Letters, May 23, 2013

Greens vs UKIP

SIR - The amount of air-time the national media are giving to Nigel Farage would make you think that UKIP are poised to take over the country.

Yet this is a party with no MPs, no London Assembly members and only six more councillors than the Greens. UKIP’s policies are the least popular of any party except the BNP, according to the independent Vote for Policies website (the Greens’ policies are the most popular by the way), and their councillors are regularly forced to resign over racist statements they have made.

Unfortunately, the Government has swallowed this media puff whole, and is now obsessed with immigration and Europe. As Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Instead of offering a coherent vision for economic recovery to help the millions who are struggling against unemployment, rising living costs and savage welfare cuts, he [Cameron] chooses to sing to the reactionary tune of UKIP.”

And what happened to “the greenest government ever”? What a joke. Our energy policy is now set to revolve around new coal plants, shale gas and government-subsidised nuclear.

The Prime Minister didn’t even think to include climate change as one of his priorities for the UK’s G8 presidency.

It’s time for the Government to stop listening to the rantings of UKIP, and start listening to the serious policies of the Greens.

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As the Vote for Policies website shows, there is huge support for Green policies, whether on climate change and the environment, or social justice and public services.

The last time people had a chance to vote in elections under proportional representation – the Euro elections of 2009 – the Greens won over a million votes, demonstrating again the growing support for action on the Green agenda.

Even the World Bank is now saying that without urgent and radical cuts in emissions, global temperatures will rise by at least 4C by the end of the century, with “devastating” environmental consequences for all of us. The case for political action has never been clearer.

The failure of the media, and the Government, to give serious attention to the growing relevance of Green policies is deeply troubling.


Green Party, St Albans

Market praised

SIR – It would appear that there have been issues with the market but I thought you would like to have the opinions of those who visit.

From working on the market I know that people come to St Albans market from all over Hertfordshire, London and the rest of the UK saying that the market is the best they have been to, that they must come back with more money to spend, why can’t other places have such a good market.

The visitors say that the variety of the stalls is excellent and, as one person put it recently, there was no tat. These testimonies surely indicate that the market is well run?

As a worker on a stall I see residents and visitors thoroughly enjoying the market and its atmosphere.


Homewood Road, St Albans

Don’t waste the power of a vote

SIR - You printed (May 16) a letter from Alan Jackson of Harpenden, in which he explained why he (and his wife) declined to cast their vote in recent local elections.

He stated that their “non-votes” were intended to send the message that none of the candidates had succeeded in impressing them with their “superior vision and record of achievement”.

I don’t doubt that Mr Jackson is well possessed of those qualities himself, so it is a disappointment that circumstances deprived the electorate of the opportunity to choose him (and/or his wife) as their representative on the council.

Perhaps he can reconsider the possibility of his own candidature next time.

I wasn’t that excited by any of my local candidates either, but as I hadn’t put myself forward as a candidate I did the next best thing, which was to express my preference of those who did.

I suggest there are only two truly democratic rights we have in the UK: the right to vote, and the right to stand, in free elections.

It is a great pity that some citizens feel too apathetic, too petulant, or too superior, to participate.


Walton Street, St Albans

No reason to demonise cycling

SIR - John Stoker’s response to works at St Catherine Street/Hatfield Road roundabout to make it more cycle-friendly is regrettable and indicates how out of touch he is with local transport conditions.

He attempts to demonise cyclists by trying to perpetuate myths which are untrue and provides no research to back them up.

St Catherine Street roundabout is an accident hotspot for cyclists - seven people on bikes have been injured there between 2005 and 2010.

This is why attention is needed at the roundabout - the county council is redesigning the roundabout to address problems shown by facts rather than recycling myths about bad cycling.

Plans for redeveloment have not yet been drawn up but there is no evidence to show that making the roundabout more cycle and pedestrian friendly will cause increased traffic congestion.

The number of people cycling in St Albans for day to day transport is increasing year on year, as shown by the increase in cycle parking being installed in St Albans Station where we have more cycle spaces than any other station in the country.

The continuing success of local sponsored bike rides such as the Rotary ride which took place last weekend shows that there is great also leisure interest in cycling. Local travel surveys show that 20 per cent of St Albans residents ride a bike at least once a month - between two and five percent commute on a bike.

There is a huge demand for cycling in both St Albans and the rest of the country. London, Manchester and other major cities as well as our neighbours in Watford recognise how cycling can improve conditions and are investing heavily in improved road conditions for cycling both on and off road.

Does John Stoker want to improve St Albans or condemn us to a traffic-choked unhealthy future?


Pondfield Crescent, St Albans

Courtesy comes first for cyclists

SIR - St Albans Cycle Campaign shares the dismay of recent correspondents at careless and even abusive behaviour by cyclists. STACC is an organisation that Supports The Actively Considerate Cyclist.

STACC is appalled by inconsiderate actions of the few. As well as upsetting people who encounter them, the aggressive and thoughtless individuals tarnish the reputation of cyclists as a whole.

STACC strongly encourages considerate cycling, on or off-road.

Paragraph 62 of the Highway Code includes very clear guidance to cyclists: Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary.

When you read the Highway Code, you will find that the phrase give them room keeps cropping up, addressed to all road (which includes path and track) users, whether driving, cycling, walking, riding a horse or motor-cycling. The Highway Code contains a lot of “you must” and “you must not”, but the overall emphasis is strongly on courtesy.

Sustrans, the civil-engineering charity that has created the National Cycle Network, has a code of conduct for cycling on shared paths, it can be found on-line at http://www.sustrans.org.uk/change-your-travel/get-cycling/cycling-code-conduct-shared-use-paths

The British Horse Society has produced an excellent Code of Conduct for Horse Riders and Cyclists, which can be found on their website http://www.bhs.org.uk/~/media/BHS/Files/PDF%20Documents/Safety%20leaflets/Cycling%20Guidance%20leaflet.ashx

“We want to see more people cycling, and there is more that unites cyclists and pedestrians than divides them” says Living Streets.

Living Streets’ Policy Briefing reference 03/09, available online at http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/sites/default/files/content/library/Policy_briefings/pb0309pedcycle.pdf addresses the problems that anti-social cycling brings.

Many of the health benefits of cycling as transport, to the individual and to the community and environment, are also provided by walking.

STACC is in favour of improved conditions for walking as well as cycling.

By choosing to walk or cycle, people are already contributing to improved personal physical and mental health and also to a more pleasant physical and economic environment for our community.

More cycling means less congestion, less air pollution, less noise and corresponding benefits for public health and local employers and businesses. In spite of this, walking and cycling currently receive much less than their fair share of the transport budget.

STACC hopes this informative letter will help individuals to cycle more enjoyably as well as adding to the reputation of cycling as a benevolent form of transport.


On behalf of St Albans Cycling Campaign

Recycling rows

SIR - Any divorce lawyers in the St Albans area perusing the recently circulated council leaflet headed “Changes to your recycling collection” must be eagerly anticipating an upturn in business.

It was already bad enough for members of a household having to argue over the fine distinction between “paper” and “cardboard” for example and what to do with discarded telephone directories – where Yellow Pages were apparently in a category of their own.

But the latest recycling directive has established a whole new area of potentially heated domestic debate as to what should go into which of the numerous waste receptacles provided.

We are told now that “shredded paper” (but no longer cardboard) should be put in the green wheelie bin.

At this address we do not possess a shredder, but my wife says “that’s alright, we can tear it up into small pieces”. I reply that I have better things to do, like cutting the lawn with a pair of nail scissors.

On the contentious subject of recycling plastic items, the latest council leaflet has stimulated a different marital argument.

For instance yoghurt pots are now deemed to be recyclable, but – and here Herts Advertiser readers must stifle their yawns – the Yeo Valley yogurt we tend to favour comes in plastic pots sheathed in a paper label. So, as a further alternative to scissoring the lawn, I am now told by my other half that I can occupy my idle hours trying to peel off those labels – a task I have found to be more challenging than it looks – prior to manually shredding them of course.

We are also at loggerheads over the dividing line between stout plastic bags – not wanted by the council – and slightly stiffer plastic wrappings. I have to admit that the argumentative shouting which ensues on the evening before each recycling collection day has yet to draw complaints from the neighbours. Divorce proceedings might therefore, after 52 years, be held off for a bit longer.


Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Welcome resolution

SIR - I am greatly relieved and pleased that Butterfly World and Gardens of the Rose have “kissed and made up”.

At last Chiswell Green and St Albans have two magnificent attractions for all age groups.


Laburnam Grove, Chiswell Green

Recollections from Down Under

SIR – Thank you for printing my letter in your paper. I have already received news from Park Street concerning a family whom my siblings and I grew up with and Park Street, where as a child I used to play and later as a teenager went to dances.

My father left his mark in England on many building projects, homes, Watford bus depot, rebuilding London, a power station in Scunthorpe. Now his ashes are with the ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) in New South Wales, the brother next to me is up in Queensland, and remaining sister 90 in Plymouth; just the three of us left out of seven.

My brother John McCullough designed Mount Pleasant Lane School’s badge. He was killed in December 1939, aged 17. He was in the Beds and Herts Territorial Army, and was buried at St Stephen’s church.

My mother is in Fleetville cemetery; my other brothers and sister in other resting places.


Noble Park, Victoria


Plane survey was a waste of time

SIR - No point in having a sensible dialogue with “see/hear no planes” Mr Pryor (May 9) who, having lifted our words out of context, pointlessly went to a location largely unaffected by Luton planes that day due to the different wind conditions (hence flight paths) then.

In our earlier letter we used the Easter weekend simply as an illustration of the likely future noise impact from Luton should its current plan go through. Perhaps Mr Pryor had flown off for the weekend!



Nobody listening over fire station

SIR – Is anybody out there listening? Nobody listened to the residents of Radlett when they fought to stop the closure of Radlett fire station. Thousands of letters and a 7,000-plus signature petition were ignored, along with all the overwhelming evidence and arguments put forward against its closure.

A planning inspector from Bristol, who apparently clearly knows nothing about Radlett, is the latest person to ignore all the facts, figures and arguments against building a block of 18 two-bedroom flats on the fire station site.

The decision to grant permission to Beechwood Homes and Herts County Council to build these flats, which have only one parking space each, in one of the wealthiest communities in the country and where most households have two or more cars each, simply beggars belief.

All the arguments about there not being anything like sufficient parking spaces on site and the inevitable overflow parking from the site onto surrounding streets, which are already overloaded to breaking point and the fact that the site is directly adjacent to one of the busiest and most dangerous roundabouts in south Herts have also been totally ignored and swept under the carpet.

If there ever was a judicial review over a string of bad decisions then this is clearly it. Our county councillors, borough councillors and parish councillors have so far completely failed to represent the interests of the community.

Is it too much to ask that they now get their act together and demand that the whole process, from the closure of the fire station to the ludicrous granting of planning permission, be looked at again and the decision to build these flats be overturned on the parking issue alone?


Park Road, Radlett

Further additions to commissioner’s cost

SIR - Some weeks ago I settled down to watch a science series, The Wonders of Life, fronted by one Brian Cox and very soon I was totally lost, science not being my thing.

So I bought the accompanying book and studied it intently by my usual method of looking at the pictures and accompanying text.

By page 10 a decision was taken that it is not given to us to understand everything, or in this case, anything.

I therefore ceased this activity and bravely put the book back on the shelf satisfied in the knowledge of a job well done.

Fresh from this triumph and eager to deploy my newly acquired scientific skills, I encountered, in these pages, a letter from MS Cowell entitled ‘Counting the cost of commissioner’.

So here goes. Regarding the “part timers” he overlooked that of James Hurley who is the PCC’s financial officer (£122,000 including making good and clearing site, titles may change without warning). This worthy is also the CFO of Hertfordshire Police thus ensuring a dispassionate audit of police activities. Similarly, the Chief Officer of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue on a salary of £0 (PCC) or £50,000 (BBC).

What we don’t need in Hertfordshire is, say, a Hillsborough or a repeat of the Met’s investigation into who/how leaked information to the press at the time of Downing Street Gate where the powers that be, having reached an interim conclusion, leaked it to the press.

Nobody is suggesting that the police hierarchy in this county are acting in any way illegally - a body more eager to follow the law, especially Murphy’s, would be hard to find.

Not responding accurately to a national daily’s Freedom of Information request as to how many officers have a criminal record was merely an oversight. Similarly the donation of the private records of 1,000 members of staff to G4S (at the time of their now-aborted negotiations, according to the BBC, £250,000 wasted) thus breaching the Data Protection Act, and currently under investigation by the ICO. Were the individuals concerned to sue one imagines that substantial sums would be paid out.

Our PCC is a very busy man what with being a county councillor and pursuing, with central government, the topic of “making criminals pay”. Now, some may say that he is also obeying a law of sorts - namely Howe’s law, which states “Every man has a scheme that will not work”.

Or as Robert Louis Stevenson put it: “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.”

According to the BBC website: “Suspects should be charged for being kept overnight in police cells, a police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said David Lloyd, PCC in Hertfordshire, said the ‘honest taxpayer’ should not be forced to meet the cost. Instead criminals ‘should be punished in the pocket’, Conservative Mr Lloyd said in an open letter laying out policing proposals.”

A PR guru - or spin doctor - would have approved of the easy way the PCC moved from “suspects” to “criminals”.


Gorham Drive, St Albans

Expansion of car park is no solution

SIR - Two most contrasting stories in this week’s paper. St Albans City Station has beaten even Cambridge to be the first UK station with over 1,000 cycle parking spaces, many fitted in to space that cannot be used for car parking.

Demand has been driven up by the basic fact that the time taken to cycle to the station remains pretty consistent, with a freedom to stop off for a newspaper or special item for supper en route without having to find a place to park a car, and the congested roads in the morning rush hour, and hunt for a parking space make the drive-to-train journey times less predictable.

Some commuters actually find that they can do without that car which sits for around 90 per cent of the time parked at home or the station, and the savings on a car park season ticket, plus running costs for a car, add up to several thousand pounds per year.

That buys a lot of taxi trips and car hires for the once or twice per week you actually need that second car.

At Harpenden it is reported that people are walking up to a mile - under five minutes on a bike, but at least 15 minutes brisk walking, from where they park their cars to get to the train, and it isn’t that building a bigger car park with the same access will make a great difference to their actual journey times or “level of service”.

A two-level car park ‘conversion’ as a minimum costs around £12,000 per space, for the vary basic prefabricated units that some locals have already said is a visual disaster.

Someone has to pay for this, and ultimately the landlord, Network Rail pays, to amortise the costs over a longer period than the FCC franchise, of this “asset” on the station site.

FCC pays a higher rent and charges for use of the parking spaces to cover this and the running costs for the car park.

£12,000 is relatively cheap - I once had the Heathrow Central Short Stay Car Park listed as the most expensive per space at £32,000 (naturally making the parking rates equally eye watering to repay this commercial investment).

Now the most expensive I’ve seen is one stations where £2.5m delivered just 30 additional parking spaces - effectively £83,000 per space, but with a daily parking charge no higher than £4 - effectively all the other passengers are subsidising car parking for the few who use it.

There remains a further problem rarely highlighted when a car park is expanded.

If each car takes around 15 seconds to get clear of the exit (an optimistic figure where exit is on to a busy road) than say 60 passengers get off an incoming train, and go to collect cars, the last car could easily be waiting 15 minutes to get to the exit... by which time another peak-hour train has discharged another 60 drivers to their cars.

Dispersal of passengers on foot or on bikes is substantially less intrusive and can use a far greater range of routes using less road-space.

I just wonder of measures to make use of the car park less attractive to those travelling distances which can easily be walked or cycled, and thus making space available for those travelling from further away might be a cheaper and simpler solution than building a bigger capacity, which, if it was assessed as an asset being used effectively would only be filled for nine to 10 hours per day - less than 45 per cent utilisation - few businesses would be happy with an asset so under-used.

The solution can be delivered - at Surbiton in SW London, the steady growth of cycle use has resulted in up to 25 per cent of the car park spaces being available at 09.30, providing spaces for groups travelling on off-peak services, even with some car parking being taken away to park even more bikes.

Time perhaps for some courageous decisions to manage the car parking demand rather than just accept a build, build, build policy.


Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow

Anyone remember Tramp Dick?

SIR – I was born in 1933 in Marshalswick, and recently had a nostalgic return trip after 50 years’ exile.

I was taken to a celebration at the tennis club in Jersey Lane. I knew Jersey Lane as a muddy track, which was known then as Tramp Dick’s Lane which led down to an enchanted bluebell wood and hidden in the trees was the makeshift home for many years of “Tramp Dick” himself.

As a child I was frightened of him but later came to realise that he was a shy, timid man.

I wonder if any of your older readers know anything of his history?

Why did he come to hide himself away and what became of him? Did he die in the Big Freeze of ’47 or was he swept up by social services?

I always believed his story contained a broken heart from a jilted love affair. Does anyone know?


Chantry Close

Ilkley, West Yorks