Letters November 20 2014

Thanks to Herts Ad

SIR - The Herts Advertiser must be congratulated for being instrumental in getting the River Ver at the bottom of Holywell Hilll cleaned. For many months local residents have been greatly concerned by the pollution in the river and have contacted the Environment Agency almost on a weekly basis. Recently one resident, appalled by the effluent oozing into the river from the waste pipe, phoned the Herts Ad. The next day a Thames Water tanker came to pump out the sewage and it has been there working ever since. Coincidence? I think not. In your article on the pollution of the river, Simon Grover, a Green Party district councillor, is quoted as saying ”the River Ver is a jewel in the St Albans crown”. The stretch at the bottom of Holywell Hill is a tarnished jewel; it is choked with weeds and rushes which are a depository for fast food containers, tins and bottles, and occasionally shopping trolleys. Dead rats have been seen floating and no doubt the reeds have trapped a lot of the sewage. Repeated pleas to our local councillors have fallen on deaf ears. This part of the river is on the main route into the town and Abbey of St Albans and, in its present state, is a disgraceful indictment of our civic pride. Could the Herts Advertiser come to the river’s aid again?

FLORA C GRIFFITHS Pondwicks Close, St Albans

SIR - I always look forward to the weekly delivery of the Herts Advertiser. It is the only paper where one can express opinions on local matters. I do realise that sometimes my letters are controversial, but they always address the issues surrounding St Albans. There are many changes locally and whether you support them or object to them they need to be discussed and our local paper is the place to do this. Of course I do realise that sometimes nothing will result from a very constructive letter, but it is so worthwhile to send it in. Locally there are a lot of things in the pipeline, such as massive housing developments and the continuing saga of the rail terminal. I welcome the initiative to try and bring to life the street market which has always been a really nice feature in the town centre. I hope that those of you who feel and care about our city will like myself correspond with the Herts Ad as it is a good forum to express your views.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Secret search for secondary site

SIR - Can Hertfordshire County Council please explain why the protracted search for a new secondary school site in Harpenden is shrouded in secrecy. Some people have only recently become aware that their property has been under threat of acquisition for over four years, and likewise the local residents have remained in blissful ignorance that their quality of life and enjoyment of their homes could be severely diminished. When the selection of the Batford site was announced last year, it came as a complete surprise to all but a priviledged few. HCC has now embarked on a new search, revisiting sites previously dismissed from the selection process, and once again their location is a closely guarded secret. In 2010 they carried out feasibility studies on a number of sites around the district, most within the Green Belt. Some were found to be unsuitable, due to poor access, difficult terrain, etc, while some sites which were suitable were removed from the search because the owners wished to sell for housing development. Strangely, many of the latter sites have since been selected as “suitable for release from the Green Belt”. Presumably the sites that they are now looking at are those which the first studies recommended should not be considered further because of their obvious unsuitability. It has to be remembered that HCC itself has a very considerable landholding around the district so it is unclear why they feel the need to acquire further land on which to build a new school, particularly as some of their property is reserved for educational use. It would be very interesting to know when and why it was decided that the new secondary school for the district should be located in Harpenden, which already has three secondary schools, while Wheathampstead and London Colney had their secondary schools closed, leaving children in these villages to travel miles away to receive their education. I do not recall any form of public consultation regarding the location of a new secondary school prior to the announcement of the Batford site. In addition, many places at the Harpenden schools are taken up by pupils living outside the district or in some cases, outside the county. If this were not the case, would there still be a shortfall of places? Meanwhile, parents in London Colney might wish to remind HCC that when their only secondary school was closed they were promised it would reopen if the local population expanded, which it has done significantly following the development of Harperbury and Napsbury. HCC must also explain why they took the decision to sell the Wheathampstead school site to developers, just a short time before they commenced the search for a new school site, in the full knowledge that a new secondary school would be required within the next decade. This is at best gross incompetence, and surely merits investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman, if not the Hertfordshire Constabulary. Are our elected representatives, at all levels, aware that they are in office to serve their community not their own interests? Regrettably, it appears not.

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RHODA HARRISON Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Facial fuzz is no laughing matter

SIR - In these days of disease and illness, where it is apparent that cancer is all around us, our TV screens are littered with adverts for cancer fighting charities, pink fun runs, Macmillan, Cancer Research etc. While all of these charities and causes are very worthwhile making a huge difference to many people’s lives, spare a thought for men’s health during the month of November. In particular, and during the course of this month, men are growing facial hair for Movember, a worldwide charity with a UK division geared to fighting two insidious cancers affecting men, prostate and testicular Growing a tash or beard as a fundraiser for Movember is no laughing matter. For the usually clean shaven, it feels foreign not to touch smooth skin on one’s chin. However, the 42,000 men who, each year, are given the awful news that they have prostate cancer in the UK and of those, the 11,000 who die from it, are grateful for this temporary sacrifice - as each vital pound raised goes directly into fighting the curse of these two invidious, life-altering cancers. So, if during the rest of this month, you see a man looking a little 1970s walking down the street, don’t laugh at him shouting Peter Wyngarde (those of a certain age will know who I mean) but instead look up JustGiving, Prostate Cancer UK online or Movember and give, and give generously. You never know who you pass in the street who might be fighting the very silent, personal battle that is cancer. I thank you. Movember - http://uk.movember.com

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Praise for Fosse

SIR - One has to sympathise with the woman in your recent article about Fosse House if – as someone who simply felt lonely at home – she did not get better advice on what type of accommodation would suit her needs (October 30). But as someone who has had a relative live at Fosse and has therefore spent plenty of time there, I simply don’t recognise the ‘prison’ like conditions and scenes of screaming and shouting she has described. My nan moved there in October last year at the age of 93 after breaking her hip in a fall at home and losing her mobility. Her health and memory steadily declined but we felt very fortunate to have secured her a room in such a caring place where she would, inevitably, live out the rest of her days. While there were a number of residents with varying levels of dementia, I found it to be a happy place where a group of elderly people lived in relative harmony with a team of dedicated and compassionate people looking after them. My family and I will be eternally grateful for the care Fosse House gave to my nan during her final months and, in particular, the complex round-the-clock care they provided towards the end of her life so that she could avoid the indignity of going into hospital to die. When she passed away in July we took great comfort in the fact it was in the privacy and comfort of her own room with her favourite radio station playing, in the care of familiar faces, and surrounded by her family in the days and hours leading up to her death. I really hope the lady in your article finds somewhere better suited to her, but I feel the staff at Fosse House need recognition for the fantastic job they do. On behalf of myself and my family I would like to thank them for everything they did for us.

AIMEE BRANNEN School Lane, Bricket Wood

Battling against the cuts to bus services

SIR - I was interested to read the article ‘Sunday and evening bus service cuts threatening hospital access’ (October 23). The St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group has taken an interest in the provision of bus services to local hospitals for several years. We have brought the issue to the attention of the West Herts Hospitals Trust, the county council and St Albans district council - without any success. There are many problems involved. I draw just one of them to your attention. The 321 (which runs south from Luton via Harpenden and St. Albans to Watford and in some cases continues to Rickmansworth - and returns north along the same route) used to travel along Vicarage Road and stop outside Watford General Hospital, providing a valuable daily day time and evening bus service for out-patients and people visiting in-patients. It not longer takes that route, but either terminates in Watford town centre before reaching Vicarage Road or continues by avoiding Vicarage Road and taking another route to Rickmansworth, so much reducing access to the hospital. Reinstating the previous route along Vicarage Road would restore access.

JOHN WIGLEY Chairman, St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group

SIR - I am pleased to hear that Cllr Walkington is concerned about the effects if Herts County Council goes ahead and cuts funding for a number of bus routes after 6.30pm Monday to Saturday and all of Sunday. But we should remember that the Lib Dems are part of the Government that is making swingeing cuts to local authorities, which are driving these sorts of proposals that threaten the future of public services. Many of us may need a bus in the evenings and at weekends and those likely to be hardest hit include people who can’t afford a car or taxi. Many people rely on buses at these times to get back from work, or from visiting someone in hospital, or just seeing friends. And if more people use cars instead, the end result will mean a rise in air pollution which will affect everyone. The so-called “consultation” by Herts County Council about funding for bus services was deeply flawed and we have yet to see a proper impact assessment about the implications for local people and the environment.The council must withdraw these proposals and urgently carry out proper review of what bus services are needed from the standpoint of bus users, local communities and the environment.

LINDA LENNARD St Albans Green Party Beechwood Avenue, St Albans

Grateful for help after bus fall

SIR - I would like, through the letters page of your newspaper, to thank the many kind people who rushed to help me on Tuesday October 28 when I fell boarding a bus at the top of Victoria Street mid-morning. Everyone was very kind and helpful. Thank you very much all of you.

J HOY Beechwood Avenue, St Albans

Further defence of cyclists on roads

SIR - I have just read the letter in your columns from Mike Hartley (Herts Advertiser, October 23) regarding the previous condemnation by Barry Cashin of cyclists on our roads. I have to admit to thinking at that time of reading this denouncement of our cyclists how I was very surprised at its appearance in your columns. I would therefore like Mr Cashin to know that I personally don’t mind the presence of cyclists on our roads at all; in fact I take extra care when passing them. It’s nice to know that there are some who are prepared to take the more healthy way of travelling instead of, in Barry Cashin’s own words, people showing off while making short trips (ie dropping their children off at the nearby school) in their large ultra smart cars. I think, perhaps, this man gets a little muddled at times. Anyway, good for you Mike Hartley in your defence of cyclists. Keep the good work up. I’ve been driving for a long time and have no complaints regarding people who use this mode of transport.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Poor conditions at Harpenden pool

SIR - How nice that the manager of Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre was so pro-active wanting to hear from her users of the centre and taking on board their views and ideas. What I wouldn’t give for the manager of Harpenden Swimming Pool to have done the same. I used to regularly go on a Sunday morning at 8am but found that the changing rooms were dirty, the water cold and the life guards half asleep. Several complaints were made directly to staff by other users. Several letters written – my letter also included photographs - but there was no answer and no improvement and so sadly I no longer use this facility. I wonder how many other people no longer use this facility because of these conditions?

KAREN BOWEN Kipling Way, Harpenden