Letters, March 7, 2013

Caroline Sharpe debate continues

Sir – In response to Rosemary Walton’s comment (Herts Advertiser, February 28) as a former resident and one who is closely following the developement I wonder where this idea of posh flats for commuters came from?

It has been well reported over the past few years that a rebuild is for elderly residents on the St Albans council list of tenants. We agree the area is upmarket but so are us residents who have moved out and waiting to return. Also no residents were moved to Vesta Lodge as the lady claimed. Please Ms Walton, read the local press properly and keep abreast of what’s happening in your area.


Ex-Caroline Sharpe resident

Quantock Close, St Albans

Search for school friends turning 80

Most Read

SIR – I am writing to seek any of my school friends who went to Mount Pleasant Lane and London Colney Secondary High School, as most of us will turn 80 this year.

In particular Doris (née Field). She was the youngest of 13 children. The family lived in Noke Lane.

I lived along Watford Road, the youngest of seven. Gillian Tilbury lived along Watford Road in Oakwood Road, as also did Grace Tilly, just to name a few. If anyone is interested in contacting me, it would be lovely.

Doris and her sister Betty were at my wedding in August 1953. My husband, myself and family moved to Australia in 1969. My friends knew my father was an Australian Veteran from the First World War. My name was Myrtle McCullough, I lived at ‘Lucy Ville’, Watford Road, St Albans.


Unit 4, 68 Bowmore Road, Noble Park, Victoria 3174, Australia

FCC have their say

SIR – May I please respond to three letters about First Capital Connect published on February 28?

Mario Mendez wrote that “an off-peak return into central London costs over £23”. In fact an off-peak return to any of our central London stations costs £11.50 on weekdays and just £8 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Our peak services are extremely crowded. That is why the £6 billion Thameslink Programme is underway. In addition to resolving severe bottlenecks which delay our services daily, a massive order for new trains is being finalised by the Department for Transport. These will greatly increase capacity and will replace all the trains currently running on the Thameslink route.

A dedicated website gives details of the many benefits that will accrue: www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk

Mr L Forster writes about his extended journey from London to Harpenden on Wednesday evening, February 13, following the damage to the overhead wires in the Radlett area. I’m sorry that he and many thousands of other passengers were severely delayed as a result of this infrastructure failure.

The damage was so bad that neither we nor East Midlands Trains could run any services to and from London until the following day. First Capital Connect trains from south of the Thames had to run to and from West Hampstead Thameslink and there was a shuttle train service between Bedford and Luton Airport Parkway. No trains could run between Harpenden and West Hampstead Thameslink.

Immediately we knew how bad the damage was, we ordered as many buses as we could to link to other stations on unaffected lines. The challenge for bus and coach operators is to match up the vehicles needed with the availability of qualified drivers and other commitments, e.g. school runs. This resulted in fewer buses than we wanted being available that day, while we got hold of everything we needed on Thursday.

For travel to St Albans and Harpenden, our primary advice was to travel to Hatfield, from where we provided buses to St Albans – Harpenden – Luton Airport Parkway.

FCC tickets were accepted on all other train operators including London Midland, but we did not promote the use of the Abbey Line from Watford Junction as it only provides one four-car train every 45 minutes and could easily be overwhelmed by demand. For the same reason, we concentrated our buses onto the heavily used Hatfield – St Albans – Harpenden route.

Dr Stephen Moss queries the validity of the surveys conducted by Passenger Focus in comparison with that recently carried out by Which?

Which? conducted an online survey in which a total of 7,500 people participated, of whom 461 responded about their experiences of First Capital Connect.

Passenger Focus is the independent Passenger Watchdog which undertakes research throughout the year.

For the autumn 2012 National Passenger Survey, 1,745 First Capital Connect passengers were interviewed. In this survey, passenger satisfaction with FCC increased for the third year running with 81 per cent of those interviewed saying they were satisfied or very satisfied, 13 per cent expressing neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction and 6 per cent expressing dissatisfaction. Details of the National Passenger Survey can be found at: www.passengerfocus.org.uk/research/publications/national-passenger-survey-autumn-2012-nps-main-report

In conclusion, we know that there is much to be done before First Capital Connect can hope to achieve the highest rankings shown by other commuter train operators who have already benefited from new and longer trains and major infrastructure improvements like London Overground and c2c. The key is the completion of the Thameslink Programme and, until then, we will continue to strive to improve every aspect of our service that we can directly influence.


Integration and partnership manager, First Capital Connect

Too many people, not enough space

Sir – Many of your readers may have followed stories such as the development at Oaklands, the Radlett freight depot and threats to Green Belt land and thought that the root cause of these problems is the pressure of over-population.

This pressure is not just local. Globally the result is detriment to the environment, conflict over land and resources and poorer quality of life, invariably for the poorest.

Population Matters, a registered charity (patrons David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, James Lovelock, Chris Packham and Jonathon Porrit), campaigns to increase awareness of population concerns, provide access to family planning, conserve the natural environment and promote sustainable consumption.

If you are interested in finding out more about us look on our website www.population matters.org (where you can view David Attenborough’s lecture on People and the Planet) or write to Population Matters, 135-137 Station Road, London E4 6AG.

If you agree with our aims you could: sign our petition ‘Support Population Matters’ call for the Government to introduce a policy enabling the UK population to stabilise and then gradually to decrease to an environmentally sustainable level; join Population Matters; join a local group.

As Sir David Attenborough says: “All environmental problems become harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”

Vanessa Gibson

Welclose Street, St Albans

SIR – Your correspondent in last week’s paper was rightly complaining about the lack of any government population policy which has led to increasing demand for more and more house building. What she does not seem to realise is that our government has no power whatsoever to set up or implement any population policy. That power has been ceded to the European Union.

The population of the United Kingdom has risen by at least four million over the last 10 years, and this is almost entirely due to uncontrolled immigration from other EU countries, mainly Eastern Europe. These arrivals have to be housed. While our country has undoubtedly benefited in the past from the arrival of immigrants, the process had always been under our control and was generally regulated to the mutual benefit of the arrivals and the residents. The EU is clearly not interested in the views or interests of UK nationals.

The only way that we can regain control over our borders is by leaving the EU. The specious assertion by David Cameron that he can negotiate the repatriation of powers from the EU is quite false. The whole ethos of the EU is that all powers acquired from member states will never be returned. It is essential for us to leave the EU if we wish to retain our Green Belt, not to mention out independence. We would also be far better off financially.

Dr John Butcher

Saberton Close, Redbourn

Record parking fees at city’s hospital?

Sir – I had occasion recently to visit the Pathology department of St Albans City Hospital. I parked in the hospital car park and paid the required £4 for up to three hours. I retuned to my car less than five minutes later.

That is a charge rate of slightly over £48 per hour! Is this a record?

John Graveson

Hill Street, St Albans

Clarence Park plans controversy

Sir – I want to respond to various comments made over the last few weeks about proposed changes to the trust deed for the Clarence Park recreation ground (the area to the north of the park).

I want to make it absolutely clear that the trustees of Clarence Park are not planning major redevelopment in the park, as has been suggested, or for the introduction of new commercial activities.

We simply want to update the deed, which was written in 1894, so that it is fit for purpose in 2013 and beyond, and to ensure our current arrangements are fully covered in the deed purposes.

The trustees are required to ensure that the recreation ground is managed with regard to the deed. The current deed reflects conditions at the end of the 1800s. For example, officially, only adult sports are permitted in the recreation ground. This is nonsense in the 21st Century.

If you go to Clarence Park on any weekend, you will see local children playing sports in the park. To regularise this, and a number of other anomalies, we need to update the deed.

A good example of this is the issue of Sunday closure; contrary to some rumours this is not a desire to prevent public access to the whole park. At present the trust allows for parts of the park to be restricted or reserved for the exclusive use of certain sports, for example the cricket pitch.

This is not allowable under the present deed for more than 156 days in a year or at all on a Sunday, an anachronism when many clubs and teams want to make use of the park’s facilities each Sunday or throughout the calendar year.

We also propose bringing together the legal ownership and management of the public park (the area to the south of Clarence Park) with the recreation ground area to the north. I want to assure people that there is no hidden agenda here.

We simply want to be able to manage the park as a whole. This will also help us to secure financial grants to benefit the whole park. Our intention is only to put in place measures that will help to manage the park more effectively, and to protect it for future generations to enjoy.

I know how important the park is to local residents, and I was glad to have an opportunity to hear what people had to say at the meeting of the Clarence Park Forum on February 7.

We will, of course, be consulting fully with residents on the proposals. A working party is being established to consider arrangements for this consultation over the next few weeks.

Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles

Portfolio holder for environment,

St Albans City and District Council

SIR – At the Clarence Park Consultative Forum on February 7 the council extended the deadline for the management plan consultation to February 21.

In that two-week period St Albans residents have rallied and formed Protect Clarence Park! to raise awareness about the council’s plans to change the trust deed and the issues hidden in the management plan. Through leafleting, a Facebook group (which already has nearly 800 members), twitter and word of mouth, word has spread fast and strength of public support to keep Clarence Park safe is clear.

As a response to this over 250 people sent emails directly to the council to set out the issues they had with the council’s management plan and planned changes to the trust deed and 43 people responded to the council via survey monkey.

At the council meeting on February 26, Cllr Grover asked Cllr Chichester-Miles to set out in layman’s terms what the supposed benefits of changing the trust deed were and what the administration actually wanted to change in the park in light of the concern and frustration voiced by many local residents.

Disappointingly, in Cllr Chichester-Miles’ written response, he once again fails to provide a complete answer or be transparent as to exactly what is motivating the proposed changes.

Cllr Chichester-Miles tries to dismiss the public’s concern by repeating his mantra that the trust deed needs to be modernised.

His answer implies that the more controversial of the changes are simply needed to ratify the previous breaches of the trust deed that the council have allowed, without spelling out that the changes sought go far beyond ratifying past breaches; they open the floodgates to development, commercialisation and more, both now and in the future.

Cllr Chichester-Miles also states that “the administration have no plans for major redevelopment or introduction of new commercial activities in Clarence Park”.

If this is meant to reassure us, it does not. If it were true, the sweeping powers the council is seeking to grant to itself are not needed. However, we know that this isn’t true as St Albans City FC has stated that if it stays in Clarence Park it plans to seek permission to extend its south boundary and redevelop the site to include a restaurant, gym, nursery, etc. Treat your electorate as simple Cllr Chichester-Miles at your peril.

For those that don’t know, Clarence Park is made up of two separate areas of land that are connected but which have separate legal ownerships.

The public park (with the children’s playground) is owned by the council and protected by a restrictive covenant requiring it to be used only as a public park.

The recreation ground (with the cricket pavilion) was gifted to the people of St Albans and is held in trust. The current council is planning to sweep aside the very protection our forefathers put in place 119 years ago by amending the trust deed and possibly applying to the Lands Tribunal to see if they will modify or release the restrictive covenant.

Protect Clarence Park! was set up to stop this happening. If the trust deed is amended as proposed and the restrictive covenant is released then the battle is lost. If you love Clarence Park the way it is, then now is the time to act. Please follow us on facebook – “Clarence Park Under Threat”, join our email group – protectclarencepark@gmail.com and on Twitter @PClarencePark.


Albion Road, St Albans

No democracy in Colts decision

SIR – At its planning meeting on February 26, which I attended, Harpenden Town Council’s decision to support Colts Football Club’s planning application, to turn 13 hectares of Green Belt countryside at New Farm, Roundwood Lane, into an 11-pitch sports complex, complete with pavilion and 150-space car park, was by no means as clear cut as the headline and opening paragraph of your report (Herts Advertiser, February 28) implied.

Only three councillors voted on the issue, and only the chairman Michael Ellis voted unequivocally in favour of the Colts application.

He was broadly supported by Cllr Mary Maynard. However, despite the submission in advance by a Roundwood area residents group of over 60 pages of findings by two different London-based consultancy firms on traffic and environment aspects of the Colts proposals, she said her vote in favour of the scheme was conditional on yet further assessments being made.

Cllr Rachel Frosh spoke more in favour of the objectors to the scheme, but again dependent on more extensive independent consultations being undertaken. No hint was given by councillors Maynard or Frosh as to precisely where (and by what local government mechanism) such – necessarily unbiased – consultants might be found and commissioned, ahead of St Albans District Council planners making their more definitive decision on the New Farm application.

Your correspondent David Whitbread, whose letter appears on another page of the same Herts Ad issue, and who incidentally lives on the other side of Harpenden from the New Farm site, is absolutely right that many of our local government representatives, including a number of those on Harpenden Town Council, seem to live on another planet, deaf to the protestations of their electors on key issues.

Democracy? What democracy? At the New Farm planning meeting, some 40 concerned residents objecting to the development took the trouble to attend, while Bob Trevor, chairman of Colts FC, who presented the case for the New Farm development to go ahead, was able to muster not a single supporter that evening from among the hundreds of members of his club.


Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

A brief verse on Cashin-bashin’

SIR – If people feel the weekly urge to have a bash at me, in letter form or semaphore or simple poetry,

I’ll take it as a compliment for my words are striking chords

Within the local populous from hoi polloi to Lords.

My joy is not to see my name, I’m published nationally

My passion is to comment on the things that make me seethe.

The editor is a clever man and realises that

Controversial comment reads better than boring tat.

So many local newspapers lack passion at their core,

But the Herts Ad is a groundbreaker with its readers wanting more.

So to would-be bards and epithets and those who want me fettered

I hope you’ll tune in regularly and enjoy my weekly letters!


Green Lane, St Albans

High cost of complacency

SIR – Anne Main MP and your February 21 editorial are both right about Network Rail’s failures.

We have said it before, and we will say it again: you can rant and rail about the service from First Capital Connect (FCC) but so much depends on the state of the tracks and overhead wires any train company is offered. Network Rail provides these, and ours are getting on somewhat and becoming fragile – witness the overhead wires down at Radlett on February 13-14.

That separation of the management of track and train under privatisation is both expensive and inefficient, full of blame allocation and accountancy with the paying passenger caught in the middle. But we are stuck with it for now.

Imagine, therefore, the impact of the freight trains of Helioslough imposed onto even our existing service. It doesn’t bear thinking about. This is not the way to run a railway!

Commuters/fellow passengers – if the rail freight terminal happens “You haven’t seen nothin yet!”

The inability of Network Rail to produce the proposed timetable details is unacceptable. Why are they so reluctant? It is a public company, in receipt of public funds – ours. It is in the public interest that it comes clean and produces for scrutiny draft working timetables. These must show both present and the promised future extra services from the Thameslink enhancement with all the freightliners and how they fit in together – or not!

A meeting to illustrate this is long overdue. The Civic Society intends to try and call such a meeting, inviting our MP, representatives from both county and St Albans councils, local councillors, and STRIFE. FCC could attend but whichever train company operates the franchise will still be affected.

Time is running out for such a meeting.

Meanwhile, sign that petition today to try and stop YOUR county council selling YOUR land for the development. Complacency could prove costly in time and money. Visit https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=74614


For St Albans Civic Society

Fishpool Street, St Albans

Bacon and Ryder in need of memorials

SIR – I was interested in two recent stories in the Herts Advertiser. The proposal to erect a statue of Samuel Ryder seems a good idea, celebrating a distinguished citizen who gave his name to a great golf tournament and was very active in local business. I do however take seriously the concerns of market traders. If the statue was placed outside the old seed hall on Holywell Hill it would be on a site closely associated with Ryder, close to the city centre but not appearing to get in the way.

Briony Rawle’s survey on Francis Bacon reveals a disturbing lack of public knowledge about a great lawyer, politician, philosopher and scientist, surely one of the most important people ever to come from St Albans. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and there is a strong case for his name being perpetuated in the city in an appropriate manner, say by having a place of learning named after him.

If Ryder has a statue his name will live on through this, as well of course as through the Ryder Cup.

Therefore I would propose that these two issues could be resolved by putting up the statue of Ryder and renaming Samuel Ryder Academy – calling it Francis Bacon School. Simple really.


Ramsbury Road, St Albans

Young fundraisers do a vital job

SIR – I am sorry that Ms L Barwell was offended by Sea Cadets fundraising in St Albans City centre on February 16.

While Ms Barwell maybe technically correct in that the Cadets were begging, it was legalised begging as a permit had been issued by St Albans District Council for a street collection on that day in the city centre.

As a registered charity such things are a must in order to sustain the work we do and the fabulous generosity of local people and those visiting the city helped us raise over £940 which will go to the replacement of TS Royalist our national flagship.

The Cadets in question were at least 12, not 10 as Ms Barwell suggests and were supervised by an adult who was keeping a close eye on proceedings and who was collecting with the cadets assisting.

With regards to the clothing worn, this was our winter rig and I can assure Ms Barwell very warm. In fact Cadets and staff chose not to wear coats as it was as you may recall a very warm day for the tine of the year, for which we were very grateful.

My thanks again to the people of St Albans and visitors for there generosity and supporting their local Sea Cadets.


1st Lieutenant

St Albans Sea Cadets

There is no excuse for Nazi Tweet

SIR – I refer to the recent letter from the erstwhile Deputy PCC, Dr Rachel Frosh. The epistle itself raises many points not the least of which is an inability to write concise English, a qualification, perhaps, enabling her to communicate the more easily with the upper echelons of Hertfordshire Police.

Said repetitive, and somewhat shrill, letter was an apology for a Twitter message she had sent likening, it seems, Socialists to Nazis. Twitter, by the way, is used by people who are too lazy (or ignorant) to formulate proper thoughts but insist on telling the world nonetheless.

The line she now takes is that hers was not an original message but a re-Tweet that simply passed on a message she had received. We will all remember the invertebrates from our school days who were more than happy to pass on rumours and gossip without appearing to be the initiator. Such activity, though, took rather more effort than merely pressing a button after reading (up to) 140 characters; that is, about the same length as this sentence.

Her “not my fault guv” argument is somewhat undone by the following passage in her letter:

“The majority of the support however has come from fellow politicians and human rights campaigners who agree that we should be able to discuss the roots of Nazism to try to learn the lessons of history.”

So we have moved from a simple re-Tweet to a discussion.

In the course of her letter she also complains, variously, of a media storm, a media frenzy and media mis-reporting – all, you will note, someone else’s fault – which is the cop out of those who quite simply don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

Furthermore, her apologia attempts to shelter behind her good works in anti-genocide and human rights campaigns, and that she has a Jewish husband. A bit like a first time criminal excusing himself on the grounds that he had never erred before (would he have to pay for his board and lodging as proposed by the PCC?).

It is good that she has resigned from her £20,000 part time job as Deputy Police Commissioner, it would be better if she resigned from public life altogether.

By the way, does any member of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s caravanserai work full time?


Gorham Drive, St Albans

SIR – “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” I refer to Dr Rachel Frosh’s letter (Herts Advertiser, February 28).

As a public figure, surely it is irresponsible rather than lazy for her to re-tweet a statement linking Nazism with Socialism – a claim ably rebutted by Gavin Ross in the same edition of your newspaper.

Why doesn’t Dr Frosh admit that she passed the quote on as a cheap dig at the Labour Party? Perhaps she has forgotten David Cameron’s repudiation of Punch and Judy politics? Hardly surprising as he seems to have forgotten it judging from his recent performances in Prime Minister’s Question Time.


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

Shame of cash theft from card

SIR – On December 8, 2012, a Marks & Spencer card with £40 was posted at Mill Hill PO. Extra money was paid to make sure I got it, which to date I have not.

It was sent for me to buy extra treats for Christmas as my friends know on a pension you have no money left often after paying the bills. For someone to take that away from an OAP aged 86 years is a disgrace. How many other letters have gone missing?

I am hurt and upset about the way my friends are being treated over this. They both work very hard and Mill Hill PO just doesn’t want to know.


Cannon Street, St Albans