Letters, October 28, 2010, part three
SIR – For readers of your paper, please hark back to page 3 (Herts Advertiser St Albans edition, October 14 - available online at www.hertsad24.co.uk) where the “shambolic” Beaumont School decision was made by our St. Albans District Planning Committee on a five-four vote to reject the school’s very necessary and crucial redevelopment plan for the third time.
Of course the eloquent Mrs. Hitch, their headmistress, and Ed Jones their facilities manager, will be re-appealing, this time to the Secretary of State.
No doubt the Whitehall official will think outside the box, rather than the macular degenerative, narrow opinion of a politically motivated Liberal Democrat chairman, Chris Brazier.
To suggest Beaumont had not satisfied the so called Green Belt special provisions designation of the land and that in principle the architectural design had not been satisfied is a farce worthy of Brian Rix Whitehall, or “Yes Minister” comedy.
If this development could be thrown out on Green Belt legislation, given its setting on the Hatfield Road, it is an illogical, impractical catastrophe.
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How on earth did the Wynchlands Farm estate get the go ahead? The passing of favours! Currently Beaumont’s playing field, science, sports hall internal car parking and enhanced playground areas are fundamental for the future progress of this Ofsted-outstanding school.
All Cllr Chris Brazier, the council legal adviser or the lady leader of the planning department have done is to put things back at least three years (to completion), increased the consultancy fee costs to well in excess of �500,000 and potentially the eminently logical land swap cost of �18.5 million to fund the school’s and the community children’s educational future.
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And this doesn’t include the environmental advantages to traffic flow on Oakwood Drive, and adjoining roads to Oakwood Drive Primary School nearby.
For this compact community school to offer its students’ sports fields that are constantly waterlogged and force them to hire other pitches is a tragedy.
Come on Anne Main, please pitch in on Mrs Hitch’s desperate submission appeal to our Secretary of State.
Let us not get bogged down as Aislinn Lee suggested - a brave Liberal objector to the rejection - and think hard about what is good for our children, when you have to be sitting in a double decker bus to see that three sides of Beaumont School’s unfit for use playing fields are bounded by buildings and houses.
And if the lady who heads the council’s planning department is so worried about developers not adhering to an agreed urban architectural design then she only has to get off her backside and strut onto the site and wave her legal assets!
Come on planners, use your brains and support Mrs Hitch’s re-appeal, cut escalating bureaucratic costs and unhitch the hitch!
Ex-Verulam School governor
SIR - I was completely knocked for six when I learnt that the council had turned down the application for planning for the only all-weather pitch in St Albans!
Both Nicholas Breakspear and St Albans City Youth have worked tirelessly for years to raise funds and attend countless meetings with the council for a project which can only enhance St Albans.
They were advised by the council to put forward this application for the good of the youth of St Albans and surrounding areas, where do the council want these youngsters to go in the future?
St Albans City Youth is a charitable organisation which is run by volunteers and the work they have put in to raise funds for everyone is amazing and now only to be kicked in the teeth by one or two people who sit on a committee and make political decisions without looking long term!
Ask the young parents of today what do they want for their children - “somewhere in a safe environment, with decent facilities” - this is what the all-weather pitch at Nicholas Breakspear would provide with people who don’t just think about themselves helping everyone!
Please everyone get behind this scheme and the council rethink your wrong decision.
Sandpit Lane, St Albans
SIR - An open letter to Cllr Maxine Crawley regarding the planning refusal for a floodlit all-weather sports facility and new changing room block at Nicholas Breakspear School:
I am writing to express by surprise at this decision, which I see is already receiving press attention.
I understand that the application was rejected by councilors on grounds of increased level of traffic and noise this would generate.
Confirmation of the grounds for refusal has yet to be issued. I would like the councilors (Cllrs Brazier and Lee) who voted against this application to explain to the St Albans public why.
They voted against a scheme that was recommended for approval by the planning officer who has said there are no sound planning policy grounds to refuse this application.
Cllr Brazier has previously publically supported the proposal. If Cllr Brazier had communicated his U-turn to the proposers they would have had the opportunity to consider his objections and if appropriate made changes to the proposal and thus avoid costs and time
Only one of the voting councillors bothered to take up the invitation to visit the site of the proposed facility. St Albans is the only authority in Hertfordshire to reject a facility of this nature.
And finally now that the councillors have rejected a funded scheme, what are the councillors plans to provide our city with a similar sporting facility for our children.
Can you help me in getting some clarity from our city councillors?
SIR - I am amazed at Cllrs Brazier mand Lee’s (Liberal Democrat) decision to state in a public meeting that they support the application for new all-weather pitches for St Albans City Youth teams and then vote lead a vote against this by making false and misleading comments to the council.
Thousands of families enjoy and have enjoyed the benefits of football in St Albans over the years. The submission was professional, consultative, accommodating and strategically assessed being worked on over a three year period.
As a resident and tax payer when the local planning officer who is presumably qualified and profession states “there are no sound planning policy grounds to refuse this application”.
I would like to ask the councillors what confidence do they have in local authority staff and should this planning officer not be competent in their duty will our ratepayers rates be decreased by the removal of this person who the councillors obviously believe is not competent to make such statements.
What action are the councillors are taking on ensuring competent planning officers are in place in this critical area of planning?
What planning qualifications or competencies the councillors have to over rule professional decisions made with due process? What alternatives the councillors are submitting to accommodate this community need in St Albans?
Foxcroft, St Albans
SIR - I find it incredible that the cocal council speaks about the demise of the Bricket Wood Sports Centre in the same week as they turn down the opportunity for a new multi-use games area at Nicholas Breakspear School.
Our councillors make these type of decisions despite advice to the contrary from their own planning department.
What is going on at the council? Do they not realise the value that sport bring to the residents of the district?
Do they not realise that local residents (those that can be bothered) have to travel to local towns like Hatfield and Watford to train for sports matches and social games?
Do they not realise the benefits a new sports field and dance studio would bring to the young people and community groups in the area?
Why did they not listen to the requests from the local disability groups who were asking for flat surfaces to practice?
The councillors have been invited to meet the local voluntary groups who would like to use the facilities to discuss ideas about how the facilities would work. Sadly only one of them accepted the invitation.
Please can the voters of St Albans ask your local councillor to take sport more seriously in St Albans.
The invitation to meet our councillors remains open.
The Berkhamsted councillors appreciate the value of sport.
Their councillors will be opening a facility identical to the Nicholas Breakspear proposal on November 13 2010. These two projects have both been running in tandem, only one has had the support of the councillors.
Claudian Place, St Albans