Letters November 27 2014

So what is culture, really?

SIR - Although entering relatively late in the debate over the reported views, recently published in the Manchester Evening News, regarding the quality of culture present in St Albans, I am not surprised to learn that different parts of our country have contrasting opinions on what they value as culture. As one of the people sent down here to spread the warmth and influence of our northern roots amongst St Albans society, I feel personally disappointed to hear that we are considered, by those who sent us, to be failing in our mission to refine the manners of southern people who they consider to behave differently to themselves. The interpretation of “culture” as I have just suggested is a subjective dilemma, eg. many viewers of the television series Downton Abbey may see a cultured behaviour in the stories of the characters enacted which is typical of the “Englishness” of those times. If this assumption is correct, I would further guess that they would be surprised to hear Lady Mary, Lord Grantham et al speaking in a Bolton accent! Readers of The Daily Telegraph were however enlightened to this fact in the paper’s News Review of November 1 which informed us that the origins of Downton Abbey and its inhabitants are based upon the estate of the Hulton family of Bolton, who have borne witness to, and at times played a central role in, the nation’s history, with an archive dating back to 1199. However, whilst not rushing to pack my bags, just yet, to flee the pleasures of living in St Albans which I don’t deny. I can recommend a visit to view the article. You may be as surprised as I was.

TONY LEACH Langley Crescent, St Albans

Flawed consultation on housing plans

SIR - I would like to thank St Albans city council for offering all of householders the chance to comment on the online consultation system regarding future housing/planning in the district. However I would have to say it was nigh on impossible for your average layman to do so! I looked at the document four or five times, each time it took me about 10 minutes to find the document, once found I coudln’t understand the language used within the document making it rather impossible to submit my opinion in a coherent manner. Having read questions two or three times I didn’t understand the question that was being asked of me. All in all I probably spent about three to four hours trying to submit my opinion (good thing I don’t work my boss would be rather cross with me by now!) It is therefore no surprise that only about 10-15 people in the WHOLE district bothered to make any comments. Not really a true reflection of what is felt by the community. Until there is better infrastructure in the area no further developments should take place. Heavy traffic, old drainage pipes, lack of schools, doctor’s, parking etc cannot continue to be overlooked by the council and developers. The areas proposed to develop should be looked at again as there seems to be a bias to put the developments in already heavily developed areas leaving alone the “posher” areas. Do we really need three golf courses in Harpenden alone? Do we really need that useless wooded area running out of town towards St Albans on the right hand side? Just suggestions. All this talk about affordable housing should stop being talked about but acted upon. There seems to be a lot of luxury flats and gated complexes being built therefore pushing up the prices in the area. I believe if the Gleneagles site had been turned over to affordable housing it would have been large enough to comply to any government demands for the area. Also there seems to be a discrepancy as to what affordable housing is. Affordable housing is suppose to be a certain percentage (I don’t know the exact amount) of the average house price in the area. Apparently the majority of sales in Harpenden during the past year were detached houses, selling for an average £1,055,544. Semi-detached properties sold for an average £594,784, with flats fetching £255,310. Well maths isn’t my strong suite but I can tell that that’s not affordable not matter what the exact percentage is. I’m sure flats selling at £1.3 million will really help with these figures.

ELISSA BAIRD Willoughby Road, Harpenden

Remembering Stones gig

Most Read

SIR - I very much enjoyed reading Alan Cannon Jones’ memories of seeing The Rolling Stones at St Albans Odeon in 1963. (Herts Advertiser November 6). I too remember the occasion very well as my friend and I attended the 6.45pm performance. We arrived early and saw Bill Wyman arrive by taxi at the front of the cinema, carrying his guitar case and wearing a black leather jacket. There wasn’t anyone else around and we managed to get Bill’s autograph. I recall that the Stones only played for about 10 to 12 minutes and then Little Richard came on. Cuddles was a St Albans council road sweeper and a very colourful character who loved rock ‘n’ roll. I recall him rushing to the front of stage when Little Richard came on and staying there and dancing through the whole set. Little Richard gave him one of his shoes at the end of his performance! Unfortunately Cuddles only claim to fame was, I believe in 1972, when he jumped up on stage at The London Palladium during a performance by Jerry Lee Lewis. I think this made the national press. He did release one record – a cover of Jerry Lee’s ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ but it sunk without trace.

TONY DAWSON-HILL Mons Close, Harpenden

SIR – I enjoyed Alan Canon Jones’s account of his chance encounter with the young Rolling Stones next to the Odeon Cinema in London Road. What was particularly impressive was the depth and quality of the line-up that night in October 1963.. I’d be interested to find out how much tickets were for a gig that also included Bo Diddley, Little Richard and The Everly Brothers. Perhaps no more than five of our old shillings? Incidentally when Ellas McDaniel (AKA Bo Diddley) passed away some years ago, a journalist remarked that mankind could possibly survive without fire and the wheel but it would never be the same without the Bo Diddley beat.

PAUL BISHOP Luton Road, Harpenden

How much do you need to live on?

SIR - The living wage, the hourly rate promoted by the Living Wage Foundation based on the amount needed to cover the basic costs of living, has this month been increased by 20p to £7.85. This is a whopping £1.15 above the National Minimum Wage. There is no obligation on employers to pay the living wage and many do not. The demand for debt advice by people living in St Albans shows no sign of decreasing, despite the area being seen as generally affluent. Figures show that 249 people sought the local CAB’s help on just this issue in the last three month period, to say nothing of the 632 who sought help on benefits for those without work or on low incomes. So how much do you need to live on? Abigail Davis, research associate from Loughborough University which is working on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will be discussing these issues at the CAB’s forthcoming AGM and pose the question: Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard (MIS): How much is enough? The meeting will be held in the Council Chamber at St Albans Civic Centre at 7.30pm on Tuesday December 2. If you would like to listen to what Abigail Davis has to say you should e mail admin@stalbans.cabnet.org.uk no later than the end of November. This is likely to be a popular event so you are advised to book your place early to avoid disappointment.

KATE CARROLL Company Secretary St Albans District CAB

NIMBYism rife over homeless centre

SIR - I read the story on the possible conversion of St Claire’s in Church Crescent and am dismayed but not surprised by the reaction of the local nimbies. Rents are going up, there is a huge shortage of anywhere near affordable homes in the area and people are being made homeless. They need somewhere to go. And guess what, not all homeless people are drink and drug addicts who could, as one person insinuated in the story, be harmful to the local children. How ignorant and offensive. These people often have families to look after. Makes my blood boil.

LAURA BERRILL Deva Close, St Albans

SIR - I find myself compelled to write in to the letters page for the first time regarding the proposed homeless shelter in Church Crescent. I would like to praise Hightown Housing Association for wanting to provide help to those without a roof over their head, the local action group would do well to think about how easy it can be to end up homeless, a couple of missed mortgage payments and a job redundancy and any of them could end up in a shelter similar to that proposed. Also can please enlighten me as to why homeless people are such a threat to children. I for one would much rather see this site turned into something that would help some of the neediest in the community rather than another block of luxury apartments.

JONATHAN PRAYER Camp Road, St Albans

Daly under fire over Strategic Local Plan

SIR - At a meeting on 20 October in Harpenden Public Halls, Cllr Julian Daly presented to over 300 concerned residents on his draft Strategic Local Plan. Cllr Daly presented mostly on why he has to use Green Belt land in our district to build 436 houses per year for 20 years but failed to say how he will finance new schools, better transport systems and improved medical services in order to cope with an inflow of new residents. Neither did he explain why a sizable part of the houses to be built will, according to his own statistics, be taken up by people moving out of London who are the ones who will be able to afford to buy the new houses. But most important of all, he remained silent on why key parts of his so-called strategy is full of holes. His Green Belt review is, in planning terms, “unsound” as is his review of which sites in the district should be built on. And on top of all that, he is not following new guidance from the Secretary of State on making minimal use of Green Belt for house building. He really does need to go back to the drawing board and re-think his draft plan but he gave no impression that he would. Anybody who wants guidance on Cllr Daly’s incomplete Green Belt review and his work on “site allocation” can visit www.harpendengreenbelt.org.uk The Strategic Local Plan is one of the most important issues to be considered by residents and it deserves very careful consideration. If it goes forward as it is, residents will rue the day they did not examine Cllr Daly’s proposals and get him to think again.

J EVANS Park Mount, Harpenden

SIR - The leader of St Albans district council, Julian Daly, according to the letters page of the Herts Ad (November 13), says that 500 houses must be built on Green Belt next to Harpenden to meet the needs of local Harpenden people. So how does he explain the 2,500 houses proposed on Green Belt next to Hemel Hempstead? Clearly this doesn’t meet the needs of local residents of St Albans district, yet one million square metres of its Green Belt would be concreted over. The infrastructure problems it would create in the area would be horrendous, and it’s Dacorum Borough Council that will have to sort it. In truth, this is a bad idea and shows that St Albans district’s draft Strategic Plan is not about what residents want, but about meeting self-imposed housing targets. Most people, at East Hemel, Harpenden and St Albans believe that the Green Belt should be protected. We don’t want to see the countryside destroyed at East Hemel or anywhere else. The Communities Minister, Eric Pickles is saying we should protect the Green Belt, so why isn’t Julian Daly? If we build on Green Belt this time around, it sends out the message that the Green Belt can be used as a land supply in the future, and eventually we will all be part of a sprawling greater London.

LISA PERKINS South Field House, Lilly Lane, Hemel Hempstead

Sympathy for family facing eviction

SIR - May I kindly convey through your columns my deepest sympathy to the Ward family who are being displaced (November 13). It is a most humbling thing to be homeless and not have a bed for the night or be cramped in one room. I am of the opinion that like Anne Frank: “People are ultimately good” and with the likes of Jesus and Moses and Mohammed to guide us please may we show kindness and compassion to them and not evict them. Would any member of Parliament like to sleep in a homeless shelter with other families?

ANDY STROWMAN Roundwood Lane, Harpenden

Much love for the Tories over taxes

SIR - Thrilled to see that our council tax won’t be going up for the sixth straight year. What a fantastic effort by our Conservative-led council. How many other things currently cost the same as they did in 2008? All the more impressive that in this period of “austerity” they’ve still managed to deliver wonderful new facilities like Westminster Lodge and Batchwood sports centres. I suppose the council tax freeze was created by the necessity of the global financial crash of 2008, but why should it take a huge external shock to make our politicians prioritise saving our money? For years up to 2008 the Lib Dems continually put up the council tax. What was all this money being spent on? The last six years have demonstrated that the previous levels of taxation were simply not necessary. Were the Lib Dems ideologically wedded to the idea of higher taxes, or was it just wasteful incompetence? I think the latter.

NICK CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans