Letters, March 20, 2014

Not really Christian behaviour

SIR – The seemingly panic closure of Maryland is hard to comprehend and the peremptory dismissal of the staff and eviction of the patients in the care home is not what one could reasonably describe as Christian. It may not yet be too late to try to persuade the trustees that they have made an appalling error of judgment but they could still gain some measure of redemption by acceding to the request of the newly formed Friends of Marian Hall to allow the hall to be registered as an asset of the community. To the credit of the trustees the hall and the main buildings, have been impeccably maintained during the 45 years I have lived opposite and its usefulness to the wider community is well worth preserving.

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans

Bike ban at zoo

SIR – A few weeks ago we tried to visit Whipsnade Zoo’s fantastic animals by bicycle in view of some sun and the size of the zoo. However we found at entry that bicycles are banned entry at any price with them citing health and safety while non-green cars are allowed. These cars queued back to Whipsnade village on a narrow road causing real health and safety risks. We contacted the zoo authorities to no available. Surely to support conservation includes encouraging cyclists? Obviously they can insist they keep to roads and happy to pay a nominal amount. You get a lot more cyclists per square metre of road and they are a lot safer to pedestrians. We applaud their wildlife conservation but appalled at their ban of green cyclists and this from two occasional cyclists. Every journey needs a great destination and the zoo appeared one. Hopefully with your help they will re-consider the ban rather than relegation to the cycle-shed.

MIKE WAKELY SADC Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage Oakfield Road, Harpenden

Explorer pass not fit for most needs

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SIR – It is welcome news from Network St Albans that the new Explorer bus pass can be used on all Herts bus routes. It is sad, however, that this will not meet the needs of most passengers or encourage new customers to abandon their cars. Barely any bus users require unlimited travel throughout Hertfordshire on a weekly basis, they are travelling to and from work, shopping or linking to other forms of transport. The tariff proposed – £30 a week – is scarcely less than the cost of five return journeys between towns. For many people, it is a day’s wages which is a very high price to pay to get to work and a higher proportion of their income than fuel. Those who have never travelled by bus will not be drawn to a scheme which is accessible only on the bus. Bus companies need urgently to include bus users in their planning process to improve services and create new demand for them. Tickets and information should be available in shops and supermarkets as well as online and en route, and discounts for regular travel need to be substantial. Hertfordshire needs the Oyster – or Lobster or Whelk?

JILL MILLS St Albans Green Party Sandridge Road, St Albans

20mph is best option

SIR – Sadly, crossing the road, or walking near one, can be risky, and pedestrians (and cyclists) are seriously injured and sometimes killed on our roads. Sadly, and despite everyone knowing that they will come off worse in a collision with a moving vehicle, from time to time a careless pedestrian (or cyclist) is the cause of one of those accidents. Does that mean we should shy away from a change that cannot make everyone safe but can at least reduce the likely severity of those accidents? Eric Bridgestock (Your Views, March 6) is a persuasive writer and a dedicated campaigner against 20mph limits. And he is of course entitled to his opinion. But Bristol City Council continues to introduce new 20mph zones that will save lives by increasing the chance of pedestrian and cyclist accident survival. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents a pedestrian struck at 20mph has a 97 per cent chance of survival. This falls to an 80 per cent chance of survival if they are struck at 30mph, and they have only a 50 per cent chance at 35mph. Turning to the much lauded Portsmouth scheme, the official interim implementation review noted [that] “Comparing the three years before the scheme was implemented and the two years afterwards, the number of recorded road casualties has fallen by 22 per cent from 183 per year to 142 per year.” Although Eric majors on the year two figure being worse than year one, it is still lower than the pre-implementation numbers of casualties. The introduction of widescale 20mph limits in lit urban areas is indeed Green Party policy, but at the last county council election it did not distinguish me from other candidates. “20’s Plenty” is categorically an apolitical campaign, a big desire for the St Albans Cycling Campaign and an “in principle” Government policy. Let’s paint some 20s on the roads and slow down.

JACK EASTON St Albans District Green Party Marlborough Gate, St Albans

SIR – Your correspondent Eric Bridgstock (“20mph limits are white elephant”) raised what appear to be informed objections to the use of this speed limit in urban areas. However, while seeking to demolish the case of those who call for slower speeds (including Harpenden Town Council/HCC who in my view deserve applause for their initial application of the lower limit to Leyton Road), he offers no solution to the inevitable collision between the aspirations and impatience of racing drivers and the rights and needs of others (e.g. children). The facts are (a) our residential roads (in Harpenden as well as St Albans) were not designed for and cannot safely handle the volume, size or speed of vehicles that we now face and (b) many (most?) drivers think that the 30mph limit does not apply to them and so they tend to travel closer to 40mph (and often very close to the pavement). The last thing they would ever consider is that the best speed at which to drive should be determined by the road conditions (e.g. the proximity of pedestrians). As a result, we suffer daily from those who believe that ownership of a vehicle gives us an automatic right to terrorise cyclists and pedestrians, including parents with buggies, kids en route to school, those with visual or aural impairment, etc. Mr Bridgstock does not challenge the following: a child/adult/cyclist has more chance of survival if hit by a vehicle at the lower speed; congestion is reduced at 20mph; so too is the impact of vehicles on pollution and noise (how many drivers ever think about the noise they cause as they roar past people’s homes?). We face a problem of education and understanding. Unless your correspondent can provide a constructive argument on this front, all he is doing is reinforcing the self-appointed rights of any driver to do as he or she pleases. It would be helpful if he had more to offer than the stamp of an elephant’s foot on the efforts of those campaigning for safer roads.

ROB PEARMAN Gustard Wood, Wheathampstead

Action needed to tackle poor roads

SIR – It is indeed nice to hear from Barry Cashin, I thought his pen had dried up, but welcome back to these pages Barry. It is a pity that there are not more like you who are prepared and determined to do something about the dreadful state of the roads around St Albans. I get a lot of literature through my door from local councillors pointing at the dangerous potholes which are seemingly everywhere, but in spite of their posed photo shoot very little seems to happen. I realise that in these difficult times that capital expenditure is scarce, but when I see some of the desultory attempts to remedy our local roads it makes me wonder. Often the temporary work is done when it is raining and so the repair if any will not last much longer than a few days. Surely it would make good sense to do a permanent repair which means resurfacing the area rather than doing a bodge up job which will be repeated in the next few weeks if at all. I hope that residents of this city will follow Barry Cashin’s advice and take the steps which he advocates.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans SIR – I agree with Barry Cashin, we must do more to hold the councils responsible for the disgrace we call our roads. As a resident of St Albans I am regularly dodging large holes, that in some places take up most of one side of the road. I work in Stevenage and have just had the county council turn down my claim for the £250 damage caused to my car in January. In a one hour period seven tyres, including my own, were blown by that particular hole, with tyres being changed on both sides of the road. However, the council do not feel “they were negligent”. Another way to hold the council responsible and get justice for the residents is for our local papers to act as a conduit and bring together all the victims of the holes and a local solicitor to take on the case. Together we will be stronger and the true total cost to the taxpayers will become evident. After all this one pothole must have cost motorists at least £2,000.

LOUISE SHUTTLEWORTH Reynards Way, Bricket Wood

SIR – Can someone please answer me why our county council is wasting money at the moment resurfacing side roads and no-through roads – Laburnum Grove , Orchard Drive and Burston Drive to name but a few. Surely they should be concentrating on the main roads? I just wanted to highlight this as recently I ruined my third tyre in 14 months. This happened on the Redbourn Road as it drops down to Redbourn from Harpenden, just past the rugby club at around 6.40pm, and I can’t imagine I’m the only person to have hit this hole. It’s a very busy main road, unlit and 60mph limit at this point, I was doing around 50mph. What would have happened if a cyclist or motor cyclist hit it? The whole city is full of potholes, Watford Road is atrocious, as is Waverley Road which is a hospital route. So what is our county council playing at?

SUE GREENWOOD Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead

In defence of Harpenden

SIR – I felt compelled to write after reading Martin Attridge’s thoughts on the closure of the Harpenden House hotel and Harpenden in general. Whilst I agree with the hotel’s closure not being of great surprise, I do not share his opinions of Harpenden offering little as a town. The shops and amenities are good for a settlement of Harpenden’s size and far from being “nothing special”, are in my opinion part of the charm of a town which doesn’t have the usual plethora of fast food chains and larger department stores. The simple reason for the considerable development and increasing house prices must be because this is a desirable place to live. I appreciate your correspondent has lived here for over 30 years and will have no doubt seen some change. But I can comment on what I have experienced since moving here two years ago and that is that Harpenden is a town with a good community spirit, where neighbours still talk to each other and for example, dog walkers give a cheery hello when I walk past them on the way to work. I do agree that Harpenden has become absorbed into the London suburbs to an extent as we technically exist in a Home County. I do not necessarily think that is such a bad thing and even if the town is no longer where the “heart of England still beats strong”, whatever that actually means, I still think it is a nice place to live and work.

MARTIN LYNCH Sibley Avenue, Harpenden

Southdown blight

SIR – I would like to draw readers’ attention to the planning blight that has descended upon the Southdown area of Harpenden. This particularly affects the Grove Road/Grove Avenue /Meadway triangle. Meadway, especially, has been devastated in recent years by rampant over-development that continues apace today. Many of the once-matching bungalows at the lower end of the road have been subjected to a mix of partial demolition, expansion right up to their boundaries and conversion into large houses, resulting in an appearance totally unsympathetic to the neighbouring area. This has often taken place with scant regard to planning permission being obtained first, which is, I understand, strangely not against the law! Indeed planning permission usually seems to be granted eventually anyway, despite numerous objections by worried neighbours. There has been a very limited response by St Albans planning, local councillors, and other, supposedly, interested parties to issues raised. Where is their concern for the majority of their existing residents or is this just not high-profile? Rather than worry about one hotel which has received undue publicity in my view, I invite our local “worthies” to confront the broader planning issues that affect many more of us. Perhaps we could see at least a response to my letter in your publication soon? I won’t hold my breath given past experience though.

MARTIN ATTRIDGE Meadway, Harpenden

Thanks for support

SIR – I would like to thank all the many people who visited our stall in the market on Saturday. Last week was Climate Change Week so our charity, Population Matters, was hoping to get its important message across to the public that a smaller population would be a more environmentally friendly one. If only there were the will to do something about it, numbers could be stabliised by non-coercive means. More and more local people are feeling that they would like to see an end to the increase in numbers and all the extra housing, traffic and other development that it brings. Again, many thanks to all those friendly faces who came to see us.

HELEN HARAN Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

Magnifique not miserable

SIR – We just wanted to send you our sincere thanks and very many congratulations to absolutely everyone at Sandringham on your wonderful production of Les Miserables which we attended at the Sandpit Theatre. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon and witness such a first class production. The acting, singing, music, sound, lighting, front of house, back stage and the lead performers were outstanding. Finally, the obvious professionalism, dedication and commitment of the staff was so evident and is to be commended. It really was Magnifique not Miserable. My wife, Sue Smith, a retired teacher of 32 years at Wheatfield’s, Fleetville and latterly at Abbots Hill, our friend Carys Newton, also now retired, and who was for 26 years the Matron and Wardrobe Mistress at St Columba’s College and myself, Tony Smith, now retired after 40 years at St Columba’s College as Director of Sport and for 18 years, the Senior Master have been involved in many, many capacities in over 100 School Productions and we all agreed that the Sandringham production was one of the very best that we have ever had the pleasure to watch. Well done to all concerned at Sandringham and thank you.


View cleared by volunteers

SIR – It was pleasing to see that Mike Plant (Your Views, March 6) appreciated the clearing of the shrubbery alongside King Harry Lane to open the view of the Abbey, Verelamium Park and the city itself. This work was carried out by volunteers under the supervision of the Countryside Management Services. This group of volunteers meet every week and carry out a variety of jobs including planting hedges, laying hedges, clearing paths, putting in waymark posts, benches and picnic tables. So come along and join us, and improve your countryside skills, we are a friendly group of volunteers. Contact can be made through CMS at the HCC website.

EDDIE CORNELL Garden Court, Wheathampstead