Letters, June 19, 2014

Car parking plan needed for park

SIR – Greenwood Park and its leisure centre are well used and very popular in the school holidays, for the sports facilities and U3A meetings, etc. The park is well cared for by the groundsmen and it has qualified for a Green Flag award for the last two years. However the parish councillors do need to produce and publish a plan for increasing the car parking spaces, to be implemented in stages over the next few years according to available finance. I am sure the residents in Chiswell Green south of Watford Road will agree with this need.

BARBARA NOWELL Tippendell Lane, Chiswell Green

More thoughts on grass verges issue

SIR – Is there a correlation between the penny pinching/tree hugging policies of the council and the increased suffering experienced by many people in the district of hay fever? The long grass is contributing to a lengthened period of runny noses and sneezes and basically a miserable time from early spring and into the autumn for many people. I follow advice from our GP of starting to medicate before the season starts, washing faces, wearing sunglasses, keeping windows closed, etc., but basically my children and many others (including adults) have a grim summer and it will only get worse. Where are the nicely trimmed grass verges of my youth and the pride in the appearance of our community generated by the council? We all contribute to our upkeep and on this count, I do not feel we are getting value for money.

ALISON PETHER Gurney Court Road, St Albans

SIR – I’m not surprised the public are put off politicians and politics. The Herts Advertiser of June 12 had a spate of ‘Councillor Angry’ comments concerning the recent poor state of green verges. Firstly I came across Cllr Leach’s letter castigating Cllr Wakely for them, yet conveniently forgetting that he was also on the working party that managed the awarding of the contract to the present incumbents. Then I came across Cllr Lee’s campaign to improve them in your article titled “Verges row gets serious”. Either Cllr Lee does not understand the public sector procurement process and the role councillors had in that or she is not allowing the facts to get in the way of a good complaint and a chance to grandstand for her party in front of residents. Furthermore, accusations that the Conservatives are somehow at fault over this have a hollow ring to them when said working party consisted of two senior Tories, two senior Lib Dems (including the then-group leader) and Cllr Leach (also group leader) for Labour. Maybe Cllr Lee should give Cllr Leach a call and ask him what went wrong. I too have had a lot of complaints, but rather than blame someone, I have put out a warning shot that, despite the difficulties in awarding the contract initially, John O’Conner now need to start showing improvement

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CLLR STEVE BOWES-PHIPPS Park Street Ward Centaurus Square, Frogmore

Change of priorities

SIR – Conservative action not just words so wondered at your editorial of June 12. The priority of the St Albans district council’s Sports Leisure and Heritage Portfolio has changed to very much more working with the Museum and Gallery Trust’s drive to raise £1.7m towards the new exciting Town Hall Museum. The last three years it has been building sports and leisure infrastructure more suited to my civil engineering expertise. Different job different people and so was delighted months ago to strongly suggest Cllr Annie Brewster the ideal person to take over the Portfolio following her outstanding mayoral year. Annie has been fantastic keeping your photographer busy and getting to know people. The new role fits her to a tee. Westminster Lodge, Maltings Theatre, Batchwood Sports all completed, new Cotlandswick Leisure Centre started and the Town Hall museum outline design and lottery funding portion underway. Plenty of opportunity for valued residents to leave their heritage by funding the new Town Hall museum.

CLLR MIKE WAKELY Oakfield Road, Harpenden

New market promotes diversity

SIR – I was amazed at the comments from Melvyn Teare in your paper last week (Row over new market). Surely diversity and a choice of attractions for residents and visitors is what will keep the town thriving? It is sad when enterprising individuals try to make a difference only to be knocked back with negative views and draconian opinions. Given the input Mr Teare makes to St Albans, one would think he would support new ventures and be receptive to ideas that will encourage visitors. How does the market venture at Oaklands have any impact on the traditional street market in the town centre? Many people use the stalls regularly but may want something different as well, others may be bored with the market and want to have a choice. So, they go out of town and support other places, taking their money with them. Parking is, as usual, an issue in the town centre, Oaklands have the space. For new businesses wishing to trade on the market, it is difficult to get a pitch – because the market is so popular – so by offering them somewhere else to trade it benefits them. If successful, who knows maybe they’ll build a business that will then take on an empty shop, and provide more individuality to our high street once again. Something that seems so lacking and much sought after according to the comments in your paper (too many coffee chains). So what if the Royal Charter has been in place for over 400 years, the geography of the town was very different back then, as was transport, trading and lifestyles. We are very fortunate to have such a successful and popular market on two days, but there is still room for others. Thankfully Mr Shwe is more enlightened, let’s hope common sense prevails.

HEATHER FOSTER Hatfield Road, St Albans

Hydrotherapy pool closure shame

SIR – How very disappointing to find out that the Herts Community Trust has decided to close down the hydrotherapy service at the City Hospital (Plug pulled on hydrotherapy pool, Herts Advertiser June 12). Many people will feel very let down by this decision – particularly as there does not appear to have been any consultation with the users of the service or any public discussion about its future. So much for public involvement in the NHS, where is Healthwatch the patients’ champion or our local doctors who now hold the local health service budget? I have spoken to David Law, the chief executive of the Trust and he assures me that he is actively trying to broker a deal whereby people might be able to access a hydrotherapy pool at one of the county council special schools. That would be most welcome and we await developments.

CLLR ROMA MILLS Glenferrie Road, St Albans

Recycling boxes are abandoned by staff

SIR – We all receive Community News from St Albans district council, in which they stated there had been a rise of abusive behaviour when recycling had been collected. Has anyone from the council made spot checks around the area? It is a known fact that when recycling is being collected, they just abandon the boxes anywhere and anyhow. They never put them back properly where they found them. I have had to leave my car in the middle of the road to collect the box from the abandoned place in the middle of the driveway, put the lid back on and put it beside the other bins before I can get my car in the driveway. This is not the first time this has happened and across St Albans it is the same story. I wonder if a word to management in the recycling department with regard to putting the boxes back where they found them might just stop the bad behaviour to your recycling staff.

WENDY GARDNER Hazelwood Drive, St Albans

Living in the Twilight Zone?

SIR – Having just read your extraordinary Editor’s comment (Thursday, June 12) either you are living in the Twilight Zone or I am. The world of a female councillor within St Albans district council’s Conservative group’s so-called “all-boys’ club” that you describe bears no resemblance whatsoever to my experiences over the past seven years. Nor does your negative depiction of council leader Julian Daly. I have been fortunate to have been Deputy Mayor, Mayor and Chairman of Plans North. This year, as you will know by now, and completely contrary to your article, Cllr Brewster has become a member of the Cabinet, as was Teresa Heritage before her. Other female Conservative councillors have been appointed to chair two planning committees and the Health and Wellbeing Partnership. Having worked with Julian Daly for a long time I know the care that he takes to choose roles that fit councillors’ abilities and interests. At no time does he consider which sex that councillor is and he always behaves in a fair and gentlemanly way. His good judgement is evident by the resident satisfaction statistics which have risen significantly since Julian took the leadership of our district council. Now I turn to the Mayoralty. Annie has done an amazing job as Mayor, and has been publicly thanked at annual council and her abilities recognised as she now takes up her portfolio. So, I cannot understand your comments about a refusal to publicly acknowledge her, or that she doesn’t have the support of her party but is a thorn in our side. Where did that train of thought come from? Again, the Twilight Zone. I will also stand up for Mayors past, present and future. Each one has been genuine, worked hard and passionately for our district and been humbled by the people they have met. Each has brought their own flavour to the role and tried to promote our district, their charities and all of the unsung heroes they meet. None in my experience has just seen the role as “photo opportunities and free lunches”. Your editorial has managed to unjustly insult so many people. I do hope that, now you can see that your comments were premature, you will apologise to Julian Daly and give our new Mayor the respect that he deserves to represent our district as brilliantly as we know he will.

CLLR MAXINE CRAWLEY Redbourn District and County Councillor Saberton Close, Redbourn

(Editor’s Comment: The appointment of Annie Brewster to the Cabinet was only announced after we went to press. Had Cllr Daly responded to previous enquiries about her future role made over the past few months then this confusion may have been avoided. A simple off-the-record phone call or email would have sufficed, and thereby prevented any misunderstanding.)

Fears for city hospital’s future

SIR – How ironic that after all this time of deprivation, we are now being told by the new NHS boss that we need to, and should, retain our local hospitals! This, after our rather stupid government allowed the desecration of our brand new hospital all those years back, thereby robbing us of our most essential services such as our brand new, ultra modern coronary care unit, at which Eric Morecambe was once a patient... our very necessary children’s ward, where two of my own sons were patients, one being so ill that I was required to spend two nights in the hospital to be near him... and all our maternity services, to speak of a few of these very crucial needs. In the meantime, we have been required to somehow get all the way to Watford (no mean feat) to avail ourselves of these very necessary ministrations. Goodness knows how a mother, with other children at home, manages to daily visit her sick child all those miles away, and let’s face it, if a child is ill enough to be in hospital, it is imperative for the mother to be near. I well remember when those stressful changes first came about that our local MP had the audacity to knock on my door to ask for my support in the coming elections! What a cheek! What a naive lady. I left her in no doubt as to my feelings on the matter and she hasn’t been back since. As though we haven’t suffered enough in the past, we now have the worrying rumour that it is the intention to ultimately close the hospital down altogether, probably for very lucrative means; but this, of course, will not come about until after the elections! Or could our MP prove me to be wrong? Is she prepared to stand up and tell us categorically that there is no substance to this rumour and that she will give full backing to reinstating our valued, but much abused, local hospital, which recently achieved the honour of ‘Centre of Excellence’. If she can do this, I might once again make the effort to start voting again but, of course, like a lot of others, I lost heart a long time ago regarding this. I await events with bated breath.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Heartbreak of a two-tier economy

SIR – First we had the £1 shops then a Premier Inn in St Albans. If that wasn’t bad enough, now, horror of horrors, the people of Harpenden are to suffer the ignominy of having a food bank on their doorstep. Some recovery we’re having George! I jest. Whether a salubrious postcode or not, whether Halifax or Harpenden, the introduction of a food bank in any area is very much an indication of the two-tier economy going on in Britain today. On the one hand, we are seeing upward economic movement in some sectors of business whilst on a parallel plane, the upsurge in popularity of food banks right across all socio-economic groups indicates that at the same time, we are developing a massive under-class of poverty. Punitive changes to the benefit system for the unemployed and disabled, low wages, zero contracts coupled with massive and disproportionate rises in household running costs for hard working families means that everywhere you see a row full of shiny new 4x4s, you are equally likely to see queues of people outside community centres where families, some even working, line up in a scrabble for a few tins of butter beans and a loaf of bread. In 2014, to have such a two-tier economy is not just unfair, it is heart-breaking. There are no easy answers and I do not profess to have any myself. However, to know that even affluent locations such as ours has, in its midst, those facilities which might usually typify an area more associated with poverty is something that is more than thought-provoking. I commend the work that this fine group of volunteers is doing and trust that the need for food banks in the future will decrease. Somehow, I fear, I will probably be wrong. I thank you!

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Memories of the boatshed

SIR – Just reading the article about the Sea Cadets on the lake. It brings back memories of the 1950s when we used to go to the boatshed on Sunday mornings to do maintenance on the boats. In those days the unit had boats permanently on the lake moored at one of the islands. One other memory is, on the occasion of the Pageant at the time (can’t remember the year) the unit had some of the action involving the use of the boats.

ALAN LAWSON Melbourne, Australia