Letters March 24 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Is this the end of Redbourn village?

If 6,000 houses are built to the east of Hemel Hempstead, as local MP Mike Penning wants (Herts Advertiser March 17), it would see the end of Redbourn as a rural village. There are just over 2,000 houses in Redbourn at the moment, so he is talking about something three-times the size of the village. Hemel would become massive, and Redbourn would be overwhelmed by its neighbour. All of these new houses (and the “new hospital” Mike Penning is calling for) would be on Green Belt land, mostly in the Parish of Redbourn. In the past protecting the Green Belt was supported by our local MPs but that is not the case now. Peter Lilley, Redbourn’s own MP, is in favour of extensive development between Hemel and Redbourn, and St Albans’ MP, Anne Main, has given her support to the District Council’s proposed plan to build 4,000 houses on its Green Belt, particularly on the countryside east of Hemel. Over the last few decades, the Metropolitan Green Belt has played a vital part in protecting our towns and villages from joining together and becoming part of a sprawling Greater London. Not only that, the Green Belt to the east of Hemel is top quality farmland, which, of course, is where our food comes from. An independent environmental report commissioned by St Albans district council warned of the significant dangers to the balance of nature, especially climate change, if any of this Green Belt was lost. No one wants to see people homeless or living in over-crowded conditions, but using huge swathes of the Metropolitan Green Belt as an easy option for development is not the answer to the country’s housing shortage. Hemel itself has numerous unused brown-field sites, and the Government is talking about new garden cities and promoting a “northern powerhouse”. Many people moving to this area are being forced out of London because of the lack of suitable housing, but they should be encouraged to look beyond the south-east to areas where the cost-of-living is much lower and new jobs and houses are being created. Our region’s MPs should be supporting good long-term spatial planning at a national level, not advocating the destruction of the local countryside for short-term political reasons.


Chairman, Redbourn Parish Council,

Lilly Lane, Hemel Hempstead

Why no blue plaques at historical sites?

SIR - On May 22 1455 King Henry VI stood in Market Place in St Albans (not far from where the Herts Advertiser office is now) whilst Richard, Duke of York laid siege to the town centre to try to capture him. This was the first battle of St Albans and it was the start of the Wars of the Roses. This event has been on television a number of times recently; notably in the television series The White Queen and on the history programme, Britain’s Bloody Wars. It is also the subject of a scene in the Shakespeare play, Henry VI Part One. However, in St Albans market itself there is no sign to say that this important milestone in English history ever happened here. Nothing whatsoever. I think that this is very short-sighted. It seems common sense to me that tourists and visitors are interested in history, and tourists are also good for the economy of the city, so the council should do whatever it can to encourage them by keeping them informed. Over the last five years I have sent seven e-mails and two letters to councillors, council employees, portfolio holders and other interested parties about this, and I have never had a reply, apart from one polite brush off. There is a dilapidated sign in the market place, at the front of Christopher Place, which gives rather trivial information, which is in any case more or less illegible and needs to be replaced. As this is more or less the spot where this historical action took place, I think that replacing this sign with something about the start of the Civil War would be a small step in promoting the history of the city, and would create interest for visitors. On the same subject; at the end of last year, the Royal Society for the Arts issued a report entitled the Heritage Index . This was not designed to show what cultural assets the area had, but rather, in its total score, it aimed to highlight which areas and cities in Britain make the best use of their heritage assets. The report was created by tallying up cultural assets, including nature reserves, blue plaques and designated local foods, and dividing them by the area’s size. St Albans came 296th – 29th from the bottom - for its ‘total score’! By comparison, Watford was in the top 26 per cent and Scarborough and Hastings were placed first and second respectively. So I think that St Albans council need to wake up over this. They have been shown up in a report from a disinterested public body which says that they are not publicising the history and heritage that they have, and therefore the council needs to respond to this by taking some action. There are at least six sites in the city where we should have a sign or a blue plaque. For instance, Keyfield Terrace opposite the White Hart Tap public house, is the site where Richard, Duke of York, assembled his troops before the first battle of the Wars of the Roses. At the moment, this is just a nondescript car park, and you might well ask what the benefit of putting a blue plaque in such a spot. Well, one answer is that it is likely that the four, very good, pubs in that area would do even more business if customers knew that they were next to an important historical site. The staff at the Abbey have become much better in recent years at showing the history of the cathedral, and the museums are, of course, dedicated to displaying our historical setting. It is the council which needs to respond to the criticism which the Royal Society for the Arts makes about them. They should make a start on that by replacing that worn out sign, near to Christopher Place, with one about the Wars of the Roses which started here. It wouldn’t cost them much to do it and it would have spin-off benefits. If they did it now then they could have it ready for an unveiling ceremony of this replenished sign, in the town centre on Sunday May 22 this year, on the anniversary of the first battle of St Albans, which was the start of a defining civil war in English history.

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ERNEST BARNES St Vincent Drive, St Albans

Not a playground

SIR - With reference to Barry Cashin’s letter, although I do not always agree with his opinions, I am 100 per cent with his sentiments on the subject of noisy, undisciplined children in cafés.This behaviour happens from the cheapest to the most expensive of our Harpenden establishments. Do they want their children scalded when they run around and knock over a hot cup of beverage through lack of supervision? Mothers of small children of my generation did not have time for such relaxation, as domestic chores took longer, with no automatic washing machines, dishwasher, freezer or car availability. While I am on my hobby horse, I am amazed at the number of black bins I see, which are so full that the lid cannot be closed. Do the owners of these bins realise that they are contributing, through their Council Tax, to the £100 per tonne that it costs the council to to dispose of this rubbish as landfill? Sainsbury’s in Harpenden will take all plastic bags including small crisp packets, bags that have held frozen meat, fish and vegetables etc. Waitrose take carrier bags and have recently added film i.e the covering on top of packaged meat and fish dishes. Dark Lane Recycling Centre will take paint, building rubble, which includes broken china and glass, scrap metal, large and small electrical goods, textiles, clothes, shoes, rigid plastic, wood, and florescent tubes. Added to this list is, of course, the kerbside collection. There is really very little left to put into the black bin.

WENDY SHARP Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Cashin comeback

SIR - Your correspondent is absolutely right except that there should be a shop saying ‘Only miserable middle aged gits welcome here’. Assuming such a place would attract enough customers he could spend many a happy hour there in the company of others who find the rich divergence of society trying, leaving the rest (if they ever noticed him) to enjoy life in Caffe Nero and other outlets knowing they were not under such magisterial observation of their lawful behaviour. He wouldn’t be banned - he’d just have an even greater choice open to him than he has now.

ANDREW JOHNSTONE Holyrood Crescent, St Albans

Defending a pillar of the community

SIR - I do not usually write to newspapers but I was incensed at the attempted verbal assassination of Lyn Bolton by an unnamed person(s) hiding behind the pen name of Sandridge Residents in a recent issue. A shame they are not brave enough to name themselves and state under what authority they use the title of ‘Sandridge Residents’. I have known Lyn Bolton for the last 10 years. Yes, Lyn does have opinions and yes, she does express them and yes, she admits she is not always right. Lyn has been a pillar of the Jersey Farm community over at least 20 years. She has previously been Chair of the Jersey Farm Residents Association, currently Vice Chair, a member of Sandridge Parish Council for the most of the time from about 2002 until stepping down in 2015 to fight for the Marshalswick North District Election in May last year. Since then she has been learning the requirements and skills of that role. Lyn is also a leading member of the Jersey Farm Day Care Centre that meets weekly. Lyn was also heavily involved with the Queens Jubilee and the Sandridge 900 celebrations so clearly has knowledge and experience in this type of event. I cannot believe that Lyn would even dream about trying to destroy the harmony of Sandridge Parish Council and probably regrets having not stood for re-election.

BRIAN STUBBS Holborn Close, St Albans

Lilley backs cuts to disabled payments

SIR - On Monday, two days before the Budget, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchen and Harpenden, who, one is led to believe, owns several properties, including one in France voted to cut personal independence payments for disabled people (PIP). This is the money paid for basic services such as help to use a toilet, or eat a meal or get dressed or undressed. Basic tasks that those with Parkinsons, as a member of my extended family suffers from, or a wheelchair user, will now struggle to do. Last year, Peter Lilley refused to condemn Harpenden Town Council’s deliberate breaking of the Government’s Purdah Rules when they openly allowed a meeting to be held at the Town Hall during the run up to local elections. I hope all voters will remember this man’s actions in the 2020 elections. Yours in total disgust.

CAROL HEDGES Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Remembering Verulam Motors

SIR - I refer to picture of Verulam Motors in your edition of March 16, for which you were seeking more information. The picture was taken around 1963-1965. Verulam Motors stood at the corner of London Road and Marlborough Road. The site is now occupied by the Benedictine Place flats. Sadly the rather nice villa neighbouring Verulam Motors was also demolished around the time the site was cleared for redevelopment. Verulam Motors were the main Ford dealer for St Albans. I remember as a small boy visiting the premises on a number occasions with my father, who had a series of Ford cars, to collect cars after servicing or to look at new models in the showroom. Sometime later in the 1960s the ownership changed to Godfrey Davis who retained the Ford main dealer status. Later in the 1980s Godfrey Davis moved to the Ashley Road, leaving a site ripe for re-development. Notice that all the vehicles in the picture are Ford models (the Cortina and Anglia on the right look quite new), with the exception of the Morris Minor van, which looks like a Post Office van, and the bus, which is probably an 84 (red bus) headed for Arnos Grove. I hope that this helps.

ANDREW NICOL Millstream Rise, Romsey, Hants

Excessive signs?

SIR - Whilst taking my usual walk round Verulamium Park last Sunday I noticed a little yellow sign telling me that “Heritage Watch” (me neither) is operating in and around the vicinity of the Roman wall. As I progressed along my route another identical sign came into view. Then lo! Yet another. All told, I counted 17 of these signs. What vital information could necessitate such a quantity of notices? I took pains to study one. Evidently I needed to be reminded - at every step - that police were operating in the area. Who would have known? In all my years of walking in that part of the park I had never seen a single police officer. This was true even on the morning I actually had cause to summon the police to investigate a lit fire and the remains of a drug-fuelled all-night party (tardy revellers included!). As I continued on my way several thoughts occurred to me. Could it be possible these excitingly official signs were lying to me and that maybe no police were operating in the area? Unlikely I know, but we live in unfathomably strange times. Also, what could 17 signs achieve that just one or two (or none) could not? I was stumped. It was not until I left the park that I grasped the answer - that area of St Albans is a bit dreary and, well, not at all iconic. Lots of bright yellow signs are exactly what is required to improve the user experience. I slapped my head and uttered and audible, ‘doh!’ just 17 signs, was that even enough?

NICK CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

Christmas Market stalls ‘flogging tat’

SIR - It is sad to read again about the difficulties of the St Albans Christmas Market, though good to hear of the “proposed new initiatives to boost its popularity”. The unfortunate reality not apparently being addressed, though - at least according to your article - is that too many of the stalls each year are flogging tat. It’s no surprise that so many punters are underwhelmed and this needs sorting out.

IAN HALL Cornwall Road, St Albans