Letters, November 24, 2011

Thanks to nurses

SIR – My family and I want to say a very special thank you to the wonderful district nurses we have. My nephew Keith came from Bart’s Hospital five months ago after a very serious cancer throat operation which meant a total removal of his vocal cord.

He has been staying with us and each day the nurses come to attend to him; the care they gave him has been incredible, nothing too much trouble for them, especially as he couldn’t talk and explain. Their kindness and patience is a credit to the nursing profession.

He has now gone back home to get on with his life – certainly much better than when he arrived thanks to the fantastic nurses

Also thanks to the doctors and staff at Midway Surgery for looking after him so well.


Westfields, St Albans

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Too much water being extracted?

SIR – Recent reports of our dried-up River Ver have blamed the lack of rain this winter and last. But is this just an easy excuse for Veolia to over-extract water?

The Environment Agency’s Water Framework Directive of the past two years has stated that too much water is taken from our chalk rivers. One wonders how effective the agency is in restraining the sale of extraction licences which profit commercial interests and Veolia’s shareholders.

Meanwhile the young heron that has made his hunting ground the stretch of river beside my garden has departed since it became a muddy puddle in October. Kingfishers nest in spring in the banks opposite and when fish stocks are killed off they also will leave.

A very odd thing happened on November 6 whereby the river which had been dry up to the day before was suddenly filled to the banks for three days. On November 9 it was back to dry. Rainfall? I don’t think so. So what exactly is going on?

Under the Freedom of Information Act and through your paper, could we find out how many licenses were sold this year and last and what restraint is there on Veolia to limit extraction when rainfalls are low?


Fryth Mead, St Albans

Perverted planning?

SIR – There seems to something quite perverse about the planning rules at present.

In my area of Tuffnells Way and Wood End, scarcely a month or two goes by without the demolition crews and earth-moving equipment moving on site, with yet another new overbearing “monstro-house” being erected.

The properties nearer to the centre of town are probably 1930s, whilst in Tuffnells Way area, most properties are 1960s onwards. In other words, these houses are not tumble-down wrecks, but property with a substantial useful working life still ahead of them.

Of course stamp duty at four per cent for these types of properties is a disincentive to moving house, but given the Government is hot on energy saving and condensing boilers, etc., getting us on push bikes, and hiking fuel duty, are the left and right hands of Government really talking to each other in respect of the environmental impact of all the new building materials and labour/fuel required for a new house?

If we must have population growth, then somewhat controversially, I would much prefer this to be on derelict or greenfield sites with ‘integral’ infrastructure, rather than the creeping “densification” in our area, without the attendant new roads, schools and other infrastructure being provided to support the increased population density.


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

Should IRA bombers be commemorated?

SIR – For many unfamiliar with the current status quo in Northern Ireland, the suggestion of an IRA volunteer being remembered at the site where he/she died will appear inflammatory, provocative and ultimately callous to the victims of the IRA’s bombing campaign.

However, for those of us familiar with the current affairs of the north, this is an all too familiar recurring issue – that of the past. The remnants and lasting legacy of the past have not been properly addressed and many argue that, though the peace has been secured, the reconciliation has yet to follow.

The wish of the Black family is not unheard of. In recent years many families across Britain have made the journey across the Irish sea, often into Irish Republican heartlands, in order to lay wreaths and commemorate family members who served in the British forces who died whilst on duty in the north of Ireland.

By-and-large such ceremonies have been accepted and made available by the mainstream Republican community. The north of Ireland is riddled with plaques and memorials recognising the victims of one side or the other – and on the whole;each community tolerates and respects the other’s right to do so.

When Patricia Black was born in 1972, that same year the British Army shot 26 peaceful civil rights marchers in Derry, 14 of whom died.

When Frankie Ryan was born in 1966, the Irish Tri-Colour (Green, White and Orange), which flies proudly around the world on St Patrick’s Day, was an illegal emblem in the north of Ireland and could not be be put on display.

The Orange State, as it was then, was looked at with envy by the Apartheid regime of South Africa.

It is crucial to remember the circumstance in which these men and women, and all too often boys and girls, had been raised. It was a culture of violence. A culture of hate. I for one do not feel equipped enough to judge anyone who upon having their vote denied, their cultural identity denied and a peaceful route to their national aspiration denied decided to take up armed action. This was seen in apartheid South Africa, it is seen today in Palestine and it, unfortunately, was seen all too often in Ireland.

I am not “apologising away” or “condoning” the actions of Patricia Black and Frankie Ryan on that fateful day. I would not wish to be labelled, or rather branded, an apologist. I am merely attempting (within the confines of a short letter) to provide some explanation for the circumstances in which such brutal violence arose.

The IRA did many stupid and unnecessary acts during the conflict. They could often be foolhardy and callous. And I am certain that had Black and Ryan succeeded in their actions that day; more innocent lives would have been lost needlessly, there can be no denying this. However no side can claim to be innocent of this.

The release of the Irish Republican prisoners following the Good Friday Agreement demonstrated that they were, as much as some may not want to hear it, “soldiers”. They were not criminals or terrorists – once their war had ended and a peaceful route for achieving their goals was made available they were released. The Eames-Bradley Report found that paramilitaries who died during the Troubles are just as worthy of being considered “victims” of the Troubles than anyone else.

I started off this letter by talking about the absence of reconciliation in the current process in the north. These past years have seen a significant move towards the early stages of Anglo-Irish reconciliation. David Cameron apologised for the murders of Bloody Sunday. On her trip to Ireland, the Queen of England bowed her head in the Garden of Remembrance in respect to “all those who gave their lives in the pursuit of Irish Freedom”. Martin McGuinness told a rally in Free Derry Corner that his heart went out to all the families of dead British soldiers. Such events could not have been envisioned 10 years ago.

The people of St Albans now have a similar opportunity to take part in this move towards true reconciliation. You don’t have to like it, no one expects you to approve of Patricia Black’s actions; all that would be expected is that you simply allow the family to pay their respects. It wouldn’t go unnoticed and unappreciated by the Irish Republican community. Continued condemnation and damnation of the actions of the past will get us nowhere closer to reconciliation.

The family of Patricia Black are not asking for a ceremony or for the people of St Albans to respect their daughter – they only wish to be allowed to lay a wreath for their 18-year-old daughter who was another victim of the Troubles. Had the Troubles never had to happen their daughter would had lived a normal life. This was denied to her.

The close proximity of this anniversary and Remembrance Sunday brings to mind the Easter Lilly and the Poppy. The Red Poppy is worn to remember those who gave their lives in the British Army, similarly the Easter Lilly is worn by Republicans to commemorate those who died for Irish independence. I hope that one day the people of the north of Ireland will be able to wear their respective flower in peace, equality and unity. How this is to be achieved is for the people of the north of Ireland to decide but if, as I feel, the people of St Albans could assist in this endeavour then that would be a small but worthwhile contribution.

I understand these words of mine will cause much anger and stir strong emotions in some – this is not my intention. Many I am sure will not change their viewpoints and I respect their right to do so. I only hope that some may read my measured words and think twice before judging those who took part in the Troubles. I am fully aware that it is a very emotive area of our history and that all people will have their own opinions on it. I mean only to express my own.

I will not be leaving my name – I find it unfortunate that I can’t but I feel that the process of reconciliation is not yet at a stage where I would feel protected and secure in attaching my name to these views whilst they are in the public domain. Thank you for your time.


SIR – It seems the family of an IRA bomber got their way in St Albans and laid a wreath for Patricia Black. This could have been prevented on the grounds that it may cause a breach of the peace but the police accommodated them with a hastily arranged memorial instead.

As there is nothing we can do about this, all that’s left is to feel sorry, in a way, for an 18 year old girl who was clearly brought up by callous extremists and was indoctrinated with their sickness from an early age. She wasn’t born like that, her family used her for their own ends. When they laid their wreath I hope they realised who killed her – they did. The rest of us can just be grateful the two terrorists died before they could carry out a string of atrocities and use this “memorial” to remind ourselves how far most people have come since then.


St Leonards Court


SIR – I am incensed by the thought of this being allowed.

I do understand the family’s wishes to remember their family member, but this is not the place to have their memorial.

Question – would they wish to commemorate the deaths of the public and the soldiers that their daughter would have murdered had their plan worked?

It was a planned terrorist attack and I find this totally abhorrent and unacceptable and hope the council decline their wishes.


St Albans

Cats vs trick or treaters

SIR – Rosemary Walton was so upset at having to clean up after trick or treaters had apparently thrown eggs at her door (Herts Advertiser, November 17), that she wants all trick or treaters banned.

She writes that she discovered the broken egg after calling in her cats. She had put the cats out to ‘do what they have to do’, i.e. defecate, probably on someone else’s property for them to clean up. She clearly cannot see the irony in this.

Trick or treaters cannot be banned just because there are a few rogue ones, just as cat ownership cannot be banned because of a few irresponsible owners.



Comeback over injection error

SIR – I write in response to the letter ‘Over-reaction to injection error?’ which appeared on Thursday, November 3. While I respect the opinion of the person who wrote that article I do feel that his/her comments are rather offensive.

I did not waste valuable NHS time as claimed by that person because a very serious error occurred. This is because the doctor concerned and the nursing staff failed to carry their duties to the required standard. Therefore in order to prevent repetition of the same scenario I exercised my prerogative by informing the local newspaper.

It is only through the medium of the newspaper that the public will be aware of what is occurring within our public services. I do not know what injection that person had, however, in my case that injection was given on the wrong side which should not have and must not happen. Therefore that person’s remarks – “that today’s litigious society is increasingly playing the blame game” – is absolutely absurd and ridiculous.

I also did not pose for a photograph for the newspaper. I do find this comment very offensive and revolting. Therefore my situation was not a simple error as claimed by that person. His/her remarks that doctors “are after all only human” appears to have no bearing. Doctors have a legal and caring duty towards their patients at all times. If that person hasn’t worked for the NHS how can he/she possibly conclude that medical negligence can happen. Liability has been admitted by West Herts NHS trust and therefore for that person to claim that the error was “neither fatal nor irreparable” is wrong. I am still suffering from such trauma caused by the doctor/nursing staff concerned by visiting my GP regularly because I’m having pain due to the serious error caused by the unprofessional standards.

Finally his/her remark: “Perhaps Ms Hossen should visit a children’s cancer ward and discover what real trauma and anguish is?” is simply a deliberate attempt to malign my subject. I would like to remind that person that trauma and anguish are experienced by different people in different ways. I am clearly very unhappy with his/her comments. I simply exercised my democratic rights as a citizen to make a complaint. Thank you very much.


Riverside Road, St Albans

Lavatorial humour

SIR – I refer to the article on page 15 last week, ‘Caf� plan for public loo’. Presumably the new name for this cafe will be The WC, or Watling Cafe!


Strawberry Crescent, St Albans

Keep watching the skies...

SIR – Whether or not Mr Pryor can hear or see planes overhead currently (Herts Advertiser, November 3), if Luton Borough Council goes ahead with a scheme to boost its income by doubling the airport’s passenger throughput, he’ll soon be able to!

Such an increase in use would be facilitated by the current plans to “improve” J10a and dual the access road right up to the terminal.

So, more opportunities for planespotting – or up sticks and leave now? And to those who’ve noticed a string of planes going over from 6am, that’s because they count as daytime flights.


On behalf of LADACAN

Conflicting viewpoints?

SIR – It is evident that Batchwood councillor Martin Leach is a firm believer in Marxist* philosophy (Anger as extent of heath sale plan is revealed, Herts Advertiser November 17).

He feels strongly that residents around Bernard’s Heath have been treated “appallingly” by the county council. He suspects a secret back-plan to develop the heath site “has been on the council’s agenda for some time”.

He opines that the way the council allowed the land to fall into disuse was a deliberate act to give them an excuse to sell it off. He declares all these actions make a “mockery” of the Localism Bill, and reiterates the duty the bill puts on councils to consult with and listen to local people on planning issues that directly affect their lives.

All most commendable sentiments, I’m sure we’d all agree...

However, some weeks earlier, the same Cllr Leach voted with the Tories at an overview and scrutiny committee to grant access to the Westfield allotment site for future development. This even though he had been told by local residents that they had been treated “appallingly” by the town council, and that they had not been consulted.

He also saw for himself how the town council had deliberately allowed the Westfield green space to be run down and neglected, so that they could find excuses to sell it.

And he was shown evidence, gathered through FOI, that a cogent reason Harpenden Town Council wants the playing field (formerly Westfield Common) back, is to enact a future Plan B to allow development on it once an access road has been constructed.

My, my! Cllr Leach appears to have the astonishing ability to be able to hold two completely opposing positions at almost exactly the same time.

Or as Marx so aptly put it: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” *

(*That’s Groucho, not Karl.)


Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Rampant nimbyism

SIR – This afternoon, as I sat in the hairdresser’s browsing through magazines (as you do) I saw something that really caught my eye.

In a quality publication entitled Full House (Real life stories – only 50p! Bargain!) there was a Martyn Lewis-style money saving tips page. The resident expert was dispensing advice on such things as how to obtain free business cards. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the name of the banner-headlined expert was Barry Cashin.

At home, I was unable to resist the urge to Google Mr Cashin and discovered that he is a freelance journalist; in fact he appears to be none other than the correspondent on these pages who back in February was very vocal in his criticism of the opening of two pound shops along St Peter’s Street. I was one of several residents who responded at the time expressing concerns that nimbyism appears to be becoming rampant in this area (and honestly, I didn’t make any jokes about his name!).

It seems to me that the irony (and sadly, hypocrisy) of Mr Cashin being quite happy to advise ordinary folks on how to live more frugally, while simultaneously being very unhappy with the arrival of budget stores in his own salubrious neighbourhood is symptomatic of the attitudes of some residents in this city. I have read with astonishment (almost disbelief, quite frankly) recent reports that some St Albans residents are objecting to the waste incinerator to be built in Hatfield (heaven forbid, not here), on the grounds that it may still be remotely visible from some parts of our town and thus spoil a few views. Am I the only proud resident of this city to feel that things are becoming a little ridiculous?


Address supplied

Disaster in the making?

SIR – It would be a major disaster were Premier Inn to be given planning permission for their proposed development on the former McDonald’s site in St Peter’s Street.

Apart from its totally incongruous mass and inappropriate location it will aggravate the enormous traffic problems which already exist at the Catherine Street roundabout. At 2.30pm last Friday afternoon, traffic was stationary for several minutes at this junction in all directions and the problem will only get worse with the increased volume created by the patrons of the hotel complex.

What I do find astonishing is the claim by the developers (and by some councillors from the edge of the district) that there is a shortage of hotel accommodation in the city.

Reports elsewhere quote the landlady of the Black Lion, in her application to convert that property to residential use, that her occupancy rate has fallen to 54 per cent and many hotels in St Albans are currently operating at similar or lower levels.

So it would appear that Premier Inns have failed to get their homework right and want to build an unwanted white elephant which would soon become dormant and increase rather than diminish the vacant properties along that stretch of St Peter’s Street.

And this seems likely to get even worse if rumours that Superdrug is soon to close turn out to be correct. So it seems that the applicant and our councillors are guilty of a case of hope over experience and in this instance our elected representatives should give their officers their full support.

They should also support the Oaklands Action Group in ensuring the preservation of Hawthornden House. It might ease their consciences for allowing the ghastly development which they allowed on that site in the first place.


Townsend Drive, St Albans