Letters, June 26, 2014

Support the indies

SIR – It is sad and depressing to read about the challenges faced by independent coffee shops and cafés trying to stay afloat in a city increasingly acquiring the look of Average High-Street Anywhere (Indie coffee shops feeling the strain from big chains). The big chains are visible because their huge corporate structures mean they can afford the huge rents required, but this doesn’t mean they offer better food and drink or superior service. For anyone scratching their head, wanting to buy a proper coffee that tastes of coffee but struggling to remember where to do that, most places are tucked away, either at one end of St Peter’s Street or down one of St Albans’ many hidden and quirky alleyways, and that’s what makes them even more special. At the top of St Peter’s there are Dolce Italia and Cafe Roma, both lovely places to watch the world go by over a coffee and a slice of toasted panattone or a fresh pastry, then there’s Abigail’s Tearooms near the Abbey with its amazing Welsh rarebit menu and tables outside, and the Secret Garden halfway down George Street, the Bakehouse, Apt Café, Courtyard Café, The Breakfast Club... All these, and there are others, offer varied menus offering food and drinks you won’t find at any of the boring, giant coffee chains, stuck with their ubiquitous muffins, weak tea and bland overpriced ‘coffee’ dictated by execs thousands of miles away. Go and hunt them out and give them your support. These one-offs will soon be gone if we don’t. And no, I don’t work in any capacity for any of the businesses mentioned; I am just a resident who likes St Albans (and who hates muffins).

HELEN CAMPBELL Firwood Avenue, St Albans No let up over grass verges complaints

SIR – Gill Salem’s suggestion that we “go for a walk” to enjoy the grasses and wildflowers of our uncut verges misses the point (Your Views, June 12). Presumably, Ms Salem does not get hayfever? For those of us who do, we should at least be able to cross our own street without being overwhelmed by pollen. If Ms Salem wishes to enjoy the wildflowers, there are plenty of parks and woodlands for her to visit. For the rest of us, we’d rather not live with weeds and long grass on our streets – aside from it being unsightly, it is a trip hazard and will only push paving stones up, causing further risk. As usual, St Albans council does not think ahead: inevitably, someone will trip and sue, costing the council far more than regular maintenance ever will! My father has a two foot high nettle outside his home, and other weeds of similar length. I called the council and, amazingly, they came that day to cut the verges: however, they ignored the weeds and clumps of grass creeping in between paving stones – an obvious and serious trip hazard for pensioners like my dad. In addition, they left the grass cuttings littering the road, pavement and cross-path across the verge. Where’s the respect for work? Where’s the satisfaction in a job well done? As with potholes, a job half-done seems to be good enough for St Albans council! My father paid his taxes all his life. From the age of 14, he worked hard – in his later years, as an employee of St Albans council! Like many council residents, he has a contract with the council to have his garden cut regulary – a service which residents pay far too much for. Yet, the council has breached this contract and my father’s garden hasn’t been cut for weeks. I recently returned from a holiday in Tyneside. That county has far less wealthy home-owners than here, far more unemployed, and far more people on benefits – and yet, the roads are properly maintained and thus pothole-free, the verges are cut, public bins are emptied and kept clean, and the streets are well-lit at night. There are even numerous art installations and a brand new prom in South Tyneside. This is despite the fact that Tyneside has far worse weather, the North Sea, and the rough sea air to deal with! They put us to shame! I returned to St Albans’ awful roads, to repeated and poor quality pothole “repairs”, overgrown verges and weeds in our streets – and I wonder where does our money go? Surely, given the massive difference in income between Tyneside and Herts councils, it is down to poor financial management? We are turning our beautiful city into a joke – what must tourists make of our unkempt streets and appalling roads? It is shameful.

MRS EVANS How Wood, St Albans

SIR – In this week’s Herts Advertiser Alison Pether complains that leaving the grass on the verges to grow and the flowers to bloom is bad for hay fever sufferers but this afternoon here in Riverside Road the cutting process has been carried out and all the litter which was concealed in the grass is now expose in a chopped-up state so the litterpicker’s job is made 10 times more onerous. So have we won or lost on the swings and roundabouts?

JACK HILL Riverside Close St Albans

Most Read

SIR – The letter from Gerald Stone regarding parking on grass verges I completely agree with. Not only is it dangerous but it ruins the grass especially in winter and when it rains.Outside my house and several neighbours’ houses it looks like a swamp yet the people who are residents in the houses don’t seem to care and continue to park on the verges. I have complained three times to the council and taken photos yet nothing has been done. I’ve resorted to parking my car on the road to stop people parking on the verge. This isn’t the only road in London Colney to have such problems. It’s all very frustrating.

NICOLA ROBINSON Telford Road, London Colney

Councillor ignored advice over verges

SIR – Tory Cllr Steve Bowes-Phipps did get one point right in his letter to your paper regarding grass cutting, the frequency of cutting was discussed by officers and councillors whilst looking at issuing a new grounds maintenance contract. However, I spoke against reducing the frequency as I felt it would not be appropriate and did not contribute to the kind of savings the council was looking to make in any event. This is recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The then-Tory in charge of keeping the grass cut short, Cllr Mike Wakely, disagreed with my arguments as he was entitled to do. Of course, he is also entitled to some criticism. Nothing has changed my mind to make me think the right decision was taken. The verges continue to look shabby and are full of weeds.


Search for family descendants

SIR – While researching our Hunt family history here in Australia, we have managed to find William de Vere Hunt who married Marjory Dillion in Sydney Australia 1930. Oral family history has William going to England, for his work. We managed to find Marjory and their three children Patricia, David and Janice arriving in England on September 12 1947. On the UK incoming passengers list it states they are going to St Albans, Hertfordshire. It also looks like William’s mother Ethel Hunt accompanies Marjory and the children. William Hunt was my mother Moira Reid (nee Gilmour)’s first cousin. We are looking to make contact and exchange family information with any descendents of this line. Thanking you for your help.

PETER AND ROSLYN DUNNING Australia peteandros@westnet.com.au

Party does not hold women back

SIR – I was most disappointed with your leader of June 12, as I believe it was both inaccurate and unfair. Surprisingly so, given that Annie Brewster’s new role was announced during last week’s council meeting. All of Annie’s fellow councillors are proud of her achievements during her Mayoral year, and are delighted that she will take up a Cabinet position and a new role as Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage. I am sure Annie will do a fantastic job of spearheading the development of our new Museum, and has the full and enthusiastic support of all her colleagues. As a Conservative female, I am proud of how we encourage women to become involved in politics. From having the first and so far, only, woman Prime Minister, to our current Home Secretary, to working closely with residents at Ward level, Conservative women have always been highly visible and influential at all levels of politics. At the district council, nearly half of Conservative councillors are women, and we have four more women councillors than Labour and the Liberal Democrats can muster together. Of our six new councillors this year, four are women. Our last two Conservative St Albans Mayors have been women. Our last three Harpenden Conservative Mayors have been women. The Conservative leader before Julian Daly was a woman. Two of our three local county councillors are women. In the district council executive, our Scrutiny and Regulatory Committees have five chairmanships, three of which are held by women. This is two more than Labour and Lib Dem who have six chairmanships, but have only one women chairman. This is hardly the record of a party that holds women back. Instead it shows that we recognise, nurture and promote talent, irrespective of gender.

CLLR MARY MAYNARD Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Rip-off of new car parking charges

SIR – On Wednesday, June 18, We visited Gombards car park at 6pm in order to pay for half an hour’s parking. To our horror, we discovered that the minimum cost was £2.80 for three hours. We attempted to pay the correct amount, but to our dismay found that neither of the machines would take 5p nor 10p pieces. Consequently, we had to insert a 20p piece, making a total of £2.90 for 30 minutes parking. We feel that this is an extortionate amount for 30 minutes parking. We spoke to a lady, in similar circumstances, who was meeting a friend, arriving in a separate car, involving them in £5.60 for the half hour. We thought that St Albans council was encouraging visitors to use St Albans restaurants, particularly to have an early meal, when the restaurants are quiet, before attending the Abbey Theatre. This is certainly the last time that we shall have an early meal in St Albans, until they reduce the car parking fee for such a short time.

WENDY SHARP Granby Avenue, Harpenden Half a job done

SIR – Earlier this year it was reported in your paper that Watford Road was to be resufaced during the summer months. A couple of weeks ago it was indeed resurfaced from the Noke Hotel to where the road goes over what was the M10 but the remainder [to the King Harry] was left untouched. This latter stretch is an absolute disgrace and of the two halves was the most in need of resufacing I have spoken to the Highways Department who confirm that no further work is scheduled for this road. It beggars belief that the best stretch of the road was resurfaced and the worst left untouched. Wouldn’t you have thought that the inspectors would have used some common sense in scheduling the work where it was most needed, bearing in mind this road is the main thoroughfare from the M1 to St Albans city centre and vice versa. Not forgetting the amount of traffic to and from Chiswell Green.

NORMAN SAGAR Cuckmans Drive, St Albans No apology from ambulance boss

SIR – Re: Apology for ambulance delay (Herts Advertiser, June 12), at no time has Anthony Marsh of EEAst worked closely with us to help my mother be more independent at home or stopping her from falling. The exercise classes she has were arranged by her doctor at the Lodge Surgery. He is also wrong about the time I first called the ambulance – it was 8.15pm, not 9.11pm, and we had the ambulance arrive at 11.15pm. How can he say he is working closely with us? This is the second time in a year this has happened and he has not even written to us personally to apologise. We’ve had no response from him whatsoever.

MARION FOSTER Arundel Grove, New Greens

Sad pool is closing

SIR – I would like to thank you very much for your information concerning the hydrotherapy pool at the City Hospital. It definitely seems the pool is now closing as the health chiefs have confirmed that they are “pulling the plug” on it. I was very pleased to see that Anne Main, MP for St Albans, has sympathy for the patients who benefit from exercising in the pool. I had feelings that the closure was coming due to double yellow lines that have been painted by the pool where we were once allowed to park our cars. I really did enjoy exercising in this pool and I am sad it is closing.

ROSEMARY WALTON Windmill Avenue, St Albans

The game of life

SIR – I’m not a gambling man, but it seems I have no choice when I need some action! If I cannot detect the clever switch of the dice beneath one of many cups, I am bound to lose the game – but I have to pay to be cheated. But this is what life is like in Britain today. The problems are clear enough for anyone to see yet no one will admit to being responsible for causing them, not for trying to put them right. “Not my job, mate!” “Try asking someone else! “No money left to do the work that should be done!” And that is just the various local authorities in one patch! No matter how urgent the crisis becomes, it’s not their fault that there is no action. It may be illegal to cause a risk to health or safety for the public, so now the fun starts. “Ah! Pollution in the river, eh? Well now, that could be Environment Agency: or is it Thames Water? Or maybe a riparian owner or two? It was the NRA (National Rivers Authority) 10 years ago, but that changed when DEFRA exploded so now no one is really in charge. You could try Natural England or AffinityWater.co.uk, or even The Rolling Stones. Yes, I know the river is still in a mess almost a year after we were notified, and flood debris is blocking the streams, but the danger of contamination of our workforce is too great to ignore, and anyway there’s no money left to pay for it! So you can’t blame us.” However, we all have to pay our dues/taxes/rates, etc., to some agency of the state, with legal consequences if we do not comply with such demands. So if no one is obliged to act when needed (by law) how is the situation different from any trade business offering goods or services to customers but failing to deliver after payment? And what is the penalty for fraud? Perhaps I should ask our politicians what to do next, as the bureaucrats do not respond to requests (being protected by office walls, and a range of official civil servants whose main task is wasteful obfuscation during endless policy meetings) – or try voting for UKIP? I could (and will) write local newspapers (and The Daily Mail, just to annoy certain people) or I could really upset most of Westminster Palace by contacting the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) just round the corner in London. They are currently waging war on waste around Britain; as there is much evidence to show that many departments of local government deserve censure for their poor performance. It now seems acceptable that excuses are given when a simple “Leave it to me sir!” would do just nicely, and the whole futile expensive, infuriating calamity would just – vanish! Do you want to see the proof, or just get things done at last?

KEN PEAK London Colney Village Concern Richardson Close, London Colney