Letters, October 3, 2013

Why all the fuss over school?

SIR – I really fail to understand the furore over the new secondary school in Batford. Let’s face it with: 20 new houses planned for Westfield ex-allotment land ( subject to planning permission and the destruction of all the protected wildlife); eight new houses being crammed in on the Lea Industrial Estate; five new houses already built off Westfield Road; and eight new houses built along the Lower Luton Road in various ‘2 for 1’ deals. Plus several infilling and back garden/garage grabbing houses under construction or already built; however many houses and flats projected to be built on the Lower Luton Road Industrial Estate; and the possible new estate at Pinewood now the lease has expired, let’s face it, where else could it go? After all, we can’t ask people in North Harpenden or West Common to sacrifice their Green Belt, can we? That would be frankly unfair. And given the rate at which planning permission is being granted for houses in this area, we’ll soon have enough kids to fill the new school... and the school after that.

CAROL HEDGES Harpenden Independent Partnership Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Was mother in pic?

SIR – I write regarding an article which was printed in the Herts Advertiser on November 1 2007. It was an old photograph of a wedding with a letter which was found in an envelope on a wall outside the home of Christopher and Julia Poxson in the Sopwell area of St Albans. I remember looking at the photo at the time and am almost certain my mother is in the photo. Sadly my mother passed away earlier that year so I could not ask her about it. Then around this time my husband became ill and was on life support for 10 months before he too sadly passed away. So as you can imagine the paper cutting was filed away for another time. However after all these years it has now come to light again and now having the time to look at it it also says in your article that the letter was written to Sean, Bern and family. By sheer coincidence my parents’ names were Sean and Berna (sometimes called Bern). I am obviously intrigued to find out if there is a connection. I tried directory enquiries and there is a C Poxson registered in St Albans but the number is ex-directory. I just wondered if maybe the couple who found the photograph and letter could contact me through your paper please.

TERESA FLAHERTY teresa.flaherty1@talktalk.net

Housing policy discrimination?

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SIR – I recently wrote to St Albans council regarding a complaint of discrimination in their housing allocations policy, and thought this might be of interest to your readers. It would appear that the council is not providing equal opportunities regarding its policy for choice-based lettings. Under the old system people where given points, based regarding to need, on such things as overcrowding, disability, poor living conditions, age, etc., to name but a few. Now it would seem that the system of banding, with A being for urgent need, i.e. homelessness, no longer applies. It is enough to have a larger home than you need and want to transfer to a one bedroom property. The incentives are multiple, as apart from not having to pay extra council tax recently imposed there are grants from the council. A one-off payment for moving to a smaller property, your moving expenses paid, and immediate placement in bands A or B on the housing register. I appreciate the council needs the larger properties for families, but this reflects badly upon the elderly and disabled. As one of the incentives is that persons of 55 moving from larger properties can now bid for property previously only available to the elderly or disabled – this includes bungalows! This is blatant discrimination against the elderly and disabled most of whom are in bands D or E. Whilst many are in obvious need of rehousing they stand no chance for many years to come under the present scheme, and this does not include single people or couples trying to get social housing. If an urgent need for housing can be proven, band A or B is fine. But do not add insult to injury by then allocating property meant for retirement living or disabled persons to perfectly fit 55 year olds. This policy is obviously flawed and needs to be looked at again as it is discriminatory. I hope to see a fairer policy in the future that better understands the needs of the elderly and disabled.

DAPHNE HEWISON Gertrude Peake Place, Redbourn

No need to be rude when making point

SIR – There is nothing more telling than a person who resorts to insults to make their point. Usually, such a person’s argument is weak, flawed, groundless, without foundation, often reflecting the type of person making the insult. I refer of course to Paul Cadiou’s letter in a recent Herts Ad which began quite brightly by praising my regular contributions on subjects which, let’s face it, are at the forefront of many St Albans peoples’ minds; taxpayers furious with a council charging an awful lot for not much value in terms of services. From there though, Mr Cadiou’s letter descends to the playground when he refers to me as a “grumpy old git with not a lot to occupy myself.” As a hardened journalist, Mr Cadiou is going to have to do a lot better to penetrate my Teflon coating than to attempt to portray me as some kind of modern day Victor Meldrew (for a start, I’m much younger and better looking than Richard Wilson) – but if he cared to research the origin of the word “git” before using it in its modern Western vernacular form, he would in fact find that it originates from the Arabic for “pregnant camel” and the Scottish for “illegitimate child”, of which I am neither! Talking of research and critically, Mr Cadiou’s attempt to denigrate my claims of the cost of St Albans groundworks as “exaggerated” fall flat on their face. Before making yourself look silly, please... Do your homework! If one cares to verify the amount of money spent by SADC on tending to our grass verges, parks, roundabouts, etc., please take a moment, as I did before writing in, to look at Page seven, Item 13, column one of St Albans Council’s 2012/13 budget report guide. There, one will find that I am indeed completely, irrefutably, undeniably 100 per cent correct in stating the expenditure for ground maintenance runs into the thousands. Read on and you’ll see a breakdown: landscape architects and arborists £210,500, verge maintenance £50,080, parks admin, £32,400, Clarence Park £17,900, other open spaces, £64,060 and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is more of course but this little lot adds up to almost half a million as it is! I think even Mr Cadiou will find the official figures enlightening to say the least, dispelling his erroneous claim that I am “exaggerating”. In the final analysis, it is always good to have fans of one’s letters and to receive feedback from other readers both good and bad, each of whom are all entitled to a personal opinion, but please, try to back up that opinion with evidence. Certainly before you accuse someone of being an illegitimate, Scottish, grumpy, four-legged, sand-loving, hump-backed animal in an “exaggerated” state of pregnancy. That is a statement, like the one that would have me seen as a rampant embellisher of council expenditure figures, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I thank you!

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Romeland road review is a folly

SIR – As a resident of Romeland for more than 30 years, I feel I must add my voice to all the protestors at St Albans School’s bus scheme. It surely is a folly of the highest degree to suggest that the present one-way system (instituted as I recall, as a road safety system, many years ago ) be altered by making the narrow road to the cathedral ‘s main entrance and the Monastery Gateway two-way, and closing off the lower road around the peaceful gardens as just a bus park! These buses are very large and very long – totally unacceptable for use in this historic area. and at present cause many traffic hold-ups and would be even more dangerous if re-routed. Indeed there is NO place in what is St Albans’ most important heritage area for any buses at all. I feel strongly that all pupils should be taken to St Michael’s or the car parks of Verulamium sports centre, to walk from there. Also, personally the loss of 11 parking spots with loading and unloading facilities would affect my, and other residents’ lives badly. It is already very difficult, as there seem to be more permits issued than there are spaces allocated. The smaller things of life, such as unloading shopping without having too far to walk, and one’s children and grandchildren visiting assume large problematic proportions. Above all though, Romeland should not have buses imposed upon its previously quiet and tranquil area, and St Albans School should be proud of its surroundings and environment and be pleased to fit in.

VALERIE TREASURE Romeland, St Albans SIR – In response to your articles regarding traffic issues in Romeland, there are still a number of fundamental points that don’t seem to have been properly addressed or have simply been swept under the carpet to avoid having to answer some awkward questions. If the whole idea of introducing the new traffic scheme into Romeland is to “improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety”, the proposed solution cannot surely be deemed appropriate or a success if it simply improves the movement of coaches and pupils, at the expense of the free movement of residents’ vehicles and the safe passage of pedestrians along the narrow pavements. It is simply solving one issue by creating a raft of others.

To say that one side of Romeland will become two-way cannot work given the width of the road. Anyone trying to exit Abbey Mill Lane in the morning rush hour, when faced with a double-decker coach coming towards them will not be able to pass side by side. Two cars already struggle to get past each other at the narrowest point. When you combine this with the fact parents park on the double yellow lines to drop and collect their children and there will be no exit for parents apart from having to turn around in the same area as coaches are turning and then exit the same way as the coaches are coming in, it is not difficult to see that the result will be complete gridlock, thus failing the first objective of improving traffic flow. As coaches manoeuvre around the confined ancient roads, they are bound to mount the curbs as already observed during the one day trial, so the second objective of improving pedestrian safety cannot be seen to have been satisfied either. All this would be bad enough wherever it was proposed, but when you consider that this is in the heart of the historic conservation area and that numerous trees will have to be cut back to allow the coaches access, it seems surprising that it has been stated that “the green triangle at Romeland will not be affected by the proposed scheme”. Alternative proposals have been put forward that remove coaches from Romeland altogether. Amongst these would be to allow the coaches to drop pupils in the Verulamium Museum car park, providing pupils with a short walk to school through the park. Surely these alternatives must be given priority to solve the problem once and for all in a way that not only preserves the historic heart of the city but also improves the lives of pupils and residents alike.

IAN WOODROOF Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans

Roman Wall railings aren’t needed...

SIR – I was interested to read (September 19) that some anonymous residents of our fine city were “horrified” that the railings had been removed from the ancient remnant of wall leading out of the park. Horrified, really? I wonder what their reaction will be to my admission that before the new railings went in I was happy to let my children clamber all over said wall. My attitude is rather than trying to to preserve this dilapidated scrap of history in aspic for eternity let’s open it up and let people yomp on it. No doubt it will cause some degradation to the structure, but probably very little and almost certainly a lot less than the roots of all the trees and weeds growing out of it. And if this means that in another two thousand years there’s very little wall left (which is probably how long it will take for it to crumble away) then so be it, at least we haven’t been forced to merely look at our environment from behind a barrier. I once went on holiday to Verona where people are free to wander all over the most amazing Roman amphitheatre, second in grandeur only to the Colosseum itself. I’m sure the Italians would soil themselves laughing to see us putting fencing round tumbledown piles of rocks just because they are old and therefore deemed in need of preservation.

NICK CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

...oh yes they are!

SIR – Well, would you believe it! Take away the railings around an exciting, slightly dangerous, structure alongside their walk to and from school and youngsters choose to test their skill on it. Whatever next? An idiot could have forseen this. The whole of the cycle path project by the Roman Wall in the park has ended up as a pig’s ear. What is worrying is that English Heritage, of all people, were complicit with our council in removal of protection for the Wall. This, no doubt, driven by a fashion for “accessibility” and “inclusiveness”, “elf and safety” seemingly now out of fashion. And what is further worrying is that our same council is responsible for the dubious Town Hall Museum project, for which they need the support of, wait for it, English Heritage.

ROGER MILES Upper Culver Road, St Albans

The shame of Caroline Sharpe

SIR – Caroline Sharpe House has come to another deadlock. On September 12 demolition work finally commenced on the building but by September 18 the partly-demolished building was deserted by the demolition company, and their equipment and staff have been removed from the site. I understand there is a health and safety issue that surely should have been sorted prior to work commencing on site. This sorry saga began in 2007, residents were moved out temporally in 2009 and the building is still partially standing in late 2013. The last proposed completion date we were given of October 14 can now not be feasable in my opinion. Ex-residents are only pensioners so why should anyone have any feelings for us and our hopes? We were promised new flats there in September 2008, with the timescale being emptying the building by late 2009 and building our new homes by late 2011. Without a crystal ball I predict at least 2015 is now the earliest those of us that are still able will get the flats we were promised at the site we never wanted to leave in the first place. We wanted to be left there to enjoy our eventide years, instead we have more and more uncertaintity in our lives.

MICHAEL CLARK Quantock Close, St Albans

Parking can be a nice little earner

SIR – I strongly urge all drivers in Welwyn Garden City who use the car parks provided to obtain and keep any parking receipts that are issued by the machines installed by the borough council. I parked in Cherry Tree car park on Sunday, August 4, paid the fee of £1 and obtained a printed receipt. That did not prevent CP Plus Ltd, who collect the money on behalf of Welwyn Garden City borough council, from sending me a parking charge notice one week later demanding £35 if I paid within 14 days or £75 if not. Luckily, I had kept the receipt and successfully challenged it but if I had not I would have had no way of proving that I had paid (especially since I paid in coins and it would therefore not appear on my bank statement) and I would have had to pay the £35. A “nice little earner” as the saying goes. The printed receipts are very small and flimsy and are easily mislaid or lost – so, drivers and shoppers make sure you a) obtain one and b) keep it somewhere safe – and let’s knock this little racket on the head!

JOHN FREESTONE Castle Road, St Albans