Letters, November 21, 2013

SIR - I must comment upon Caroline Leith’s letter about “Factions clash over Romeland row”. Twenty years ago there were just two coaches per morning and evening entering and leaving Romeland, but now there are 44 movements per day and these coaches now include double-deckers. There is no restriction on numbers or size. What will it be like in five or another 20 years time? The whole area around Romeland, not just Fishpool Street, is affected. The proposed trial of coaches circling Romeland and exiting via George Street is still under scrutiny by the council. A safety audit is awaited to see if this can proceed. Even if it transpires that the scheme cannot go ahead in its present form, this does not alter the need to try to find something different - something better. That is why at a recent meeting of Combined Residents and Local Community Associations it was agreed that “there are now far too many and far too large school coaches entering and leaving around the Cathedral conservation area and Fishpool Street, using the narrow streets. Other comprehensive solutions should be investigated involving all relevant parties”.


Secretary, Combined Residents and Local Community Associations

SIR - I was recently at St Albans City station on my way to London. It was around 4pm and the station was full of school children, mainly boys from Verulam School, on their way home. They had obviously walked from school and were catching a train home. They were all ages, from 11 up, and were impeccably behaved. A credit to their school!

My point is, if these children can get themselves home, by public transport, why can’t the boys from St Albans School walk the short distance to their private coaches parked in Westminster Lodge? On any day in St Albans you can see school children making their way home, waiting at bus stops, crossing roads, walking long distances, sometimes in the rain and as dusk is falling. Why is it beyond the capabilities of the St Albans School boys to walk a few hundred yards via a traffic-free route to their coaches? Does the headmaster not trust them to behave? What does he fear might befall them? He is doing no favours in cosseting these boys, simply adding to their sense of entitlement. At the same time the area around Romeland is being compromised and neighbours antagonised.

So, what exactly is the safety case against allowing the boys to walk through the park to Westminster Lodge at the end of the school day? I would like to see the Head set out in detail what he sees as the risks involved in a walk in the park, so we can judge his case. Otherwise his argument just sounds like someone used to getting his own way, being unwilling to give up an outdated privilege.


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Gonnerston, St Albans

SIR - We saw it in World War II, more recently in Iraq and indeed we see it going on all over the place if we care to look for it. I refer of course to mass expansionism. I read with interest in a recent Herts Ad that ubiquitous celebrity-chef-cockney-Essex-delish-bung it in there-well good innit-pukka-geezer and changer of the nation’s eating habits, Jamie Oliver (net worth in the hundreds of millions) is to expand his St Albans restaurant Jamie’s Italian even further.

Before he invests his money, Mr Oliver might wish to take a look at the 345 Tripadvisor reviews of his establishment of which, I can tell him, almost 200 are either average, poor or terrible! I have no vested interest here nor am I an aggrieved St Albans restaurateur with an agenda. However, it really peeves me as a local diner when these “celebrity” chefs slap their brand over every high street in the UK in search of mega millions believing that we want or even need them. We don’t – and many turn out to be abject disappointments.

Yes, the old Bell pub was an empty unit ripe for development and yes, Mr Oliver invested (whose money we don’t know) into the project. However, for St Albans people visiting Jamie’s Italian and despite the positive reviews from people who I am sure have had good dining experiences, it would seem that a large number of people would disagree with his commercial decision to expand that restaurant. Next we’ll be seeing Jamie’s Pound shops and Jamie’s Coffee bars taking over all the boarded up shops in our city! Before you spend your money on expanding your St Albans experiment Mr Oliver, why not first find out if you’re doing a good job with the public I presume you’re in business to serve. Better still, why not spare some time to address your customers’ concerns. I put it to you that nearly 200 of the 345 who say their experience was either average poor or terrible and have detailed quite eloquently on Tripadvisor why, cannot all be all wrong. I thank you!


Green Lane, St Albans

SIR - There is a serious point to be made about the standard of driving in Harpenden. My parents have lived in “the village” since 1970, and i grew up in Harpenden, although I now live in Luton. Over the years, the town has suffered with more and more traffic, and more and more unnecessary journeys. I used to travel five miles to school by bus. Now Roundwood Park School, and other schools I am sure, are innundated with traffic twice a day.

Last year I had the misfortune to be hit by a 4x4 in Sainsbury’s car park, Harpenden. My car was nearly written-off. The driver, male, was patronising, rude, dragged his feet when it came to sorting out the claim, and was, in short, very unhelpful, and unconcerned, considering the considerable inconvenience he put me through sorting it all out.

I recenlty called in to see my parents on my way home. My mother was very upset, because she went to park in Sainsbury’s car park, on the way to a dental appointment in the town. She is 83 years old, disabled, and a disabled badge holder. She had just secured a parking space, when a woman, with young children, knocked on her car window, and said “I was queuing for that space”. The woman was rude, and quite obviously thoughtless. My mother moved to accommodate this woman. How sickening is that? There was a time when people respected the elderly.

It is a sad fact, but people in Harpenden are not nice people any more. There is a grab, grab, grab mentality: there is a profusion of social climbers and ne’er do wells, money is the only god that people can relate to; pushy parents, pushy people generally. Thoughtlessness. These newcomers seem to have no respect for the quite often older generation, who have probably lived in the village for a long time. We are insulted every day - by the loss of our memories, as more and more houses are knocked down, to squeeze two or three into the land for profit, profit, profit. We are pushed aside, and snubbed, by these outsiders who come here, and think they have made it, and that’s it - they need do no more, the proof is in the big house, the 2.4 kids, the 4x4 parked in the drive.

It is a disgrace when an elderly person is spoken to in this way. Whoever you are, I hope you are reading this, and I hope you feel deeply, deeply ashamed.


Havelock Road, Luton

SIR - Once again this morning I had to wait for a cyclist to ride across the bridge at King Harry Lane entrance to Verulamium Park. She was the only cyclist I saw in my hour long walk.

On the way back towards the bridge, I met two council workers blowing the leaves away along the causeway cycle path. As they blew the leaves down the hill more leaves were already falling on the path behind them so they were in fact wasting their time and our money – this is a new job for the men because of the cycle path. Yet more expense for this hardly used, always abused (as cyclists always disobey rules) project. Now we have to sweep it all through autumn – next it will be gritters during frosty weather I expect!


Westfield, St Albans

SIR - I am in total agreement with Dr Tony Hall, whose recent letter asked why Hertfordshire Police do not enforce the law regarding cycling on the pavement, as they do elsewhere. Like Dr Hall I also wrote to the Police Commissioner and eventually received a very perfunctory reply.

I have just returned from shopping in St Albans town centre, where yet again, on a narrow pavement, a cyclist rode straight at me and made no attempt to dismount, forcing me to get out of the way and nearly fall over. Thinking that maybe he was not aware of the law, I reminded him as he passed me that it is illegal. He then shouted “Sha-up, sha-up” and continued riding on the pavement and talking into his mobile ‘phone. He had no consideration for me at all. Through my taxes I have funded the construction of cycle paths and cycle lanes to keep cyclists safe, but noone seems to care about pedestrians. Could we have safe paths too? We used to have them, they were called pavements.


Boundary Road, St Albans

SIR - Not one for generally responding to letters within papers; I have failed to control myself on this occasion. The recent letter relating to cycling on pavements is quite something. The author clearly has no understanding of what cyclist can face on a day to day basis; and obviously has a deep seated hatred for the cycling community.

As a cyclist who commutes most days between Harpenden and Welwyn Garden City, I dread the Lower Luton Road and on most occasions feel I have no option other than to resort to the pavement, for fear of my own life. Cars drive way beyond the speed limit, and often with little regard to cyclists.

Most cyclists who resort to pavements are generally courteous and give way to pedestrians. The long term solution is to improve cycling lanes so that cyclists no longer feel obliged to break the law. The benefits of a cycle track between Harpenden and Wheathampstead would be immeasurable.

In relation to the criminality of the offence, the home office minister Paul Boateng told the All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle in the road... sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

I think this is the answer to why the Hertfordshire police are not wasting time arresting considerate cyclists, and are perhaps concentrating on more dangerous people, like people who use mobile phones while driving.


Cowper Road, Harpenden

Batford School...

Perhaps the county councillors representing the residents of Harpenden North East and Wheathamspstead should listen to their constituents and represent their views rather than just informing them of decisions that appear to have already been made. A school is most certainly necessary but perhaps there should be a reconsideration of the sites. To say at this stage that there is no alternative when planning permission is still some way off is shortsighted to say the least and to say that any opposition to the proposed site will mean no school at all smacks of scaremongering and is bound to cause divisions in both the Harpenden and Wheathampstead communities.


Mackerye End, Harpenden

SIR - Given the creeping population growth in the south east, and the housing “densification” and “garden grabbing” that has gone on in the past decade in this area, I am not surprised that the area is running out of infrastructure - in this case schools.The proposed Luton Airport expansion, which has gone quiet of late, also has the potential to add yet another batch of traffic to the Lower Luton Road.


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

SIR - I see that Cllr Grover has explained that the cost of the new recycling caddies and bags was paid for by the county. That’s all right then. As we all know, Herts County Council is funded by the money tree that grows in the grounds of County Hall and not by our council tax.

Sarcasm apart, he does make a good point about reduction in landfill charges. We could imagine a business case in which the overall investment is more than recouped by the savings made and this would depend on a level of take up by the community. It doesn’t matter whether our caddies have been pressed into service for decorating or gardening as long as we stop putting food waste in the black bin.

So could he, or one of his colleagues, confirm whether such an analysis was performed prior to this investment and then would they care to report back in twelve months letting us all know how much money this initiative has saved?


St Stephens Avenue, St Albans

SIR - Parking restrictions are meant to promote bus use and walking. However with UNO cutting four routes locally last month, and the 34 Sunday and T5 services now gone, residents more than ever need a park and ride scheme or a “Lilliput” road train to link up all the city’s tourist attractions, as we suggested last year. Sadly no one took up the idea so the residents who are meant to benefit from these schemes, didn’t. Its time these 24/7 bus lane and parking restrictions were eased or business will go elsewhere.


Parkland Drive, St Albans

SIR - I strongly urge anyone who has received a parking charge notice from UKPC NOT to pay it. These are NOT fines, they are merely speculative invoices: only the police or local authorities have the power to issue fines.

It is really quite easy to get these speculative invoices overturned. I recommend Googling “money saving expert parking forum”, which will lead you to lots of help as to how NOT to pay these daft trumped-up charges. There is a simple, well-trodden path which works every time.


Archers Fields, St Albans

SIR - Along with many other vehicles I was ticketed for parking on the verge at Bluehouse Hill on November 2. I am not sure how many vehicles were ticketed but between 10-20 I assume, maybe more.

We now know that the verges where we parked are out of bounds. We assume that so many drivers saw the signs and wanted to pay the fines. I feel the drivers did not see the signs mainly due to weather conditions at the time. We have parked on these verges on firework night for the past few years without any problems.

My gripe to the parking division is that on a dark night the signs were not that obvious otherwise most drivers would not have ignored them. The council in their wisdom sent me a picture from their files of said notice attached to a lamp standard on a lovely clear blue sky day, no mention that a downward facing street light on a dark night would make the sign far less obvious. It seems that motorists are a cash cow for many councils.

Needless to say a warning notice letting drivers know who were mostly out of the area - one I know came from Milton Keynes - would have sufficed and stopped us using grass verges again in the St Albans area. Lots of other city councils allow verge parking!

However surprise, surprise we will not be attending any more charity functions in St Albans and shopping in Watford or Milton Keynes has suddenly seemed attractive. Our £35 will soon be repaid and more.

What a pity for St Albans.


Edenhall Close, Leverstock Green