As a candidate for the European elections next year however I am less interested in the number of laws coming from the EU and more interested in whether those laws are good or bad and whether they promote the freedom and wellbeing of its citizens. Ukip evidently has a different idea which is why UKIP MEPs opposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, voted against greater co-operation of EU police forces to catch people traffickers and refused to support lower mobile phone roaming charges across the EU. That is why a recent survey named UK Lib Dem MEPs as the hardest working of any political grouping in the European Parliament. And the laziest? You guessed it – UKIP.


Lib Dem district councillor for St Peter’s ward and Euro candidate for the East of England region

Hart Road, St Albans

Belt up over vote

SIR – I see Cllr Churchard is moving from lies and defamation to just deception in his recent letter.

The Full Council in November was not asked to vote for 350 houses at Oaklands. It was asked to support an Independent Review of the Green Belt. I did not vote for this as I did not believe it was necessary.

Green Belt Reviews are only done where Councils want to build substantial numbers of houses in Green Belt. Cllr Churchard’s vote will lead to a lot more Green Belt being lost to housing.

Cllr Churchard’s letter is just an attempt to complicate the issue. The issue is: Cllr Churchard’s election literature stated a blatant lie. His quoted defence in the paper was another lie. Now he is squirming and attempting to deceive the public.

Ref: http://stalbans.moderngov.co.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=13504


Conservative District Cllr Sandridge

Windmill Avenue, St Albans

Fighting for our right to a great parklife

SIR – “The primary use or use in the recent past [of Verulamium Park] furthers or has furthered the social wellbeing or interests of the local community. Now or in the next five years its primary use could continue to further the social wellbeing or interests of the local community.”

The St Albans City and District Council is at last beginning to ask for our help in listing all our tangible assets along these lines.

But a list is one thing. To listen, decide and act is what is needed.

Ginny Allkins is right in her letter to you last week about our blindspots about Verulamium Park, both as users and statutory authorities, and about how to put things right. Mrs Allkins makes good suggestions. The paths next to the lake are the same width as when I was pushed round it in my pram before the war. A decade ago one district councillor proposed that a pumping station be installed to make use of the scruffy Tingey’s farm area. The jet d’eau between the artificial islands would aerate the whole lake as well as be used in the poignant moment in the Alban story in future pilgrimage processions. The temporary fireman’s hose is not enough for this as a potentially world-class event.

But the real conundrum is how to coordinate voluntary and statutory rights and responsibilities. Verulamium Park is a priceless international asset. The goodwill of users is also priceless. The park is not a Royal Park with all that that would imply for funding and audit. Representatives of all of us who own it, maintain it and use it need to meet, simply, “to sort the park out”. So, make a start, build up an email contact list and cascade it to those on it (with their okays of course). Ginny and I and our families would be delighted to join you on it (as Matt Adams in your private capacity as a user). Now choose a name for the email newsletter for contacts, and then get an independent volunteer to edit it for the group. All journeys start with a single step. Meetings then follow, but it is initiatives like Ginny’s, through the local media like your paper and website, that really count.


Marlborough Gate, St Albans

Memories of a city’s special character

SIR – The letter from Anne Graham in the Herts Advertiser dated May 23 headed “Anyone remember Tramp Dick?” has information provided about him, with which I agree.

As a lifelong Old Albanian resident I have many memories of this man and information which I believe to be correct regarding his past before withdrawing from society and becoming a loner tramp.

He lived in a self-made hut of wood and corrugated iron along a muddy lane, and it became known as Tramp Dick Lane.

After my parents moved to Jennings Road in 1932 when I was seven, Dick was often seen walking from his hut to the shops in the Fleetville and Crown areas. He regularly walked down Jennings Road with a pack on his back and an enamel mug tied on with string, probably to get a drink of water from the fountain in Clarence Park or perhaps from one of the shopkeepers which he visited.

There was a fresh fish shop in Hatfield Road (about No 159) run by Mr and Mrs Rowe. She served in the shop and he delivered fish on his tradesman bicycle dressed in a dark suit and cap.

Mrs Rowe knew quite a lot about Dick’s life and he used to ask her to read letters he had written or received; his handwriting was good. It was said his full name was Richard White or Whiting, and he had been a schoolmaster but had been crossed in a love affair which broke his heart, and changed his lifestyle.

I expect he was able to buy fish or be given off-cuts to make a meal. He also used to go in to the bakers Maison Frank, later Premier Bakers but now a food takeaway situated between Blandford and Glenferrie Roads.

He would obtain stale bread either free or at reduced price and I used to see him in this shop occasionally. He had money and I believe an account at Barclays Bank which had a branch at the Crown junction on the Hatfield Road/Clarence Road corner which is now a money loan shop.

I used to see Dick sitting on the bank steps in the summer sunshine. I never saw him further from his home than this, and he would probably then walk up Clarence Road and then east back to his home.

He always walked with a stick cut from a tree and trimmed to make it comfortable in use.

His heavy overcoat below knee length was well worn and tied with rope around the waist as was his trousers, with split seams.

He wore well-used shoes with no socks, exposing his unwashed ankles. He wore a battered brown trilby hat which covered his unkempt hair and his shaggy beard obscured his facial characteristics.

I never saw him speak to anyone as he quietly walked the shopping streets and residential roads; he never begged. As the years went by he would sometimes stop and lean over someone’s front fence for a rest. I looked out of the front window of our house one afternoon and he was resting over the front fence, which could be frightening for a child, but he was harmless and never aggressive as far as I am aware.

He was found dead in his hut aged about 80 and his hut was knocked down, probably by the council and everything removed.

It was reported in the Herts Advertiser and sometime later I passed the site and the only visible remains was a small area devoid of scrub which would soon be taken back by nature and all that remains of Tramp Dick are our memories.


Cornwall Road, St Albans

Not fit for a child?

Sir – I am fairly confident that the letters from one of your more prolific correspondents are not written by a child. However I am much less confident that they are not read by children.

It is therefore disappointing that you have supported his inability to state his case in straightforward English by publishing a word completely inappropriate to trees, and indeed inappropriate to the standards of your newspaper, in his letter in the June 13 edition, just above his name.

After sound advice even First Capital Connect do not agree with his views, but their intention not to upset anyone never had a hope it seems.

Andrew Johnstone

Holyrood Crescent, St Albans

Cyclists have their own responsibilities

SIR – As a keen cyclist of 25-odd years I feel I must weigh in on this debate.

I commute from St Albans at around 7.15am, arrive back around 5.45pm turning into and out of Station Road from Hatfield Road. At a conservative estimate, I would say at least 50 per cent of cyclists going to and from the station at this time, when faced with a red light, will check and then go through it.

This sort of disrespect for the law only helps fuel the anti-cycling feeling and really should be stamped out with a few well placed police issuing fines.

Andy Ball

Damson Way, St Albans

Clamping down on parking hypocrisy

Sir – Can Mr Lovelady please explain how any vehicle can be safely parked in a known parking problem hotspot?

The photograph shows the enforcment vehicle parked on a double yellow line.

Epic fail!

Zak Demetriou (age nine)

Claremont, Bricket Wood

Staying in the loop over rail line

SIR – I read with interest the letter in the latest Herts Advertiser on line that due to the resignalling at Watford Junction there is talk of reinstating the passing loop at Bricket Wood.

I, in fact, travelled on the line to and from work over 50 years ago when I worked for BR at Watford Junction and also worked at Bricket Wood when there was a signal box there.

Some bureaucrat got it wrong when it was decided to remove the loop in the first place.

Alan Lawson

Melbourne, Australia

Speaking the plane truth?

SIR – Mr Pryor (May 30) uses the old trick of quoting me out of context and then misinterpreting our, LADACAN, original letter – which was simply to warn local residents, based on the experience over Easter, of the likely impact of Luton’s plan to double the number of departures in the sensitive 6am to 7.30am period (including Sundays). Luckily we don’t need to rely on his “I see no planes” surveys as the published radar tracks show the truth of the matter.

The fact that two other protest groups have recently arisen, in Flamstead and St Albans, shows LADACAN is not on its own in its concerns. Happily, various Councils have also realised the possible impact and, like LADACAN, have sent in formal objections to the airport’s plan.

John Davis for LADACAN

Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden

A siren call for all dog owners

Sir – Is it me and just because I own a dog with a bit of a noise phobia, but it seems that every time we go out for a walk there’s a police or ambulance siren going off somewhere. Even on Sunday morning at 7.30am we had just got out of the car at Highfield Park and guess what...

My dog and I are normally quite tolerant creatures but this is beginning to get to us. Surely there can’t be a serious crime or accident every five minutes which necessitates this constant noise pollution.

I’d love to know if other residents within hearing distance of Hatfield Road particularly, have noticed this unfortunate phenomenon. Or have I been blissfully unaware that muggings, murders, fatal stabbings and the like are rife in St Albans?

My guess is that the local police in particular just like the sound of their own voice.

Kevin Brice

Salisbury Avenue, St Albans

Rail terminal may be boost for traffic

SIR – Kerry Smith begging (Herts Advertiser, May 30) for consideration by M1 southbound drivers at the Bricket Wood junction should be campaigning for the rail/road transfer station at Park Street. That could take a few hundred lorries off that part of the M1 every day – and the alternative at Luton would not help.

On June 6, HRH The Duke of York officially opened a new rail freight terminal at Felixstowe Docks, but it can only be used if there are facilities at the other end of the line to get goods back onto the road for final deliveries – and we can expect a similar announcement from the London Gateway terminal under construction on the north bank of the River Thames in Thurrock, Essex.

David Stonebanks

Chequers Bridge Road, Stevenage

Cut the red tape to help cut the ribbon

SIR – Your correspondent Michael Weaver (Herts Advertiser, June 13) surely struck a chord in many readers by highlighting the oppressive and destructive pressure of the ever oncoming tide of bureaucracy imposed on the organisers of fun and cultural public events. If left unchallenged this well-meant tide could eventually swamp the energies of public-spirited workers and leave us with few or none of the large scale community-building events that we have enjoyed in the past.

As Mr Weaver said, it is a sad reflection on the drift of modern life. Perhaps it is time to start fighting back at this suffocating level of political correctness and demand a return of responsible common sense to the organisation and running of non-profit-making public events.

Not so far removed from this example of stifling administration is the seemingly deliberate non-transparency of the behind-scenes communications between Helioslough and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles, as reported in your June 13 issue. Anne Main MP refers to “threatening letters” issued by Helioslough’s solicitors, which fits well with the apparent caving-in of Mr Pickles in his astounding U-turn just before Christmas and with his unrealistic brushing-aside of the many fatal flaws of the scheme including deliberately ignoring the inadequacy of the rail system. Helioslough are known for their aggressive lobbying. The local community has a moral right to know what threats and negotiations are going on clandestinely; the current non-transparency is far from the spirit of democracy.

After all, it is not the profit-making lawyers who would be affected by this monstrous Terminal, but us. Perhaps the Herts Advertiser could use its investigative expertise to find out who to contact to register our objections to these concealed dealings, and publish this information in next weeks’ issue. I am sure that many of us would respond by writing accordingly.


Park Street, St Albans.

Life’s a riot with Spy versus Spy

Sir – Your front page article (Big Brother could be watching you...) and editorial (Herts Adevertiser, 13 June ) rightly draw attention to St Albans District Council trialling a CCTV ’spy car’.

It is rather worrying that the ruling administration think there could be a place for such Orwellian gismos on our streets.

As portfolio holder for parking in 2009, I resisted officer proposals to issue traffic wardens with “head cams”. Earlier this year, I sat on a council working group looking at future parking enforcement contracts. One of the recommendations, which will go before Cabinet in July, is that no surveillance equipment should be deployed without thorough scrutiny by councillors, and that would certainly include the recently spotted “spy car”.

Liberal Democrats will remain vigilant about the deployment of electronic devices by the council. Whilst the police seem able to install cameras to check our movements almost with impunity, we will do all we can to ensure that full and open accountability to elected members and the public continues to apply at the district council.

Anthony Rowlands

Leader, Liberal Democrat Group

St Albans District Council

Back on your own doorsteps

SIR – Doorstep deliveries appear to have gone full circle.

In the 40s when I was a lad the streets were visited seven days a week by delivery vehicles, some horse and carts.

The milkman, the baker, the butcher and the seasonal veg and fruit man, in the 50s they were joined by mobile shops, especially the new estates.

All of these activities were lost with the introduction of self service then later supermarkets. Many small business all around the country lost their livelihood. Now look what’s happening in your streets today, all these supermarkets are sending their fleets of vans to make doorstep deliveries.

Often you can see two or more of these vans making visits to your street at the same time. How do those who were affected by the doorstep delivery demise feel about this ‘new’ concept of shopping.

Michael Clark

ex dairy worker, Quantock Close , St Albans

A bridge over troubled railways

Sir – I wonder if I am the only Harpenden resident feeling slightly sickened by the photograph in the local press showing local mayors and councillors at the official opening of the new lifts at Harpenden station (left)?

These are the same people who have chosen to do nothing in recent years whilst allowing Harpenden station and Station Approach road to become a total disgrace and something that many, many residents are ashamed of!

The new lifts will, of course, serve a purpose but the new footbridge which contains them is an appalling, ugly, oversized eyesore, bearing a resemblance, in size and in colour, to something salvaged from an Italian cruise liner.

It, sadly, is visible from many parts of the town.

Station Approach too was also allowed to become a dangerous, filthy road which has been allocated, entirely, to a taxi company. It is impossible for town residents to use the road safely to pick up or drop off family or friends – a quite disgraceful situation.

For some 16 months now, I have been in discussions with First Capital Connect regarding this unacceptable mess and, in this time, I have received not one iota of support or assistance from any local councillor, nothing whatsoever, although one advised me that his own wife felt “threatened” by the excessive amount of taxi drivers at the station.

On another occasion, last year, at a meeting convened with FCC management to discuss this situation, two councillors could not attend due to hospital appointments, and a third, our current Mayor, “forgot” to turn up!

Suddenly, for a photo opportunity (at least) and a cheque from FCC, everybody is available!

How very revealing!

Victor Lowry

Amenbury Lane, Harpenden