Letters November 13 2014

Flaws in case for Green Belt homes

SIR - On Monday October 20 I attended the Strategic Local Plan consultation evening at the Public Halls organised by the Harpenden Society. Throughout the evening Cllr Daly repeated stated that the reason that land had to be taken out of the Green Belt was to provide somewhere for local people to live. Yes, we had to give up Green Belt and build new houses so that our children would be able to live in the district. It all makes perfect sense. Perfect sense that is until you take a moment to look at the reality of the housing market. I don’t know what planet Cllr Daly has been living on if he thinks that the houses that he will allow to be built on our Green Belt are going to be lived in by local people. They won’t be. His own consultants have told him as much and have concluded that new-build schemes are driving inward migration to the area. Their calculations show that when new developments are built residents from outside the district outnumber local people by 10:1. So, far from losing our precious Green Belt to house local people we will simply be providing a ready stock of new homes for people from outside the district. Cllr Daly is always very keen on talking about housing need, when we all know that this need is in reality just demand for more housing from people moving out of London. A demand that his own consultants admit will always exceed supply. New build homes just suck in more and more people from outside the district putting further strain on our creaking infrastructure. Rather than peddling the myth of local housing for local people isn’t it about time Cllr Daly was honest with us? Honest about the reality of the situation we find ourselves in. A reality that we are all aware of, a reality that his own consultants have made clear to him, a reality that, for some reason, he seem incapable of acknowledging.

JOHN WHITEHEAD Bloomfield Road, Harpenden

SIR - In his recent presentation to Harpenden residents of the St Albans District Council (SADC) Strategic Local Plan proposals, Cllr Julian Daly asserted that housing need was a key element in the argument for building on Green Belt land. He claimed that Harpenden required more modestly-sized two- and three-bedroomed houses which would be affordable by young families. Such new-build homes would, he said, meet the needs of the offspring of existing Harpenden families wanting to maintain their local roots and connections. But the prices of all houses in Harpenden, both large and small, have risen so steeply in recent years that they are now way beyond the financial reach of young people who have grown up in the town. They are affordable only by older incomers, typically emigrating from prosperous inner London areas where, size for size, prices are even higher. As part of a survey undertaken by Housing Vision, an independent consultancy on behalf of SADC planning department, but seemingly ignored by its decision-making councillors, it was found that some 90 per cent of newly-built houses in St Albans district as a whole were bought by incomers to the area. Any notion that the proposal to build hundreds of new houses on Harpenden Green Belt would be beneficial and, as such, be welcomed by the people of the town, as Clly Daly and his planning officer colleagues allege, is therefore fatuous.

ALAN BUNTING Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden

Making a point on punctuation

SIR - I was interested to see the letter asking where the full stop had gone in St Albans, and the editorial reply. I believe that most of us were taught at school in the 60s to use one in these circumstances. (We’d also have written 60’s with an apostrophe.) Many people still believe they were taught correctly at school. Even I, with my good general knowledge of these things, was unaware until I was 40 that the “correct” approach is to use a full stop only for words that have been shortened before their end, such as “Ave.” for “Avenue”, whereas contractions with missing letters in the middle (and where logic would dictate an apostrophe) generally have no punctuation unless by convention such as don’t and it’s. Ironically (as I may as well use this opportunity to correct one of the most widespread errors, “it’s” can only mean “it is” or “it has”; like “yours” and “theirs”, it’s lost its apostrophe, which helps differentiate the sense of these homophones, but leads to much confusion when people assume that all apostrophes are therefore optional! By the same token, the useful device of using apostrophes, rather than my much rarer quotation marks as I’ve used here, to denote plurals in “cross the “t”s and dot the “i”s” has led many to assume you can always pluralise with an apostrophe. The exception does not justify a total change but I’m sure that conventions will change on this in future decades, and what is now just a common error will become seen even by pedants as correct (just as some dictionaries allow alternative spellings such as supersede spelt as supercede, or any more as “anymore”!) - in the same way as St Albans was, no doubt, originally correctly and logically spelt with an apostrophe, as hinted by your editorial comment! To do so now is, of course, generally seen as incorrect. Other common examples that are like “St Albans” include “Mr and Mrs”. I think it is unusual to see “St.” for “Saint” in print these days, but, as I say, this apparent laziness is in fact technically correct and we should reserve our pedantry for other, actual errors. Interestingly “St.” and “St” could both be argued as correct for “Street”, depending on which “t” you think is being used. Hoping this has been reasonably educational and interesting / entertaining.

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D HEWITT London Road, St Albans

Campaigner backs homes on allotments

SIR - I would be more impressed with Simon Leadbeater’s impassioned support for ‘’wildlife corridors” and “mini meadows” (The fight to protect our wildlife habitats, Your Views, October 16) were it not for the fact that he is one of the councillors who has consistently supported the development of the Westfield ex-allotment area in Harpenden. The site sits next to a Species Habitat Wildlife Site, identified by HBRC and HMWT and is now home to many important animals - badgers have set up residence and have been spotted by some of the elderly residents in Beeching Close. And then there are the Roman snails (IUCN RED listed). There are butterflies and wildflowers and luscious blackberries in abundance - all to be no more, if the council decides to push ahead with selling off (publicly) owned land to a local developer. As for Mr Leadbeater’s noble statement that “residents should be consulted” - I refer him to the last seven years of our campaign. Local people have consistently and persistently opposed the development of the land. The council has equally persistently refused to listen to them, even putting in a spurious planning application with serious omissions in an effort to gain vehicular access. I totally and wholeheartedly agree that “we need to make space for nature”. However that should include ALL nature, not just the bits some members of the council deem ‘’worthy” of preservation.

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

Thanks from talking newspaper

SIR - May I, through your column, thank the following for their generosity with time or cash. First, all those who helped guide 30 of our visually impaired listeners safely around the Music in Bloom flower festival at the Abbey (our own volunteers and friends were joined by members of the ‘Audio Description at the Abbey Theatre’ team, members of the St Albans Diocese Mothers Union, and a great bunch of sixth form students from St Albans School – almost 50 people in total). Secondly the Harpenden Lions Club for donating the funds raised by their Easter Egg raffle for our new logo, posters, website etc. And last but far from least – the people of this district for their generosity on our collection days in St Albans and Harpenden, which raised a total of over £1,300, enabling us to fund the expansion of our number of listeners by over 30 per cent so far in this our 40th anniversary year. May I also thank the Herts Advertiser and Hertfordshire Life Magazine for allowing us to include their news stories and features in our weekly audio programmes!

ROB PEARMAN Chairman, St Albans & District Talking Newspaper (www.sadtn.org.uk)

Forget museum, we need bus services

SIR - Winston Churchill said that you measure the degree of civilisation of a society by how it treats its weakest members - obviously not a concept shared by Hertfordshire County Council who are not prepared to provide a social infrastructure for an adequate public bus service. The Herts county council decision to cut bus services after 6.30pm and to provide no services at all on Sundays will penalise those member of our society who rely on buses for their daily transport which, incidentally accounts for two-thirds of all public transport. The elderly who rely on buses for their social activities, students and commuters will all be adversely affected by these proposed cuts. The elderly will be unable to go to the theatre, cinema, restaurant or visit friends. A lot of students and commuters are still working after 6.30pm and should be able to rely on a bus service to get home. Incidentally if commuters are forced to take their cars to the station where will they park them? The £887,000 HCC wish to save with these cuts could be easily offset by St Albans District Council’s £2.25 million for the conversation of the Town Hall into a museum (this would pay for the bus services for over two years). The museum is a luxury we cannot afford, is not required by the majority of the community and will not increase revenue from visitors as St Albans already has the dubious reputation of being grid-locked with traffic and having inadequate, expensive parking. All made worse if there is no bus service. I normally would not condone civil disobedience but believe a householder protest should be made against these unfair cuts in a public service which should be part of the social infrastructure of our county. I urge all residents to stop sorting recycling and fill just one bin for collection each week. This will save money on the number of refuse vehicles and associated personnel and therefore reduce the costs for refuse collection. Additionally, I am sure HCC will find it more economical to continue with the bus service than pay the EU fines for non-recycling. Please stand up for the needier members of society by not sorting for recycling!

PATRICIA MAITLAND Ashley Road, St Albans

Call to cut growth in our population

SIR - Barry Stringer, (We don’t want London expansion, October 9 asks “Why should the south-east be turned into a vast urban sprawl?” Why indeed? We are not insulated from the rest of the world and now that the UN has raised its projection for world growth in human numbers even more sprawl is likely. Certainly, we must try to ensure that development is spread more evenly across the country, but there are other things we can do also. Since I joined the charity Population Matters, met other like-minded people and received much relevant information, I have come across all sorts of small ways of promoting the attitude, both at home and abroad, that small families are sustainable ones. (The UK still has a higher proportion of large families and a higher birth rate than other European countries. Parliament is currently reviewing the role of sexual and reproductive health services. Family planning services are some of the most cost-effective of all the things the government funds. We need to ensure that “reviewing” does not mean “finding ways to cut”. Although the UK is one of the few countries which includes family planning in what it supplies as foreign aid, we still hear many complaints from the British public that foreign aid is a waste of money. Our government should be given credit where credit is due and encouraged to do more of the right things, Anyone who is concerned about urban sprawl would be welcome to join with us to think about how to prevent the underlying cause of the problem and take action, however small, to try to help. Many small actions add up to something much bigger.

HELEN HARAN Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

Unwelcome privatisation

SIR - I hope everybody has realised by now that we have a privatised recycling and rubbish collection. The name of the firm is Amey Cespa based in Cambridge. Recently I went to the recycling depot in Sandridge Road intending to give the operatives a box of biscuits to thank them for always being so pleasant and helpful to me. I was told that they could no longer accept gifts as this might be construed as bribery! Secondly, I have an assisted collection and one Thursday my box of papers was not collected. When I contacted Amey Cespa I was told that there were different collectors for the green bin and the black box. I was told that the papers would be collected within the next 24 hours and also they had no record of my assisted collection. Previously, when a collection was missed most times it was collected the same day. So much for privatisation!

MRS J M SEABROOK St Johns Court, St Albans