Letters, October 31, 2013

‘Badgergate’ and the Westfield issue

SIR – As a writer of fiction, I make up stuff as I go along. However, I am still aware of the difference between fiction and fact, and whereas I am reasonably sure Cllr Pawle would not personally attempt to kill badgers by putting down cyanide (Letters, October 24), nevertheless he made the remarks that I quoted in my letter (October 17) exactly as I quoted them. Twice. Before adding that he was “only joking’’ and that he “loved wildlife’’. That’s two assertions to one clarification. At the very least, such remarks are in extremely poor taste. At the other extreme, they represent clearly, in my opinion, the attitude of Harpenden Town Council towards me and my fellow residents of Westfield. We are indeed “a joke’’. HTC has refused consistently to listen or accede to the wishes of local people. We do not want our landlocked green space developed. We do not want all our blackberries and every single tree cut down. We do not want protected wildlife killed or habitats destroyed. We do not want an access road over our park. It’s as simple and basic as that. And we have been telling them this over and over again. However, in 2011 and without discussing it with us, Cllr Wakeley and his Cabinet cabal ruthlessly overturned a previous decision not to grant access over the ransom strip at the end of Willoughby Road (which neither council actually owns). Both councils subsequently signed up to a covert transfer agreement incorporating development of the allotment site as part of the deal – without discussing it with us. HTC spent over £22,000 of council taxpayers’ money opposing my Town Green application – which was supported by the local community. The Town Clerk then put in a “flawed” planning application, omitting the ecological issues germane to the site. HTC then spent more money persuading the county council to reject the application, when a reasonable course of action would be to have awaited the outcome of a similar case. Since 2004 I reckon HTC has spent over £90,000 to achieve... precisely nothing. It is a scandalous waste of public money. And it doesn’t end: HTC has further allocated £13,800 from funds and £20,000 from the 2013/14 budget and given themselves the equivalent of a blank cheque (every penny of all this comes from your council tax, remember) specifically to continue trying to develop this totally unsuitable site. No consultation, and more importantly from a business perspective, no re-tendering. Oh, and they still have no planning permission. They have also just refused my FOI request to try to find out what exactly is going on behind the scenes. Engage with the council? Go figure. It’s like trying to play football in the dark against a team that cheats, constantly changes the rules and moves the goalposts. Maybe in the light of his comments, Cllr Pawle might like to consider a transfer to the subs bench? Only joking.

CAROL HEDGES Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden

Batford school row

SIR – Living in one of the villages, we’ve struggled with admissions and each year the process seems to be more stressful as the schools we are allocated are increasingly far away, and for the last two years have been out of Hertfordshire altogether. I have been campaigning for nearly five years to get a safe cycle path connecting Kimpton, Blackmore End and Harpenden, and ideally Wheathampstead too. This would enable secondary school children an increasing amount of independence, encourage healthy lifestyles and reduce traffic and pollution so I am hopeful that the council will carefully consider the transport for the new school and promote cycling as much as possible.

AMANDA GUMMER High Street, Kimpton SIR – Harpenden Parents Group have gone out of their way to engage parents from all over Harpenden and the surrounding villages. They have done this by attending local events and the farmers’ market to get the whole community involved. From what I know they did not know what site was going to be chosen in advance from the general public.

We as a community need to get behind the school and make sure it is a fabulous school for the local children. Free schools may not be to everyone’s taste (including my own) but this is the way we can get the school the community needs and they can be successful.

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LOUISA THOMPSON Caesars Road, Wheathampstead

SIR – It is agreed by most people, even those opposed to this proposed development, that Harpenden and the surrounding villages need a new school. Due to the fact that the area surrounding Harpenden is rural, it is inevitable that the new school will be built on “green” land. Whilst this is not ideal, the alternative is that no new school is built meaning that the development is necessary. Cllr Judy Shardlow says that “Harpenden and the villages undoubtedly need a new school, which will almost certainly have to be located in the Green Belt, this location is completely unsuitable”, but doesn’t seem to have an alternative location to suggest.

STUART LANG Coopers Close, Kimpton

SIR – It is time for the people of Harpenden to get behind these plans and ensure that the new school is an asset for the town – something we can all be proud of. Let’s work together to improve road safety, add amenities and grasp this opportunity for our children.

JENNY HOWARTH Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden

SIR – I am against the proposed building on Green Belt land in Batford – so that views, trees, plants, animals, insects, etc., won’t be lost. I am also worried about all the extra construction traffic and then the extra day-to-day traffic once the construction is complete.

JOY YOUNGER Lower Luton Road, Batford

SIR – I am astounded at the alacrity with which the Harpenden Green Belt Association (HGBA) has moved to support the proposed academy in Common Lane, Harpenden. The site is in a location which, in the district council’s own assessment, contributes most to the purpose of Green Belt. The HGBA is compromising its belief in the prevention of urban sprawl Contrary to the HGBA’s letter to its members supporting the plans for building on the Green Belt between Batford (Harpenden) and Wheathampstead, the result would indeed be coalescence. Suddenly, coalescence is not a problem for the HGBA! The HGBA’s backing for the plan has scant regard for the Green Belt and smacks entirely of Nimbyism. I imagine Harpenden residents in the affected area and members of the Wheathampstead and District Preservation Society are astounded at this volte-face and acquiescence by a fellow protection society in the face of power and mischievous tactics by our Conservative county councillors to shift the proposal from their very own central Harpenden backyards. The HGBA is a proponent of the Batford site because the alternatives would be worse. Apparently, one of the problems elsewhere would be adverse effects on traffic. Has the HGBA committee travelled along the Lower Luton Road? The traffic is constant day and night. It is already busy by 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Cars and lorries use the road as a connection between the A1 and M1, vehicles are at a standstill in rush hour every day, and then there is the stream of transport serving Luton Airport. Not exactly a safe walking route for schoolchildren. Undoubtedly, the extra traffic travelling to a school for 1,500-2,000 pupils will contribute to a more polluted environment, hardly suitable for the planned floodlit terraced sports and playing fields for our future brains of Britain attending this academy.

LUCINDA READ Valley Rise, Wheathampstead

Pavement cycling must be stopped

SIR – Your Monique Hall reported on the talk by David Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, at the Harpenden Society in the Harpenden Park Hall on September 26. Ms Hall reported that David Lloyd said that the fear of crime is ‘inversely proportional” to actual crimes in the area. Mr Lloyd said there is little crime in Hertfordshire and even less since he became crime commissioner! In question time, I reminded him that I first wrote to him on February 22 saying that cycling on pavements is a criminal offence and requested that he order his Herts Police to enforce this law. I detailed the sad case of J Anson, aged 84, who had severe and permanent injuries after being hit by a cyclist on the pavement, as reported in the Herts Advertiser on January 10. Gary Green, 41, was killed by Peter Messen cycling on the pavement. Mr Messen was sent to prison in Cornwall. Because he did not reply, I wrote to him again on March 5 and he replied on March 25, apologising for the delay. His useless reply was: “It is not for me to tell the police how to enforce the law as I cannot get involved with operational policing.” In Oxford, I met Pc Oscar who said that he and his Thames Valley colleagues give Fixed Penalty tickets to criminals cycling on pavements. I saw many cyclists on the road in Oxford but none on the pavements. My police constable son in Gloucestershire has told me that he and his colleagues also issue Fixed Penalty tickets for this offence. In his very brief and useless reply, David Lloyd confirmed that “it is not for me to tell the police how to enforce the law”. So, David Lloyd confirmed that his job is useless! Appallingly, David Lloyd failed to express any regret that J Anson received such serious injuries, to agree that cycling on the pavement is a criminal offence and failed to note that the Highway Code in Paragraph 64 states “you must not cycle on the pavement”. Herts Police obviously keep the crime figures artificially low by not stopping and arresting the numerous criminals who cycle on pavements. The police should confiscate their bicycles. I told David Lloyd that we pay him £75,000 a year and asked him what we need to do to get rid of him, because he is useless at preventing criminal cyclists from injuring pedestrians on the pavements.

DR TONY HALL Manland Avenue, Harpenden

Welcome back Kerry

SIR – I was delighted to hear Kerry Pollard is to be the Labour candidate again in St Albans. I had always understood him to be a true constituency MP and this was so definitely proven when he gave me the support I needed soon after my husband died in an issue related to a national emergency call centre which badly let us down. I cannot thank him enough.

TESSA ALEXANDER Jenkins Avenue, Bricket Wood

Not just the 712

SIR – It is untrue for users of the 712 to suggest there is no alternative bus service from St Albans to London. There is a much more frequent service, but it does involve a change. From St Albans users should take the 321 to the Black Boy at Bricket Wood, then change to the Green Line 757 fast to Victoria. The 321 is quarter hourly most of the day and the 757 half hourly, so this provides a much more frequent service than the 712.

ROBERT BOLT Forge End, St Albans

Thanks for support

SIR – Animal Aid would like to thank the people of St Albans who contributed generously to our annual street collection in the market area and St Peter’s Street on Saturday, September 28, helping to raise £336.54. The money raised will help fund our peaceful campaigns and important educational work on all aspects of animal cruelty. For more information on how to prevent animal cruelty, please call Animal Aid on 01732 364546 or visit www.animalaid.org.uk.

PETER SIMPSON Animal Aid Volunteer Co-ordinator

School buses issue

SIR – I was appalled at the arrogance and discourtesy shown in a recent article in your paper quoting the headmaster of St Albans School, a school held in high esteem in the county and where my own son received a wonderful education in the ’70s. Mr Grant seems to have little regard for the most historic part of our city and shows no concern for the damage already caused on the pavements of George Street by the huge coaches, not to mention the considerable inconvenience to the residents of Romeland and Abbey Mill Lane. The car parks at Westminster Lodge are the obvious answer to the problem. Surely the prefects, who are young men of 17 and 18, could be deployed to supervise pupils walking to and from the coaches to the school.

J A HALL Waverley Road, St Albans

SIR – I respond crossly to a letter on October 17 when a lady from Harpenden said she had “no sympathy with the residents near Romeland as they all knew there would be congestion at the start and end of the day with the school”. How wrong she is. There are many residents who have lived here for many, many years when the school was considerably smaller and there was absolutely no problem with the transportation of pupils. Over the years, the school has slowly expanded, purchasing additional buildings and increasing the number of pupils to the scale it is today hence creating huge traffic congestion which is totally unsuitable for this historic part of the city. Her statement that it’s worse living near a station with cars parked all day is totally irrelevant. Firstly, if there was to be a true comparison it would have to be a steam train station probably running a daily train which now runs Intercity express trains rattling through with hundreds of passengers. It would then be a more like-for-like comparison. Secondly, we have not made the decision to live near a station. We made the decision to live in a historic city, in a Conservation Area, full of character, surrounded by interesting old buildings and very grateful we are too for making that decision. Until now, when it would seem that a group of people, some living elsewhere, think they have the right to cause all this disruption to the place we live in and love. How incredibly selfish. We are determined not to be dictated to about something so dear to our hearts.

JUDE DYSON Abbey Precincts Residents’ Association Protect our heritage

SIR ­– The architectural heritage of St Albans is rich and varied, but it is not so rich that we can afford to lose precious examples, even modest ones, through carelessness or neglect. Some of them are very modest. On the corner of College Street and Dagnall Street there is a drain beside the pavement. In some former time, a workman carefully worked the square cobbles that formed the gutter into an elegant curve around the drain. It was very simple, but a lovely example of how road-builders took pride in their work and contributed to the beauty of the town. I say “was”. A few weeks ago that road-builder’s successors slapped a layer of gritty black tarmac along College Street, completely obliterating the cobbles. Were they given no instructions by the council to take care of the existing features in the road, right in the middle of the Conservation Area? Did no one in the crew wonder at the beauty that they were covering up? I write this to honour the original workmanship, and to alert readers to the need to defend even the simplest features of or town; but it would be good to hear whether the council has any powers to order to road building company to restore this lost splendour.

PAUL HANDLEY Verulam Road, St Albans

Recycling confusion

SIR – Whoever came up with the new cardboard recycling “solution” needs to follow the collection teams around. I made a serious attempt to make sure that the inevitable overflow from the newspaper/cardboard box complied with the guidance. The result? The entire contents and overflow were left uncollected. I’ve now got a different solution – the black bin. I’ll return to recycling cardboard when SADC comes up with a viable system

STEPHEN SCOTT Upper Heath Road, St Albans

SIR – Your recent letters correspondent asked about the cost of the recent recycling changes in the district. I’m not in charge of the recycling, so they are not my figures, but I understand that St Albans Council received a grant of £234,000 from Herts County Council to pay for the new caddies and other changes. Overall, you can expect recycling schemes like this to pay for themselves, because of the reduced landfill tax and gate fees, and the income generated from selling the recycled material. There is a simple one-page guide to the changes available to download at www.bit.ly/Recycle13.

CLLR SIMON GROVER Green Party, St Albans