Letters, May 30, 2013

A question of semantics

A question of semantics

SIR – That newly re-elected County Councillor Geoff Churchard doesn’t know the difference between a terminological inexactitude (a lie) and semantics is such a pity as he has been teaching some of our youngsters.

Semantics has to do with the meanings of words and the words he used in his election literature were lies.

The lie being that Beric Read and other Tory councillors had voted for the building of 350 houses on Oaklands in Sandpit Lane; no such vote took place!

He says in your paper on May 9 that Beric Read voted in favour of the Strategic Local Plan in November. No such vote was taken; yet another terminological inexactitude.

What actually happened was that No Oaklands Housing Action Group (NOHAG) gave a presentation and made seven recommendations about the Strategic Local Plan (SLP). Labour councillor Martin Leach put forward a motion that these recommendations be agreed by the council, and this motion was carried only by the mayor’s casting vote. In the vote the Conservative members, save one, voted against the motion and not for anything.

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This vote having been taken the SLP was not debated.

All this can be seen in the council minutes for November 28, 2012, should you wish to verify what I have stated.

No wonder that Beric and his team may have been peeved that he didn’t get elected to the county council when he was beaten by dirty tactics and not a clean fight on some correct facts.

Your editorial of May 9 laments the fact that only just over one third of the electorate bothered to vote. Is it apathy or lack of awareness or the remoteness of County Hall you ask? Perhaps it is because some of our politicians don’t understand that the truth is all important in order to engage the electorate. Too often I hear the comment: “They’re all the same – in it for themselves. I don’t see the point in voting.”

I’m afraid that it is people who cannot tell the truth that give politics such a bad name.

Sandridge District on the county council has exactly the same boundaries as Sandridge Parish Council and as a parish councillor I shall be studying activities which affect the parish but are the responsibilities of the county council and should be championed by Geoff Churchard. Let us hope that lack of awareness apathy or remoteness do not prevent the County Councillor Churchard from carrying out his duties, for which last year he was paid £800 per month in expenses.


Sandridge Parish Councillor

Harefield Place, Jersey Farm

Let down by county candidates

SIR – I am writing to explain why my wife and I did not vote at the recent county council elections. We live in Marshalswick Lane a residential road where there is supposed to be a 30mph speed limit but no speed limit signs. In much of the road, there are no measures which are effective in reducing vehicle speeds.

None of the county council candidates would support road safety measures although one candidate indicated that he would propose a county council under-spend on other road items. I have been reading newspaper cuttings from the early 1970s when the local council were considering alternative measures to “improve the traffic situation in St Albans”.

Richard Stagg, who represented Marshalswick ward pointed out to the city council that Marshalswick Lane and Beechwood Avenue already (in 1972) were congested. The city council ignored his comment and now there are 100 vehicles every 15 minutes in both directions along the road outside our house.

I have served on the city and district council and later on the county council. On the latter, there was some pressure for me to change my voting intentions (which I resisted). Lack of help by the candidates at the county council elections eventually caused me to abstain.


Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

Defending the Countess

SIR – I feel that I must respond to the letter published on May 16 about the HRH the Countess of Wessex.

Highfield Park is a beautiful park on the east side of St Albans which is thoroughly appreciated by the majority of the local community. A new wood has been planted, mainly by volunteers and local school groups. The timing of the planting coincided with the Jubilee celebrations and the wood was awarded Royal Jubilee status, hence a request for a member of the royal family to celebrate the creation of the wood (known as Hither Wood). HRH Countess of Wessex was the perfect ambassador for the occasion together with Lady Verulam who was equally charming. The school children who met her were thrilled; she was not only enthusiastic but also able to engage them in conversation in particular, with the Sustainable Ambassadors from Wheatfields Infants and Nursery school and those from St Luke’s school in Harpenden.

What on earth the acceptance of jewellery from the Bahraini king has to do with this royal visit, personally I have no idea. The Countess was indeed “a very special and beautiful lady” and those who were privileged to meet her will always treasure the occasion.


Highfield Park

Fight to save our probation service

SIR – I wanted to write to support the comments of Gordon Jackson on these pages recently on the shredding of the fabric of the justice and rehabilitation system in our country.

It is proposed that up to 70 per cent of the probation service’s work be put out to competitive tender. The probation service will see its work confined, in the main, to core functions focusing on the supervision of the most “high-risk” offenders, providing reports on offenders to the courts. What happens if circumstances change abruptly? Consider someone deemed to be of low or medium risk suddenly becoming high risk, the contracted staff might not recognise that and even if they do, how seamless will the transfer back to the public sector be?

I’ll go further than Gordon in saying that I’m against this change because I do not believe that the private sector can fulfill a role in the probation service. Privatised probation is both undesirable and undeliverable.

The Ministry of Justice has a shocking record on procurement, take for example court translation services, where one large provider was given the contract for all court translations. Some interpreters failed to turn up, leading to cancelled trials, and others mistranslated evidence. In the probation service, The two main bidders are likely to be G4S and Serco. We all remember the Olympic security fiasco, but lets remind ourselves how G4S are doing on that other big MoJ contract, asylum-seeker accommodation; the subcontract provided a dubious level of housing with questionable habitation standards.

Probation is a local service. It gains its strength from its links with local authorities, police forces and community and voluntary sector organisations that operate at a neighbourhood level. Losing that local link should be a concern for everyone.

There are limits to what markets should control, public safety and rehabilitation is one such area.

That is why I am supporting a petition to Parliament not to privatise the probation service. You can sign it by Googling “petition 44403”.


London Colney Ward

Hardwick Place, London Colney

No doubt about global warming

SIR – In his valedictory letter (Your Views, May 16), Richard Durrant asks from where I get my information that global temperatures are rising.

My source is the trustworthy United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I thoroughly recommend exploring their website (www.noaa.gov). The NOAA’s ClimateWatch Magazine for March 2013 states that it was “the 37th consecutive March and 337th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th Century average.

“The last below-average March temperature was March 1976, and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985”. You will note that 1985 is 28 years ago.

Mr Durrant writes that he found on the internet an assertion that both January and February 2012 had below average temperatures. Unfortunately he doesn’t cite his source.

It may be that “his” website uses average land temperatures, whereas the NOAA uses the much more meaningful combined average of land and sea temperatures.

What is telling however is that he found only two recent months (out of at least 15, probably many more) that were allegedly below average. Most people would expect 50 per cent to be above average and 50 per cent to be below. It is clear and incontestable that global temperatures are rising, as I have said. It is also true that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree on global warming.

Whilst checking out my source, your readers may also enjoy a visit to Skeptical Science (www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php), which examines and comprehensively debunks the science and arguments of global warming sceptics.


Fishpool Street, St Albans

Cyclists debate rides on

SIR – If you were a member of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, you would have concluded: “Too many people in the UK feel they have no choice but to travel in ways that are dangerous, unhealthy, polluting and costly, not just to their own wallets but also to the public purse. Urgent action is required to address Britain’s chronic levels of obesity, heart disease, air pollution and congestion if we are to catch up with other countries in the developed world.

“There is an alternative. When more people cycle or walk, public health improves, obesity reduces and roads become safer. By changing how people travel, we can create places where people want to live, work, shop and do business. We can make people healthier, happier and wealthier. We can reduce costs to our NHS.”

If you can see the plain truth in that you will sign HMG’s epetition epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196 and “call on the Prime Minister to pledge that the Government will implement the recommendations in the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ parliamentary report.”

So what is it that stops so many would-be cyclists from getting back on their bikes? The simple answer is, of course: a fear of motorised traffic.

If you were in St Albans recently, you could have heard the President of the AA (yes, the Automobile Association, that AA) describe the St Peter’s Street/Hatfield Road roundabout as a nightmare junction for cyclists, needing attention for precisely that reason.

Or you could be John Stocker (Your Views, May 19), fuming out of his exhaust pipe.


St Albans District Green Party

Marlborough Gate, St Albans

SIR – I do have great sympathy for the views of Mr John Stocker (Herts Advertiser, May 16) regarding cyclists, and the reaction to his views by Mr Michael Hartley (Herts Advertiser, May 23) is not deserved.

With regard to the Catherine Street roundabout it is not necessary to see research into the effects of a traffic management scheme designed to give greater benefit to cyclists in order to express an opinion. Research, like statistics, is general and in such a specific location seems to me to be irrelevant since the issues covering this roundabout are unique to it and there is nothing to draw on to produce helpful information in terms of research and statistics.

There are many occasions when congestion arises at this roundabout, caused mainly by the traffic lights in Hatfield Road, which themselves are beneficial to pedestrians crossing the road at that point. It seems to me that any proposal expressly to give preferential use of the highway to any one class of user in a confined space at the expense of another is likely to give rise to further congestion. It will be interesting to see what happens when and if the re-design materialises.

Injuries to cyclists are just as regrettable as injuries to pedestrians and vehicle drivers, but these will only be reduced if all road users have proper respect for each other. There are good and bad cyclists as there are good and bad drivers but drivers are ultimately responsible at law for bad driving and injuries they cause whereas cyclists are not subject to the same legal criteria and restrictions. Certainly there seems little enforcement of the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists.

It is good to see occasional groups of youngsters being taught cycling techniques on street corners and how they should safely behave on the road. Hopefully, that will lead to a reduction in the bad cycling habits often seen – and you do not need research and statistics to notice them. They include no helmets, no lights, no hand signals, cycling on pavements (sometimes at speed), weaving between traffic, unexpectedly cycling across pedestrian crossings, jumping red traffic lights, mounting pavements to cross at road junctions if their light is at red, and lack of clearly visible clothing. These are not myths.

As Mr Hartley says, the number of people cycling is increasing. Cycling can have several benefits. It is right that it is promoted. That may mean there will be more injuries unless there is more mutual regard and respect. Like many, I drive and cycle.


Battlefield Road, St Albans

It’s a dog’s life

SIR – I wish to bring to your attention to the discrimination in Harpenden towards dogs.

Us dogs were allowed to enter the Post Office where we were well behaved.

We did not cry unlike little children, or complain or threaten anyone.

Now we are banned from there.

Also the charity shops will not allow us in.

We do not steal clothes or items or pickpocket unlike the Homo Sapiens species.

I noticed there are no signs on the cancer serving charities on their doors preventing our entry.

It is time we were not treated like second class citizens.

My dog friends from Hunstanton and Germany tell me they are treated much better in shops and allowed in restaurants.

Please end the discrimination.


Roundwood Lane


Greens poll less than UKIP

SIR – Simon Grover’s rant (Greens vs UKIP) about “the failure of the media and the Government, to give serious attention to the growing (sic) relevance of Green policies” seems rather to be a fit of pique because the voters do not take his party seriously, or at least that they do not vote for it.

That Mr Grover cites an obscure website as some kind of evidence that his party’s policies are more popular than UKIP’s is a sign of desperation. The website in question contains an entirely self-selecting survey and therefore has no scientific basis as a means of measuring public opinion. It is what is known in the market research industry as a “voodoo poll”.

It’s revealing that the nearest the Green Party can find to a public endorsement of their policies is such a voodoo poll, but it is clear why they have to stoop to this.

In regular national opinion polls the Green Party poll at around two or three per cent while UKIP has been achieving poll ratings in excess of 20 per cent in several recent polls.

The relative public support for the two parties is demonstrated by real votes as well.

In a number of recent parliamentary by-elections UKIP has achieved second place with vote shares in excess of 20 per cent while the Green Party, on the few occasions that they have dared to face the electorate, have invariably forfeited their deposit.

In the county council elections in Hertfordshire UKIP won over 44,000 votes with the Greens winning just over 10,000. Even in St Albans which is one of the Green Party’s strongest areas in the county, UKIP won many more votes despite fielding fewer candidates.

The “growing relevance of Green policies” to the voters of Hertfordshire was reflected in the party being resoundingly defeated in the one seat which they previously held while their vote declined in almost all others.

It is amusing also that Mr Grover cites the 2009 European election when his party won over a million as a sign of this alleged growing support but neglects to mention that here UKIP won two and a half million votes. In fact that result showed that the Green Party were the least popular of all UK parties represented in the European Parliament, except the BNP.

Simon Grover is quite entitled to argue that the government should pursue a Green agenda – indeed I should think this is his job.

He should attempt to do so based on the merits of his argument though, because if he is going to invoke public opinion, then all the facts show that public support for UKIP is far greater than it is for the Green Party. Trying to pretend otherwise when the facts are so clear, by citing voodoo polls and the like will just make him look silly.


UKIP St Albans

Cassius Drive, St Albans

No tears for Cllr Donald’s departure

SIR – Good news for elderly in sheltered schemes in St Albans at last. Cllr Robert Donald is no longer a threat to rehousing them against their will in the name of progress.

He certainly made progress with tenants of Caroline Sharpe House, he told us in 2007 we were to be temporarily rehomed and we were moved out in 2009-2010. The building is still standing empty three years later, the council have forfeited 28t lots of rent and 28 lots of council tax for that period, plus some flats have been empty over a year longer which must mount up to a considerable sum, in my rough estimate now close to £500,000. With a councillor losing that amount of income it has to be a welcome departure. So may the sheltered housing tenants of St Albans now hope for a more certain future, unless you live in Cunningham ward.


Quantock Close, St Albans

Plane survey was worthwhile

SIR – I beg to differ with John Davis – my survey was not a waste of time. He wrote to the paper complaining of the “almost endless drone” for the residents of South Harpenden. I put this to the test and saw only one plane between 6am and 7.30am – fact. Please don’t be so dismissive of actual evidence just because it does not support your case.

I also seem to have upset Pauline Wilson of Mons Close who said I deliberately chose to walk around the most northerly part of South Harpenden. Incorrect – please check a map of the area – Limbrick Road and Eastmoor Park are on the same latitude as Mons Close and less than half a mile away.

The only significant housing south of here is the southern half of West Common. I was not speaking on behalf of Harpenden residents as she stated but simply reporting what I found that morning.

I’m not suggesting no planes fly over Harpenden – it’s just not the problem some people would like us to believe and in this instance when put to the test an exaggerated claim about South Harpenden made by John Davis proved incorrect.


Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Mixed messages

SIR – In response to Mr John Bagshaw’s statement to the Herts Advertiser on May 23 that “he was not aware that SADC had promised consultation on provision of parking spaces” please note his response of March 22 to our email enquiry of March 19: “As I recall it was left that the environmental compliance officer of the district council would further explore options and consult with residents on views expressed at the meeting regarding parking in Marquis Lane.”

Which is it to be John?

We have made every endeavour to resolve our issues with HTC privately and amicably but his statement is beyond belief.



Marquis Lane, Harpenden

Alternative option to buy music

SIR – We at Oxfam’s Book and Music Shop on Catherine Street, St Albans read with interest your recent article about the start up of a new vinyl record shop in St Albans.

The article suggested that now HMV had closed down there was nowhere to buy music in the district. We would like to point out that our Oxfam Shop is well stocked with a wide range of vinyl (including collectable vinyl), CDs and DVDs. Customers are also able to purchase at Oxfam’s online store whilst supporting Oxfam’s wonderful work around the world.


Oxfam Book and Music Shop Manager

Catherine Street, St Albans

Please show a little patience

SIR – I would like to ask all those drivers who are taking the M1 south in the morning to show a little more consideration to the residents of Bricket Wood village who are trying to exit the village via the slip road to the M1.

It takes only a few seconds to slow down and let one car out and once you’re on the motorway, it makes no difference to your journey time.

It seems as though the drivers are all blinkered when they reach this point of their journey, driving nose to tail at 20-30 miles an hour, refusing to acknowledge there is a queue of drivers waiting at the end of Mount Pleasant Lane.

I am surprised that Herts Highways has not considered some additional traffic control at this point, a unique junction and possibly the only place in the country where a residential road terminates on a slip road.

Even a mini roundabout would help to alleviate the difficulties villagers face in leaving their own village. It would marginally slow the traffic travelling towards the motorway and I’ve noticed how much more courteous drivers at 15 miles an hour are than 30 miles an hour.

It would also give the occasional traffic coming off the motorway and turning right into the village priority over the on-coming traffic and present an opportunity for one or two cars to exit the village at the same time.

I appreciate drivers queue for a long time down the A405 to this point, but it is incredibly frustrating when 20-30 cars stream past without considering the drivers waiting at Mount Pleasant Lane.


Rowan Close, Bricket Wood