Letters, March 14, 2013

Open your eyes about Colts

SIR – Blinkered people need to look to the future!

Harpenden Colts currently have a waiting list for youngsters of under-sevens upwards, which is a testament to how Colts has grown over the years I’ve been involved. We have several volunteers who keep this football club going, for the benefit of the youngsters in Harpenden.

I am getting frustrated that the small minority in Harpenden are so narrow-minded and blinkered to compare the professionals, who I must add get paid a substantial amount to play football, to the minors league game and children’s football?

They have no idea what Colts’ mission statement is about and the respect which is now shown for the game. Colts do not allow for such behaviour and code of conduct is upheld.

These people aren’t interested in the future of providing a home for Colts, for the future children of Harpenden who want to play football.

Colts are being totally sensitive to the needs of residents in the area of New Farm but the residents aren’t listening. I can’t understand how you can compare the traffic at a recreation centre in Redbourn to how New Farm will be? It is beyond belief... as a recreation centre is also used for other sports and other activities, so will be busy?

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You should see how other areas are run, such as the Highfield Oval and Rothampstead Park on match days. Where there is hardly any space to park, especially at Orchard Avenue end of Rothampsted Park.

We leave the area tidy and also respect where we park. At least the pitches at New Farm will still provide greenery and we are planning to still conserve the area for the people of Harpenden to ramble there, as well as managed parking on match days.

Matches will be structured to allow managing the traffic flow in and out of the area as with Redbourn recreation centre, Rothampsted Park and the Highfield Oval. Trees and shrubs will also mask the noise levels and believe me we aren’t that noisy.

If we were, we wouldn’t be allowed to use the Highfield Oval on Sundays as they have church services on.


Station Road. Harpenden

Action needed to support city centre

SIR – Following the recent spate of high profile business failures, St Albans is arguably looking worse for wear along its high street. Now may be the time for us “little” people to start insisting our city councillors look for more innovative ways to encourage people to support the city centre shops.

As a council taxpayer I am acutely aware of the sorts of revenues our council collects and manages on our behalf and while I am not sure of the value of business tax revenues to the local council, I have no doubt that they too are substantial.

Surely, considering that these businesses rely on local footfall for their livelihood it is not unreasonable to expect council to explore every avenue to encourage that footfall wherever possible.

One small concession that could be made to encourage more shoppers to the centre of the city would be to offer free parking for the first hour in all the council controlled parking, including on-street pay and display. Towns like Harpenden, Borehamwood, Abbots Langley and many others offer this sort of incentive to shoppers.

While I may be accused of being naive comparing these smaller shopping centres to St Albans, it does not go unnoticed that the number of boarded up shops in these centres is negligible.

Considering the re-localisation of business tax that is planned for 2013 surely now is the time to encourage our council to explore small initiatives like this to support our town centre before it is too late?

Despite headline-grabbing schemes, like the government’s appointment of Mary Portas to look at the problems faced by our high streets, it is unlikely that the issues I am talking about will be adequately addressed by way of grants to a small number of local authorities, unless those authorities are prepared to grasp the nettle and implement some of the 28 recommendations made by Ms Portas, including the one that says “local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres”.

Surely the cost to the council on behalf of us taxpayers would also be negligible compared with the benefit to both the shoppers and the businesses.


Mount Pleasant Lane,

Bricket Wood

Tackling Thameslink is a vote winner

SIR – In 1986, the short-lived Midland Electric service from Bedford to Moorgate topped the Which? poll on London commuter rail services.

Along came Ken Livingstone with Thameslink, John Major made the mistake of putting the Channel Tunnel rail link into St Pancras and now several billion pounds later Which? finds Thameslink the bottom of the poll. What a transformation.

The Midland line must surely rank as the world’s ultimate Cinderella line. Upgraded to be the best then promptly downgraded by the politicians who introduced the inappropriately named Thameslink upgrade to suit Eurostar passengers from south of the Thames. Thameslink must surely rank as the British Leyland of rail routes. Despite taxpayers’ billions it does not work properly and never will.

Most commuters wish to travel to the City and West End but the route is inconvenient for both. The new St Pancras low-level station is a long walk from the underground platforms. The interchange with the Circle lines at Farringdon is far from ideal. Parts of the platform at Farringdon are very narrow and the new platforms are on a bend creating a dangerous gap between the train and platform that is difficult to see when there is overcrowding. Taxpayers’ money wasted.

Politicians and local MPs were quick to criticise the rail unions when they delayed the introduction of the promised electric service into Moorgate in the early 1980s, but they seem rather silent now that their parties have withdrawn it. Moorgate was the crown jewels of the Midland electrification project and with electrification beyond Bedford now planned, would have transformed the East Midlands economy, placing towns like Corby around one hour from the City and boosting much needed tax receipts.

Come on UKIP if you want to win some seats, get on the case. The Midland Suburban Electrification saga is your ticket.


Down Edge, Redbourn

Double whammy for disabled parkers

SIR – If the misguided proposal to charge Blue Badge holders for parking at the local hospitals is not reversed, disabled drivers should be warned about the antiquated money boxes which they will be required to feed if they need to park at one of them.

Not only do the ticket machines have difficulty in recognising legal currency (on one occasion I needed to introduce seven pound coins to pay a £3 fee) but they give no change, will not accept paper money nor credit cards nor debit cards.

It is also necessary for a disabled person to walk from their car to the ticket machine and back to their car again so as to display the all-important and expensive scrap of paper in their windscreen. This is particularly galling for those badge-holders who have walking difficulties.

Many disabled people have to visit the hospitals in order to get the treatment that their condition needs. They have no choice. Their condition also often entails extra expense that others do not have to bear. So the proposal to charge them is a double whammy – cost and an additional painful walk.

There is a general aura of insensitiveness, even arrogance, about the system and I consider that the old ticket machines should be scrapped and new ones introduced which should be more user-friendly. And some system should be introduced to eliminate the necessity for the extra walking involved in meeting these unreasonable demands.


Homewood Road, St Albans

Building our future is essential

SIR – Over the past months I’ve said through these columns that we should “build our way out of recession” – building the homes that we desperately need, providing jobs and increasing confidence. I was pleased to see that Vince Cable and Lord Oakshott are this week saying exactly the same thing.

Most people still borrow to buy their homes through a traditional mortgage, Government should do exactly the same, borrowing to invest in our infrastructure. There has never been a better time for the Chancellor to borrow for long term investment as interest rates have never been lower, he can borrow at rates lower than inflation – virtual interest free money.

Encouraging councils to build again by relaxing their borrowing limits, extending the right to buy to housing association tenants but at the same time imposing a duty of replacing on a one-for-one basis for both housing associations and councils would provide the much needed social housing.

Dare I suggest that our county council could use some of its pension fund to invest in building homes in our county – they invested £73 million in tobacco companies in 2011, and earlier invested in Icelandic banks!

Building homes is the key to reviving our economy.


Cottonmill Lane, St Albans

Volunteers needed for riding school

SIR – Do you like being out in the fresh air? Do you like walks in the woods? Do you like helping people of all ages with special needs and disabilities? Do you enjoy meeting new people?

Have you worked with horses before and perhaps would like to do so again? Do you have some free time to give during term times? If the answer to any or all of these is a yes then you might like to volunteer for the RDA.

Our Wednesday morning session at Digswell Place Stables needs volunteers urgently.

You don’t have to be a “horsey” person to help. Other volunteers and the instructors will give you all the training you need. We need people to lead horses and walk along side to offer support to the riders. It’s a wonderful way to spend a morning.

If you are interested please contact the stables directly on 01707 332159 to find out more.


Willoughby Road, Harpenden

Dangerous practice

SIR – I would like to highlight to your readers the potentially dangerous practice of shining laser pens at train drivers. Some people may think it is a bit of fun but this is a criminal offence, even for juveniles, because of the significant safety implications.

A laser pen has the potential to damage eyesight or blind someone. If that person is driving a train then this is dangerous for everyone on board. At best it will cause delays because the driver has to be relieved from duty. At worst it could cause a serious incident.

May I appeal to your readers to be alert for this kind of activity, to report anything suspicious to the police or a member of staff, and to educate family members accordingly?


Operations Director

First Capital Connect

Seeing sense over pedestrianisation

SIR – As someone who traded in Harpenden High Street for several years I am more than delighted for our shops with the decision by Herts County Council that they will definitely not pedestrianise part of our Lower High Street, even for a trial period. This will come as tremendous relief to some very hard pressed shopkeepers, whom I am sure will be extremely grateful to Cllr Teresa Heritage for reversing the county council`s original proposal.

There can be no better proof that when councillors actually listen to people who present their case rationally and with good evidence, mistakes tend not to happen. The public’s reaction and the evidence shown by the shops spelt this out. There are so often other sides to what may have originally been well intentioned ideas.

In this case one store (Threads) organised a petition for the customers in their shop and also in other shops asking for comments. Around 1,200 local people signed this petition saying they simply did not want the proposal to proceed.

Quite rightly those who had stated their opposition in order to prove their case had to provide genuine evidence of the effect pedestrianisation would have on their business.

By pure coincidence (and rather fortunately for the retailers) the road had to be closed for emergency work on the weekend before a consultation meeting was going to take place between the shops and county officers. In effect this was a trial in itself.

Retailers disclosed their turnover figures for that weekend. They were between 20 per cent and 40 per cent down on the previous weekend and the previous year’s figures. What could have been better evidence of the dire effect that a road closure would have on trading.

Given these figures even those people who do like the idea of pedestrianisation would have to admit that any proposed road closure would not make common sense at all and could not be considered a viable or sustainable option for our town centre.

From my own shopkeeping days in the High Street, I have over several years consistently raised severe concerns where ill thought-out pedestrianisation schemes have been proposed for centres that were never built for them. Every scheme has to be considered on its own merits, bearing in mind location, car parking facilities, etc. I have defended fellow retailers in St Peter’s Street in St Albans as well as Harpenden.

Whenever experimental full or partial schemes have been tried out in the wrong areas the figure of a 30 per cent drop in sales down has always turned up.

As regards pedestrian safety in the part of the Lower High Street in question I cannot recall any accident in over 20 years, but I am sure that retailers would happily welcome any measures to promote a pedestrian “friendly” or “priority” area along the whole of the Lower High Street, e.g. by introducing a 10mph speed limit, or further as the Harpenden Society has suggested, a “shared space” environment.

There may well have to be additional safety measures to consider at the junction with Vaughan Road, but if county officers talk to retailers early on, something which must be good I am sure acceptable solutions can easily be found.


Clarence Road, Harpenden

A final batch of poetical musings

SIR - Gee golly gosh

Dear Dr Frosh

Whose sent-on Twitter

Bounced back to hitter.

No police train gravy

For this fragrant lady

Who no longer aspires

To safe seats in the shires.

By the media hounded

Her career’s been grounded

She’ll remain at Park Hall

And achieve ****** all.


East Common, Harpenden

SIR - Dear Editor, I thought I’d say

It seems to be the fashion

To write to you in verse each week,

Especially Mr Cashin.

I’ve nothing to complain about

Or comment on or moan,

But thought I’d like my name in print

With a poem of my own.

I’ll just say this to everyone ...

If letters are his passion

Then keep it up, our weekly bard –

Good luck to Barry Cashin.


Ridge Avenue, Harpenden

(That’s quite enough contrived rhyming couplets for now! Thank you to all our budding poets, but please can correspondents revert to prose for future contributions... - Ed)

Let justice be done

SIR – Whilst reading Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd’s ‘Plan for the Year Ahead’, I was startled by the proposal of “giving victims a say in how they [criminals] should be punished”.

Not only does this seem like a tricky legal battle to advance upon but it is entirely illogical. What does this encourage? A justice system based entirely on revenge? If one wishes to give the criminal a “lenient” sentence as such, where does any fairness or consistency exist in punishments?

I propose that we keep the stocks to charity events, rather than the streets of Hertfordshire, as Mr Lloyd’s ludicrous proposals are seemingly returning to.


Briar Road, St Albans

More planes over less homes

SIR – Further to your report (February 21) on the threat of increased Luton night flights, the proposed tweaking of one of its departure flight paths would indeed have the advantage of ensuring its planes stick more precisely to that particular route.

However, Luton’s planes have to go somewhere in this crowded area so a few people would be more heavily overflown for the benefit of the majority – which is precisely why the residents’ groups you mention are against any increase in Luton air traffic! It’s already four times the level at the time of the last planning consent: they should be content with that.

Since then (February 28) you have given further details of the airport’s proposals and we both welcome their apparent concern about the current noise impact and will be interested to see the public’s response to the proposed “tweak”.

However some may see it as a ploy to show that even if the proposed expansion plan goes through, the overall number of residents overflown will be fewer than now.

But those who are would certainly know about it!

Meanwhile those concerned about the various downsides to the airport’s expansion proposal (noise, far more early morning departures, extra road traffic, etc.) still have the opportunity to ask that it be determined independently of Luton council, the main beneficiary, by going to epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44069.



Shaping the city’s future appearance

SIR – I believe a pretty unique event will take place in St Albans next week on Wednesday, March 20, from 7-9pm at Dagnall Street Baptist Church, Upper Dagnall Street. Those who have recently visited the city centre should not have failed to see our banner flying proudly in front of the Old Town Hall saying Look! St Albans is back!

For the first time that I can recall the community will have a presentation of a planning report that we, all those who took part in the Look! St Albans project, have shaped. Therefore please come along and take the opportunity to have your say in how we proceed.

We will also award the £100 prize for the best photo competition, for which you sir, editor of the Herts Advertiser, happily is one of our judges.

Look! St Albans is not mine, the steering group’s or indeed yours fellow readers, it belongs to all of us, the community within the district that views our city centre as our collective front room and cares how this generation leaves its mark. In the future we’d like to work hard and become an important first port of call for developers wishing to invest in our city centre; however this can only happen with your support.

When the project got underway in January 2012 we had literally a blank sheet of paper, but a desire to produce design codes/guidance for parts of our city centre immediately ready or will be ready in the coming years.

Since we last met in February 2012 both The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and the city centre steering group have been working hard to review and evaluate all the material and information we all provided.

The city centre steering group are always on the look out for more active members to continue what we consider to be our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our city centre. Thankfully some are, but more are always welcome.

For example we were extremely grateful when a local graphic designer, David Ellis, stepped forward to produce our poster which you may have seen around.

Our report can be seen online through a link on the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society website http://www.stalbanshistory.org/static.aspx?idtxt=terms or hard copies are available for viewing at the council offices, city library, the Abbey, St Peter’s Church, St Paul’s Church, Hatfield Road, and STANTA (St Albans Enterprise Agency), Suite 19, Stanta Business Centre, 3 Soothouse Springs, St Albans.

Developers and the community might not seem easy bedfellows. Let me assure you times are changing. In an email I received from a local developer in response to seeing our report they said: “I was particularly heartened (by the report) to see the participation of residents’ groups as, in my experience, there can be a real difference between the views of those qualified in design and ‘the man in the street’. Architects, etc., can come and go but it is the residents who live day-to-day, now and in the future, with the results of planning decisions.”

Yes, there can sometimes be a real difference of opinion. However we hope our readiness to work with developers and their architects, with the clarity the design codes/guidance will bring, will ensure St Albans city centre will have the buildings and spaces we all can be proud of.


Community project manager Look! St Albans

Football discipline debate latest

SIR – Of course it’s good if children are encouraged to get out doing exercise by playing something they enjoy rather than sit at home playing on the latest games console or watching some reality show 24 hours a day.

Also I understand other sports have had their issues with behaviour and lack of discipline as such the “Bloodgate” cheating scandal and match fixing in cricket.

However the main difference in rugby and cricket for example those incidents were dealt with via strong punishment and future warnings of long bans/prison terms if players or coaches are caught out again shaming the world of sport.

In football I am yet to hear of a football player or manager serve a long spell out of the game for cheating via various means or just general abusive language.

Football certainly has an image problem and I know of many people who love the game itself but not the personalities in it or the way it’s run now.

Would it not be nice for our youngsters to have positive roles models from the “national sport” who play for the top teams rather than relying on the likes of Lionel Messi who is a real great and by all accounts a true dedicated professional off it.

Can the same be said for the likes of Rooney,Terry and Cole?


Pondwick Road, Harpenden

Thanks for crossing bid support

SIR - This is a letter of grateful thanks to Manor Pharmacy, Lorna’s Toys, Jays Delicatessen and The Skew Bridge Public House who generously and with local spirit displayed the petition for a pedestrian crossing over Walkers Road on their counters.

Also thank you to all 700-plus petitioners who signed the forms without knowing me and whether their names would be noted. I handed the signed petition forms over to Cllr Teresa Heritage (my thanks also to her for her encouragement) at the inaugural Harpenden Local Highways and Transport Stakeholders Forum meeting on and I understand that a feasibility study for the crossing will happen in the 2013/14 financial year. Then it will all hinge on whether the money can be found to carry out the work!

So thank you and we’ll all open a plastic bottle of fizzy on “Crossing Open Day”.


Cosne Mews