Letters November 6

Boundary changes and Facebook fight

SIR - Recently the Boundary Commission has carried out a review of local boundaries to try in their words to equalise the voting population whatever that means. They have decided to completely ignore natural communities and have come up with some very odd ideas indeed. These jobsworths have now put forward some complete nonsense. A significant part of St Albans Cunningham ward is now proposed to be part of London Colney which in turn loses its Colney Heath ward to become and you’d better believe it part of Sandridge which will then be a Colney Heath and Marshalswick division. It does not stop there with the residents of the part of Ragged Hall Lane which is in Chiswell Green could now find themselves and you could not guess where, as part of Harpenden Rural. I despair of the futile exercises of this organisation when they seek to disrupt natural boundaries which have stood the test of time for many years. I hope that others will oppose these recommendations as they do not have any merit. They will only serve to waste taxpayers’ hard earned money. Meanwhile, I have just returned to the UK and seen the article where a Facebook rent-a-mob along with others forced a local hotel to remove pate de foie gras from its menu. I accept these people may have a case and I respect their views, but surely these faceless creatures who hide behind stupid names do not have the courage of their convictions and put a name to the bile they spout without seemingly having ever experienced this hotel or are never likely to do so. They are total hypocrites. Social media is here to stay, but let’s get it into context with positive things and not vile abuse just because you don’t agree with another person’s viewpoint. There are many other examples of good people being subjected to the abuse put forward by these so called trolls. I just hope that they are brought to justice and prosecuted for the fictitious and libellous statements they make while hiding behind a silly name. No doubt they will forward their usual torrent of abuse when they read this. So be it. I am proud to sign my name.

GERARD STONE New House Park, St Albans

Longabout must be improved now

SIR - It is over a year ago I wrote that ‘the ‘longabout’ junction between Colney Heath and the A414 needs to be improved as soon as possible. Driving from Colney Heath high street towards Hatfield involves accelerating as fast as possible into the right hand lane, across the two inside lanes, whilst avoiding the stream of oncoming traffic, in order to turn at the roundabout. There is always a long tail-back of traffic at the junction, which increases the pressure on a motorist to pull out as soon as there is a slight break in the oncoming fast traffic. It is one of the most dangerous junctions I have ever come across and is generally referred to by my friends and I as ‘devil’s leap’ . Yet still nothing has been done to remedy the situation. I cannot believe that Hertfordshire County Council, who are well aware that recent collisions have resulted in severe injuries and caused traffic gridlock has now informed Colney Heath parish council that the earliest a trial of temporary traffic signals could take place would be March 2015. This junction is an accident black spot needing urgent action... now!

KAY BAGON Homefield Road, Radlett

Search for Wix medal winners

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SIR - Thanks to the publication of the excellent ‘City at War’, a book that pays tribute to the City’s most glorious saints, I was made aware of Frederick Alfred Day. This boy was the goalkeeper in the Abbey School (Spicer Street) team that won the Wix Shield in 1909, the first St Albans school to win the trophy. Five years later he enlisted, went to France and died on his first day of action. The Wix Shield is still played for and the 2015 final will be played at the Herts FA County Ground in Letchworth and on that occasion we will remember him. On behalf of the Wix I would be grateful if any members of Freddy’s family would make themselves known to me. If other readers are aware of any relatives with Wix medals, and who served in the two World wars, please do likewise.

DAVID WILLACY Hazelmere Road, St Albans dmwillacy@ntlworld.com

Leave Parliamentary candidates alone

SIR - Having read your editorial concerning the departure of Cllrs Allen and Kennedy to Parliament I feel this reflects well on the state of democracy in our area and the general quality of our councillors for as we know, it’s no mean feat to be selected for a Parliamentary seat. So Cllrs Allen and Kennedy are ambitious? What’s wrong with that? We should wish them well in their new positions and thank them for their contribution as local councillors. As for Marshalswick South, it has one of the best district councillors in Salih Gaygusuz whose energy and dedication is well known.

RICHARD CURTHOYS Hornbeams, St Albans

SIR - I am sorry to see that you have returned to your bee in a bonnet criticism of Marshalswick South councillors having the temerity to seek to make a step up in their political careers by winning nominations for parliamentary seats. I dissent most strongly from your strictures saying that they should serve out the full term for which they were elected. As I said when you previously castigated Ms Kennedy, opportunities like this occur only rarely and should be seized, as they are for journalists on provincial weeklies who might get an opportunity on a national daily. And when the nation is being told that what we need in parliament in more women and younger people we have in this instance two candidates who fulfil both those requirements we should be applauding rather than castigating them. They are not the first councillors to fight parliamentary seats either. In the fairly recent past, we have had Chris Whiteside, Kerry Pollard, Anthony Rowlands and Roma Mills and no doubt others will follow in due course. In this case I understand both ladies have resigned their seats making way for others to take over which a far more honourable course than people like Boris Johnson who is holding on to elected office whilst at the same same time making great play to become an MP. I hope you may be persuaded that there always two sides to any question, as I can sometimes be, even if rarely by, Barry Cashin!

PHILIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans

Resolve obligations now over rail freight

SIR - Further to my previous comments on the SRFI saga, (Letters September 4), it is noted that a judicial review, mainly on points of law, is due to be heard in February 2015. As matters now appear to be reaching a head, we should not forget the lessons learned from previous developments, in particular the aborted “golf course” on the 25 hectares of land bordering the M25, Lye Lane and A405, which after some years still remains an eyesore after being littered with thousands of tons of builders’ waste before the developer apparently failed to perform and abandoned the site. So as a parallel matter, pertinent to the outcome of the judicial review, the safeguarding of responsibility issues for the SRFI should now be resolved, as Helioslough Ltd surely should not be taken on trust to satisfactorily complete and honour the obligations inherent within such a massive project, particularly in view of the uncertainties remaining, not least on the practicability of rail pathways/widening. I have seen no evidence to date that this matter has been addressed. In the event that planning permission is granted, then Helioslough Ltd’s parent company, SEGRO plc, must be formally locked in to stand behind Helioslough Ltd as guarantor for all obligations and liabilities, otherwise the Authorities and taxpayers will unfairly be at risk should the project fail for any reason. It is SEGRO plc who should assume this protection in full, and bear full onus of all contingent liabilities to their account at least until discharged by successful project completion. As said before, these matters need to be resolved now rather than left for future legal wrangling.

ROGER JONES Park Street Lane, Park Street

Heartless attack on the homeless

SIR - I felt very sad when I read your article about objections to accommodate homeless people in Church Crescent. What possible threat can homeless people pose to the residents of Church Crescent? Homeless people are just people who happen to have found themselves without anywhere to live, often through no fault of their own Those who are objecting may be very lucky not to have encountered hardship in their lives,perhaps that’s why they struggle to walk in someone else’s shoes. In my experience ,the vast majority of St Albans residents,homeless or otherwise are a compassionate inclusive bunch and this city has a tradition of hospitality and tolerance. I applaud Hightown Praetorian and Churches for striving to address the appalling housing situation many individuals and families face.

JULIA MATTHEW Lancaster Road, St Albans

The positives and negatives of our city

SIR - I am stunned and amazed by the Manchester Evening News survey that places St Albans as the second least cultural city in Britain! From a statistical point of view the survey would appear to be suspect, as pointed out by Valarie Shrimplin, city size is significant; Manchester is 10 times the size of St Albans (I wonder how St David’s scores!). Also, what was the make-up of the sample ,in terms of social class, geography, etc? The OED defines culture as: “The total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge which constitute the shared bases of social action.” The rating based on purely museums and restaurants is clearly flawed. Terry Lockyer’s comments are laughable, to suggest that the Abbey Church and Cathedral is “...hardly a building public building of architectural note” is absurd; the building’s history is amongst the most interesting in the UK. I suggest he visits, St Albans being one of the few cathedrals in the country to offer free entrance and tours. St Albans Abbey is a must visit along with the Verulamium Museum in understanding Roman Britain and the development of Christianity in England. (PS There have been attempts to make St Alban England’s patron saint; after all he was English, definitely did exist and, as all parents know: there is “No such thing as a dragon”!) “Drab image? I think not. Lack of fine dining, how do you define that: Names? Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver; or quality? Sopwell House, St Michael’s Manor; chains, independents... St Albans is awash with food and pubs; although, I agree, too many chain coffee shops! Hertfordshire University, The Arena, The Abbey Theatre, dozens of listed buildings in Fishpool Street....I don’t think Luton of Bedford compare (except for the fact that they have more McDonald’s!). With regards to music you can find anything from Verdi’s Requiem and The Messiah at the Abbey to concerts at local churches, and The Horn and other pubs to street buskers. Yes, we could do better, planning and building could be more consistent with local culture, we could do with a theatre like the Watford Palace, and although Watford and Hatfield multiplex cinemas are not far away we are getting The Odyssey soon. The Arena needs a fundamental rethink, a lot of space, prime location; maybe better film choice, more legroom and more streamed/ recorded theatre, opera, musicals, etc. However, we love it here (and my wife comes from Manchester!).

JOHN JOHNSON Goldsmith Way, St Albans

SIR - St Albans is a ‘Marmite’ city: fashionable as a dormitory for London’s overspill yet, as Laurie Bishop astutely points out (‘Our polluted city’ October 16), deeply flawed when it comes to such issues as traffic and pedestrian management, congestion, and atmospheric pollution. Laurie Bishop makes comparisons with Norwich and Harpenden and does not find in favour of St Albans. I can fully endorse and substantiate these observations. My wife and I regularly visit North Norfolk and while there we frequently choose to visit Norwich, the ‘local’ city. We also visit our nearby city of St Albans, but with considerably less enthusiasm. We are simply not attracted to St Albans: for us, its downsides heavily outweigh its many merits. These downsides include failure of the local authorities to deal effectively with pollution and congestion. As a result the city is not the rewarding shopping experience it should be. An examination of our spending patterns in these two city centres over the last three years (as reflected in our card transactions) revealed that for every pound we have spent in retail outlets in our local city of St Albans we have spent almost double that sum in Norwich. In my view, this reflects the fact that there is much that St Albans needs to learn from others in order to up its game. Worryingly, the authorities in St Albans, via the controversial draft Strategic Local Plan for the district (currently undergoing its consultation phase), are now prescribing developments that they consider should take place throughout the district. Harpenden should beware - and must act now, before a St Albans-style ‘solution’ is imposed on us. As evidenced in Laurie Bishop’s letter, the town has much to lose and Harpenden must learn from best practice if it is to retain its character.

ALAN JACKSON Lambourn Gardens, Harpenden

SIR - I understand a Manchester newspaper has deprecated the cultural attractions of St Albans. It is enough to say that Beau Brummell, arbiter of good taste and fashion in Regency England resigned his commission in the army and a promising military career, rather than be posted with his regiment to Manchester, wherever that is, citing its undistinguished ambience, and want of culture and civility. He was however, an occasional visitor to St Albans.

ROGER GRAY Sandridge Road, St Albans