Letters, May 2, 2013

On the verge of despair over drivers

SIR – As a resident and therefore a regular user of Ayres End Lane, I am alarmed by the number of road users who are parking on the verge near the railway bridge. Do these motorists think that this is a parking space? Are they so arrogant that they think themselves exempt from the rules that other road users abide by?

If they would like to reacquaint themselves with the Highway Code, they will discover (some perhaps for the first time) that the circular blue sign, with a red cross, at the entrance and exist of Ayres End Lane, gives a command that the road is a no stopping road. Secondly there is no parking sign giving permission for them to leave their cars there. So why do these drivers think that they are able to do so?

As I understand it, the cars are left whilst walking dogs or other recreational activities in Heartwood Forest. Whilst I support and advocate the use of our green and peaceful countryside, I feel it should be brought to their attention that there is a purpose-built car park, designed for the use and enjoyment of Heartwood Forest, which is free and approximately 2.6 miles away. In fact they even drive past a car park on Ferrers Lane where they can also leave their vehicles without causing a nuisance to other road users.

By parking on the verge, not only are they acting recklessly and creating an obstacle to other road users as this is a blind corner but are also in clear violation of the rules of the road.

In addition, the constant assault on the verge is causing irreparable damage and those who live on Ayres End Lane have to endure the consequences of flooding caused by blockages to the drains from debris; something I’m sure they would have not even considered in their all-consuming lives.

It would therefore be most appreciated for these constant offenders to think about their actions next time they decide to violate the Highway Code.

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Ayres End Lane, St Albans

Town Hall lights?

SIR – I was sorry to read that the powers-that-be have stymied the excellent suggestion to convert our splendidly dominant Old Town Hall into a Museum of St Albans – which could possibly have included some of the stored and unseen items from the large Verulamium Museum, a lovely building but situated – for the day visitor at least – rather inconveniently far from our city centre.

I have a modest proposal. Below the Town Hall are two discreetly-signed public conveniences and I would like to propose that two large electric signs be placed high up on the front of the Town Hall, facing the Market Place, to better advertise not only the building itself, but also those useful “facilities” – perhaps with a flashing light to indicate when “free”.

In the spirit of the late Dr Jonathan Swift, I am yours faithfully,


Old London Road, St Albans

St Peter’s Street is looking shabby

SIR – For the past few weeks I’ve been observing with interest a hole appearing on St Peter’s Street outside The Carphone Warehouse.

In and of itself it’s not a desperately interesting hole – just a bog standard workman’s effort for maintenance to underground pipes and cables.

What initially piqued my curiosity about the hole was the way it was beginning to fill with rubbish (nearly all food and drink packaging) even though there were two bins not five metres away.

Why do people do this? And why is no one ever prosecuted? Each bit of litter in that hole represents a little crime that has been committed.

But enough; what has actually caused me to write is the state of the hole now the work is complete.

Rather than being made good to an equal or better standard than what was there previously, where once there were paving flags there is now a lumpy plug of Tarmac and the surrounding flags are no longer flat, but lifted up at unappealing angles.

I notice this isn’t the only place on St Peter’s Street and the surrounding areas that similar bodge jobs have been allowed.

St Peter’s Street was only renovated six years ago yet it is already looking shabby. I’ll leave you with one question: would the private management companies that own and run St Christoper Place and The Maltings (other competing shopping areas in St Albans town) allow such shonky workmanship?


Jerome Drive, St Albans

Roundabout needs resolution

SIR – Even if the proposed freight terminal at Park Street does not get the go-ahead (which naturally one hopes it will not), the problems with congestion at the Park Street roundabout during peak times are at an unacceptable level. Because of the near constant flow of traffic entering the roundabout from both directions of the A414, drivers entering from the A405 and from Watling Street may wait an inordinately long time. Because the window for entering the roundabout is so short, many drivers are forced to take risks by doing so, especially so as the traffic on the roundabout is fast moving. This of course leads to accidents which needless to say cause even more congestion and delays.

I believe that traffic lights operating during peak hours only (i.e. the morning and evening rush hours) would ease these problems considerably. They would naturally reduce the number of accidents which is an unambiguously good thing but they would also create a fairer situation for motorists approaching this junction from the directions of Park Street and Chiswell Green and from St Albans who must now queue for such a long time.

I have started a petition on the Hertfordshire County Council website in support of this measure.

This can be found at https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/


Tavistock Avenue, St Albans

Lack of support for HMS St Albans

SIR – The historic visit by the ship’s company of HMS St Albans and a full Royal Marine band from HMS Collingwood was a spectacular and stirring sight in the city on April 21.

The ship’s company were exercising their right to enter the city with bayonets fixed and colours flying, as they were granted the freedom of the city in 2002, when the ship was first built.

Due to their operational commitments they have never been able to take up this opportunity until that Sunday.

An excellent souvenir programme was produced by the council detailing the day’s itinerary and a history of the ship’s patrols on anti-piracy and anti-drugrunning and a time in the Gulf protecting our interests out in those dangerous waters.

What a pity most of the residents of St Albans knew very little, if any, of this happening. A few column inches in the Herts Advertiser on page 3, hidden underneath a banner headline about Harpenden’s Britain’s Got Talent hopeful Alice Fredenham.

No advertising in the town, no posters in the car parks, no nothing. The event was watched by about 50 to 60 enthusiastic residents/shoppers. This rare opportunity to show our thanks to our armed forces and more especially to a ship which carries our city’s proud name was for me, an embarrassing experience.

Thank goodness the County Constitutional Club in Ridgemont Road came to the rescue – www.thecountyclub.org.

They organised for the whole ship’s company to go to the club for a meal and some drinks before they returned to Portsmouth in the early evening, an excellent idea and well received

The crew I spoke to told of the warm welcome they received from shopkeepers, passers-by and publicans, who all said if they had known about their visit they would have dressed up their shop fronts with Union Jacks and the pubs would have put on some entertainment for the ship.

Well done the County Club, poor show the city council.


Ex Chief Petty Officer Royal Navy

Hollybush Lane, St Albans

Cyclists are out of control in park

SIR – You will doubtless remember the phoney consultation and subsequent implementation of plans to include cycle paths in Verulamium Park.

Now that the path is in place a small minority of cyclists are using it beautifully and with consideration for pedestrians. But it seems that the majority cycle on paths that are not included in the scheme or on the grass.

Now that the cyclists feel they have freedom to roam in the park they are everywhere, often dangerously so. And if you comment to them you get a swift “f*** off!” back. They are scaring children, barging people and ignorant of dogs. There are cyclists everywhere. I was buzzed at high speed on Saturday morning as a cyclist made no effort to dodge my dogs coming down the hill from the Waitrose end of King Harry Lane (quite emphatically not a cycle path).

The fact is that, although the council promised signs and that the path would have no impact, their extreme inability to complete tasks to a reasonable standard has meant that there is nothing to tell cyclists where they can and can’t go.

Many cycle at speed between St Michael’s School and the lake where unsuspecting people walk in their dozens. Worst of all are those who pelt around the lake paths, where there is nowhere for you to jump out of the way.

And before the old chestnut “keep your dogs on a lead” crops up it should be noted that this is only required in the region of the lake. Do these people expect us to put children on leads too?


Kings Road, St Albans

Courtesy costs nothing

SIR – The Ayot Greenway is a fantastic, shared resource. This defunct railway line running from Wheathampstead to Welwyn Garden City is a green artery through some beautiful countryside and is enjoyed by a wide variety of users.

Horse riders, pedestrians, dog walkers, runners and, yes, cyclists!

The vast majority of all types of users respect the fact that the Greenway is a shared resource and remember to be courteous and careful around each other. I, as a dog owner, love the safety of a route without cars where my (slightly mad) Irish Setter, Jasper, can meet other canine friends and their owners, look at horses from a respectful distance and learn to sit “as he has been trained to do” when cyclists are approaching.

So far, so good. I can see the cyclists coming toward me but it’s a lot more difficult to see those coming from behind me – 99 per cent of those cyclists give me ample and polite warning of their impending presence by ringing a bell or giving a friendly verbal “Hi” or “Excuse me”. This gives me time to make sure my dog is under control and gets out of their way.

It’s common sense and it avoids the danger of frightening me and my dog. It avoids the possibility of nasty accidents occurring to me, my dog and the cyclist. It’s a win-win solution, helps everyone feel good and costs nothing.

So why is it that we have a persistent minority of cyclists on this and other countryside routes who career along with no warning I have had a number of “near misses” with cyclists and the worst culprits are often enough those travelling the fastest.

Of course, the Government pledge to remove red tape has meant that a requirement to both have a bell and use it to give warning of their approach has been removed from proposed legislation. This has given those cyclists who choose not to have a bell the freedom to exercise their selfish behaviour and bring other cyclists who do observe basic common sense into disrepute.

Please can we give some publicity to this problem and try to get the message home?


Waterend Lane, Wheathampstead

Unfair charges for passenger set-down

SIR – I recently travelled from Luton Airport and was astonished by the illegal car parking charge of £2 in the passenger set-down zone. There is no reference to this charge on the entrance to the set-down zone and therefore according to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Legislation 1999, the charge is illegal and unenforcable, since it is clearly unfair for any business or enterprise to charge a customer without informing them beforehand.

Furthermore the information on Luton Airport’s website that I have consulted in the meantime is incorrect (stating £1 for 10 minutes).

I might have been astonished, but not surprised, as this is entirely consistent with the assinine, base stupidity and grasping, piggy-like greed of the management of Luton Airport, which was in evidence throughout our experience in the terminal, from having only one check-in desk open for four flights (due to EasyJet, likewise not intelligent or competent) to charging for clear bags for liquid items which passengers don’t even need (we weren’t sucked in by this one, just put all the containers in the tray and picked them out the other side), thereby spitefully attempting to profit from the terrorist acts that created the need for such bags in the first place.

Back to the parking charge – only a complete and utter moron would conceive of such an idea and I genuinely believe such person should be fired. It is short-sighted in the extreme for an airport which is competing with four other airports in the greater London area (which don’t have such charges) and as a passenger with a choice I will avoid travelling from Luton in the future.

The only reason I drove to the airport is because it is highly incovenient to take the train when carrying heavy suitcases due to the bus transfer. It was clearly beyond the wit of man to build the airport by the railway line, as Gatwick airport somehow managed to!


Cornwall Road, St Albans

All praise Mrs T?

SIR – Well done Mr Evers, you certainly put David Allan in his place. How dare he criticise the late Lady Thatcher. Does he not remember how, even before becoming Prime Minister, she saved us all a small fortune by ending the waste of taxpayers’ money spent on free milk for schoolchildren, an act which even earned her a nickname, “Thatcher the milk snatcher”, but I suppose that was one step up from her school nickname “Snobby Roberts”!

However, when she did get power she made it clear that she did not believe there was such a thing as “society”. After all we only a collection of individuals, so why should we be held responsible for others when obviously the most important priority is oneself. People even called her divisive.

As for privatisation, was she not again absolutely right? We all know how competition, the lifeblood of the economy, has brought us cheaper and more efficient rail travel, cheaper supplies of gas and electricity and better banking. So what if those private services still soak up very large sums of taxpayers money. We should not, of course, regard that money as losses or subsidies, as they were called in the nasty days of nationalisation, but as support for essential services.

Since she professed to be a great defender of freedom, she obviously recognised the wicked unions and people like miners as the enemy within, but I must admit to being a little puzzled by her great friendship with the murdering dictator Pinochet, but I am sure she had very good reasons, as she did for exercising responsibility for the sinking of The Belgrano during the Falklands War.

I belong to no political party and am distressed that people like David Allan cannot see all the benefits she brought to this country and I hope that he will not continue to regard as malign, unimportant glitches like the Poll Tax, the selling of of chunks of our industry to foreign companies and the killing off of our mining and steel industries.

Eventually, history shows us that it was her political colleagues, whom she had ruled with a rod of iron, who threw her out – what an ungrateful lot! But to me, the final blow was the decision of her successors to charge the enormous cost of her funeral to the taxpayers instead of going out to competitive bids from the private sector she adored. Maybe it was the thought of having distasteful advertising on the sides of the cortege! I suppose we have to draw the line somewhere.

Ron Hershbein

Furse Avenue, St Albans

UKIP owes voters an explanation

Sir – At a recent meeting with Vicky Ford MEP, she gave us a review of the committee work that was being done on the future financial structure of the EU relating to banking and the finance industry. Their White Paper will be highly important for the future of “The City” and every party represented was entitled to vote.

The only party that did not attend, nor voted were UKIP as this, apparently, goes against their principles of being in the European Parliament and all that that entails.

This was a lost vote for the UK and shows how our interests are not being represented by a group of highly paid MEPs and one wonders why we are even prepared to countenance their involvement in local and national politics if they cannot perform where they are elected.

Not only is the national interest being undermined, but, our own citizens that work in the finance sector should take note as their jobs could be on the line.

The only political party that has the potential of giving the British people a chance to vote on a referendum is the Conservative Party and this means supporting that aim through local elections is as vital as a General Election.

Europe watches the swings and roundabouts of our elections at every level and we need to show unity when confronting them at the negotiating table. Protest is all very well but unguided one issue policy parties are not.

Michael de Ruyter

Hill Street, St Albans

Colts omnishambles

SIR – ‘Omnishambles’ was a term first coined in the TV series The Thick Of It, but then eagerly taken up to describe goings-on in real-life politics.

Many residents of Harpenden are now being tempted to apply the expression to the long-running saga of Colts FC’s planning application to turn 32 acres of countryside into an 11-pitch football ground. It is a saga which has now been put on hold following withdrawal of the planning application. But even that has its farcical aspect, with Colts chairman Bob Trevor admitting (April 25) that the plans were pulled without his knowledge.

From the word go, the scheme had elements of farce about it. The site was described as New Farm, even though no one living close by, including myself as a resident of 40 years standing, had ever heard the name before.

The proposals came completely out of the blue, notwithstanding the assertion by the landowner, Hertfordshire County Council, in the person of Cllr Bernard Lloyd, that Colts as well as HCC had been putting the project together over a period of a year or more.

Arrangements for the first exhibition of the plans at Roundwood School, where residents were invited to give their views on the scheme, were bungled by the council’s planning consultants Vincent and Gorbing, when they failed to notify many local households of the event at all, while those who were circulated were given only a scant five days notice.

Though Cllr Lloyd claimed the New Farm proposals had complete transparency, there was reference in the proposal documents to a “reserve site for education use”.

It soon became apparent that those weasel words alluded to a new school, and provisional plans duly emerged showing such a school on the northern edge of the site, accessed from Roundwood Lane. The fact that such a future development would involve Colts sacrificing part of their hoped-for 11-pitch complex seemed not to disturb Mr Trevor or his “sponsors” – as he called them in his recent letter to club parents.

Vincent and Gorbing’s eventual withdrawal of the planning application – behind Bob Trevor’s back – was seemingly triggered by St Albans District Council’s planning department’s recommendation to the eight-councillor Plans Referral committee, to reject the proposals. There the “omnishambles” syndrome kicked in again. The grounds for refusal were stated to relate to the visual intrusion of the planned pavilion building and the loss of green space.

To the astonishment of the one thousand-plus protesters who had signed petitions objecting to the plans, the planning officer made no reference at all to what everyone had considered to be the key issue, namely traffic – that is access to the site and car parking.

Why was the traffic question not addressed by SADC’s planners?

No answer has been forthcoming, prompting further accusations of non-transparency. That silence has aroused suspicions that we haven’t heard the last of Colts’ madcap plans for New Farm. Let them be assured however that those many protesters against the scheme will maintain their vigilance in reacting to any reapplication for development on our precious Hertfordshire countryside.


Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Non-science of climate change

SIR – The selective and inaccurate use of climatic data in Tony Crook’s letter of April 25 is typical of the lucrative game of climate non-science. Also, the Gulf Stream is driven by wind, temperature differences and salinity differences in the oceans; not just salinity, as he states.

Being trained in a rigorous science (chemistry), I require that a scientific hypothesis be tested by its ability to make accurate predictions.

The hypothesis that carbon dioxide causes global warming cannot begin to be tested until we know how weather systems work. The fact is that the Met Office has spent billions of pounds on failed long-term weather predictions. They do not have a clue about what causes weather, they only know how it will develop.

They use satellites to look at what rain is blowing our way when the wind is from the west. The east winds of early April had the Met Office producing very inaccurate forecasts.

Piers Corbyn produces reasonably accurate long-term weather predictions. He believes that weather systems are driven by the sun and that carbon dioxide is irrelevant.

As a chemist, I do not entirely agree that there is no human agency affecting weather. What caused the dreadful winters that destroyed Napoleon’s and Hitler’s invasions of Russia?

I would guess that it might have something to do with the smoke from cannons and fires. The horrendous smoke being produced by the billions of tons of coal being burned in China is now undoubtedly causing local changes in temperature.


Park Avenue, St Albans

Cashin’s columns

SIR – Early in your editorship you laid down the edict that letters should be limited to 250 words. Unfortunately you appear to be ignoring completely your own own rules and week after week we are subjected to lengthy diatribes from Barry Cashin who seems unable to use a sentence when a paragraph will suffice.

In the words of Disraeli about Gladstone I can only think that he has become “inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity” and all readers would benefit from his own curtailment of his waffle if the editor continues to indulge him.

A wonderful example to be followed would be the brilliant letter (April 25) from Martyn Hedges who managed to state his case far more powerfully in a single line than did Mr Cashin in an entire column.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

Thanks for help

SIR – On Easter Saturday I fell in Verulamium Park and was very kindly helped by a young family, also another lady who called an ambulance.

I was taken into Westminster Lodge until the ambulance came. I would like to thank all these people who were so kind. It turned out I had broken my hip and am now progressing well but would like to thank all these people who were so kind to me that day in the cold. Thank you.

Jean Eaton

Westminster Court, St Albans