Letters, May 15, 2014

Why not send our rubbish to Norway?

SIR – Norway is crying out for household waste to power their voracious incinerator complexes and produce electricity and hot water for district heating schemes. Several UK cities such as Sheffield are already sending their waste instead of having to search for landfill sites so every time I visit the collecting station at Waterdale and watch the huge articulated trucks being filled ready to trundle up the M1 to landfill I wonder why Hertfordshire County Council are not already suppliers to the Norwegian system and getting paid for it?

JACK HILL Riverside Close, St Albans

Fewer offices mean fewer office jobs

SIR – I fear Mrs Hilary Crook may have misunderstood the excellent article for the Civic Society by Michael Fookes concerning the increasing loss of office blocks being converted into flats (Herts Advertiser, April 24). This was aimed at the way the planning rules have been recently relaxed by the Government, resulting in an increase in the number of conversions meaning potential office jobs are being lost in St Albans. These new rules mean that neither our council’s planners nor elected representatives, our councillors, now have any say in the matter. So much for Localism! What’s more, developers seizing on the ease with which such changes can now take place, do not have to contribute towards the costs of providing schools, health facilities, or infrastructure that are already under pressure locally. It is agreed that we need more homes, and the loss of some of our office accommodation may help, but we also need jobs to help sustain a balanced local economy. St Albans is now starting to lose office job facilities at a considerable rate just as the economy is recovering. It is in danger of condemning more of our citizens to the time and expense of commuting on already overcrowded roads and railways in order to be able to work. Decisions about which office blocks can be converted, their number and suitability, should be taken locally and not left to the current free-for-all. I am surprised those involved with employment and commerce opportunities in St Albans do not seem to be more concerned over the situation that is developing. The Civic Society article at least has given a wake-up call for people to start taking some notice. It is now up to our local politicians to try and restore some balance and order back into the local planning system. Before it is too late.

ERIC ROBERTS Fishpool Street, St Albans

WWI descendants sought out

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SIR – The Street Memorials book by Alice Goodman has been long out of print and now that the commemoration of the Great War 1914-1918 is upon us, the SAHAAS (St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society) is producing a new revised edition of the “The Unique Street Memorials of the St Albans Cathedral Parish” to be published this autumn. With colour images now readily available we have commissioned a series of colour photographs of the streets where memorials are found and have access to small collection of images of individual men who lost their lives. However we would like to find other illustrative material to put into the new edition. If you are a descendent of any of the men on these memorials or know of any descendents who have photographs or other memorablia that you/they could loan us, please contact me. All material will be returned.

JOHN GE COX Convenor of the Publications Committee, SAHAAS, 104 Lancaster Road, St Albans, AL1 4ES E-mail: johnge.cox@btinternet.com

Call for action over A-boards blight

SIR – Good luck to Tommy Dean (letters, April 24) in his appeal for action to remove the A-boards that clutter our city centre. He is not the first to draw attention to the problem, the Civic Society has long campaigned against these ugly, intrusive and often quite dangerous displays. I understand that planning permission is required for hanging signs, so why not for A-boards? It was recently reported in the national press that some local councils had been given authority to limit the number of estate agents’ boards because their proliferation made them unsightly. I think the time has come when our own council should take similar action against A-board displays not just because of their unsightliness but because of the danger they pose to pedestrians at large.

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans

Come On You Saints!

SIR – A year ago I would have had no idea what the acronym COYS stood for. Last year I decided to take my six year old twin boys to a local football match. They had seen snippets of football on the television at home and had a passing interest. We entered Clarence Park (home of St Albans City Football Club) on a cold October Saturday afternoon. My boys looked around and seeing that their surroundings bore little resemblance to the mighty arenas of the English Premiership that they had seen on television, asked “Daddy, is this a real stadium?” Over the course of the season, their interest moved from being solely about the chips and can of orangeade from Andy’s Snack van at half time, to the football match on offer. In the playground now, they are no longer Eden Hazard or Ade Adebayor – they are our top-scoring striker Frendo. One of the highlights of the season was St Albans’ qualification into the first round of the FA cup, a feat not realised in many years. I had the opportunity to be team doctor for the match (an FA requirement). We sat in the posh seats! For most of the first half St Albans led 1-0 against league opposition, the dream was alive. Then the floodgates opened and we conceded eight goals. It was our first real football disappointment. The stands are often full of strong emotions, passion and occasional colourful language. We were witness to an opposing fan vehemently berating a linesman and his decision-making, questioning his visual acuity in no uncertain terms. He looked around and saw two six year old boys, gawping at him wide-eyed and immediately apologised. He hadn’t seen the young children around him (perhaps he shared the linesman’s opticians!). My boys asked me about his behaviour at half time. The explanation in my head was about how people should never behave like that and how his should be a lesson to them. But what came out of my mouth was the truth about a man who follows his team (a 10 hour round trip from Frome Town) to passionately support them: win or lose. The man who listens to opera, the lady who watches ballet and the man who supports Frome Town. They are no different, they all share passion. It’s important to have passion. Quite often, if we are losing and there are five minutes to go, one of the boys will ask me if we can still win. What they are asking is – is there still hope? This is something that everyone on the terraces shares: hope and passion. For me it has been about the journey, not really the destination. About discovering together, the passion, the joy and the hope of non-league football. So if next season you find yourself at a loss on a Saturday afternoon, and want to support a city that belongs to you, come and join us at Clarence Park and you may find yourself shouting Come On You Saints.

EASON KRISHNANANDAN Sherwood Avenue, St Albans

State of George Street is a disgrace

SIR – Tourists are very evident in St Albans at this time. I wonder what their impressions are on stumbling (literally) on George Street. This is, after all, the main thoroughfare from the Clock Tower to Romeland, the Cathedral and Fishpool Street. The whole surface has numerous potholes and is very badly broken at the top and around Spicer Street junction. The problem has been neglected for months. Why is nobody in the council taking this up with Herts County Council and putting pressure on them to resurface George Street right away as a priority?

JOHN RAXWORTHY Hillside Gate, St Albans

We should all tackle litter problem

SIR – I totally agree with the sentiment expressed by Mrs Paterson about “the state of St Albans” (Letters, May 1). Can I just say that some areas of the town are decent and that the more affluent parts of St Albans are usually immaculate. I am talking here about the town centre and immediate surrounding areas. This town is one of the richest towns in the whole of England... Yet parts of the town are unkempt and shabby; what is going on? I live in Heath Road and I walk to town daily to do my shopping. Apart from the odd well kept house, there is an air of general neglect about; pavements are full of broken or uneven bricks (I tripped and fell over the other day), weeds are growing everywhere loosening brickwork further, walls are decaying, people use their front garden to keep their dustbins, some front doors and windows are dirty and need repainting, some fence panels are ancient, bent or broken, litter is left in front gardens and empty cans are shoved (by uncivilised people) in hedges and just left there to rot. And I am not talking about road surfaces. As I do regular litter picks in my road (people look at me as if I am deranged), I notice that, in places, the gutters are so full of earth, weeds and accumulated rubbish that rain water cannot evacuate after a heavy downpour. In amongst all this shabbiness you get the odd pretty, clean, repainted property. But it is not enough to lift the general air of grubbiness. As for the centre of the town itself, it could do with a good scrubbing and a lick of paint: some coffee shops and restaurants could indeed work on their “curb appeal”! And, yes, there should be flowers everywhere. I have contacted the council many times about the state of the streets in some parts of St Albans: to keep it simple, they pass the proverbial buck and I am always told that they spend a huge budget on cleaning the roads (where!?) and that it is the responsibility of home owners to keep the front of their properties neat by law... Are the general public out there aware of this? All I can say is that I never see anyone clean the road, pick the litter up or put weedkiller down. Having said that, I do not understand how some home owners (or tenants indeed) can walk past the general decay just outside their front door, ignore the litter and just go in and close the door. Have they become so numbed by it all that they cannot be bothered? I know times are hard for some families but it costs nothing to clean and tidy up... Come on St Albans, regain some pride and clean up!

MRS C MCINNERNY Heath Road, St Albans

Too much Mayor – or not enough?

SIR – I was disappointed to see that that edition 8403 of your noble publication contained only five pictures of the eminently photogenic lady Mayor. After a veritable feast of eight entries the previous week I wonder whether standards are slipping. Surely there are a number of untapped opportunities in the sports section that can help remedy the situation.

TIM SMITH Westfields, St Albans

SIR – It was pleasing to note so many articles promoting our delightful city in your edition no. 8402. My wife and I have lived here for over 40 years and consider this an ideal location, with so much to offer. Visits to other towns and cities have failed to find an equal. It is heartening to see so many events here being attended by our Mayor, Cllr Annie Brewster. I counted nine photos in this issue alone. She has certainly been very active during her year and whilst I thought that during his two terms as Mayor, Cllr Robert Donald did extremely well at getting great press coverage, I think Cllr Brewster might just have beaten his record. Visually, the grey or black of a man’s attire does have a disadvantage compared to the fashion and colours of Mrs Brewster’s wardrobe, which she has exhibited with great flair. Let’s hope that future Mayors follow their example in supporting our fair city.

JOHN MORISON Claudian Place, St Albans

Enough is enough with these appeals

SIR – Blame for our council’s sometimes large expenditure in fighting to protect valuable Green Belt sites and to prevent urban sprawl must be laid firmly at the feet of persistent repeat-application developers who refuse to take “no” for an answer even when our local planning authority is supported by the High Court and Court of Appeal. Such developers show complete disrespect for the plans and feelings of the local population, and demonstrate a selfish desire to use our area to make financial profit for themselves without regard to the damage caused to our environment. The law allows developers to claim their appeal costs from local authorities when those authorities are deemed to have acted unreasonably in refusing a planning application. Why should this not be a two-way arrangement? Hunston Properties have effectively wasted tens of thousands of pounds of our council tax money by their persistent attempts to build on the Sewell Park site. Once a first appeal has been lost by a developer, subsequent planning and appeal costs incurred by a local authority should be payable by that developer if their bid is rejected, as it is their decision to persist. And in the light of the continual failure of the Hunston Properties applications it is outrageous that we had to pay £47,500 to fund their flawed attempts. That is akin to paying a burglar’s travel expenses to come and burgle your house! Sometimes, in a skewed attempt to be “fair” to private citizens and organisations, the law truly is an ass. With the growth of huge development companies the David and Goliath situation that may have existed decades ago has been reversed, the developers now being the cash-rich Goliaths who can afford to wear down and intimidate local authorities into giving way. The long-standing (12 year?) battle between our council and Helioslough over their proposed rail freight terminal is just such a case. It is to the credit of St Albans district council members and officers that they refuse to be bullied by persistent giants; their use of our local taxes to defend our area against a tide of bricks and concrete is to be supported and applauded. It is a necessary expenditure, and deserves no criticism; rather, let us voice our demand for a change in the law about the awarding of costs to achieve a more level playing field.

IAN LARIVIERE Park Street, St Albans

Consultation but no implementation?

SIR – Loathe as I am to suspect Harpenden Town Council (Mission statement: Closer to the community... though not necessarily yours) of playing the political card, it does seem somewhat strategic that a couple of weeks shy of the district council elections, the plebiscite in Westfield are being invited to submit our suggestions for improvements and developments to the playing field area. Interestingly, no cut-off date is displayed on the paper copy of the survey, although the council has stated, in an article in this paper, that the cut-off date was May 9. I doubt if most residents were aware of this as they set off for their Easter break. Nor that they had to be registered to be allowed to submit their survey. In another irony: the council proposes creating wildlife habitats with long grass, log piles, etc., in the area... which will cost money to establish, while at the same time ruthlessly pursuing their backplan to sell off the ex-allotments, which contain enough wildlife, badgers, foxes, Roman snails, and long grass to satisfy any genuine nature lover. We have been here before, people. Many, many times. We have expressed our opinion when the “allotment working party” refused to listen to us. We submitted suggestions for the ‘Voice Your Choice’ initiative – which were ignored. We passed over the same ground again when my Town Green application was ruthlessly crushed. We visited it once more when the Town Clerk submitted a less than opaque planning application for an ‘’access track’’. Consultation without implementation seems to be the motto of the council, which runs on their own internal satnav set to arrive always at the same pre-determined destination. I would not discourage anybody from filling in and submitting the consultation form (tho’ see above for why it is probably now too late), but I would just gently remind them of the previous ways this council has dealt with local residents and their ‘’views and ambitions’’. And finally, to all those local councillors who have contacted me “behind the scenes’’ to express their support for what I, on behalf of this community, have been fighting for so long to achieve, may I respectfully remind you that promises on an election leaflet are bit like a verbal contract: not with the paper they are written on. Deeds speak louder that words. So far, your deeds are barely whispering.

CAROL HEDGES Chair of Westfield Action Group and co-founder of Harpenden Independent Partnership Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden