Letters October 30 2014

Extinguish fireworks tradition?

SIR - I refer to your excellent editorial “Hotel blasted over fireworks noise” in last week’s paper highlighting the din caused by various exploding fireworks at Sopwell House and suffered by residents. I have to say in all honesty that October and November are the most miserable of months: lower sunshine levels, heavy rain, constant grey skies, gutters full of council tree leaves, SAD sufferers getting ever more depressive (I suffer from SAD before people moan), the pressure of impending Christmas shopping, increased incidences of road rage by both car drivers and those annoying little commuter cyclists I refered to two weeks ago - and a whole host of other autumnal nasties including kids knocking at one’s door during EastEnders or in the middle of your dinner, to one’s pets being frightened witless due to an over exuberant use of cheap supermarket pyrotechnics. I fully empathise with Carol Wray and the residents of these estates even though I live on the other side of town; one can still hear (and feel) the cacophony of an outdated ritual born many thousands of years ago in China and adopted by the British to celebrate a gang who wanted to do nothing more illustrious than murder the then-reigning monarch James I. Quite frankly, I think that all fireworks should be banned both in commercial and residential settings and only used in official public displays on ONE day only per year. That way, we wouldn’t get those annoying little garden get togethers of errant youth (or those little family parties) with children huddled together whilst caveman daddy lights up the latest six second wonder in search of gunpowder nirvana. You know, the typically English occasions where burnt burgers and salmonella sit side by side on a rusty, underused Weber whilst granny drinks gin from a flask reminiscing about the days when she earnt a few bob shouting “Penny for the Guy” outside Woolies. The types of noisy social functions that, with fireworks in a totally inappropriate setting, simply ruin one’s evening viewing pleasure and send Tiddles scurrying under the Wesley Barrell. Just ask any hard working nurse or paramedic about the sights they witness around this time of year (I have) and you will hear tales of people, mostly children and youngsters maimed and scarred for life - and in the name of what? A quick thrill and a few sparks with a wimpish crackle and a bang!? It hardly seems worth it. I think there is always a place for tradition in society but one which celebrates, with explosives made available to novice users, an attempted royal assasination which happened over 400 year’s ago seems as trite as it is irrelevant in the 21st century. It is quite simply a yesterday celebration of another era that is nothing but commercial and dangerous folly. One which annoys people, frightens the elderly, scares the living daylights out of pets and wildlife and should be consigned to the funeral pyre of yesteryear with good old Guy, where it bloody well belongs. I thank you!

BARRY CASHIN Green Lane, St Albans

Tackling root causes of expansion

SIR - Barry Stringer, (We don’t want London expansion, Herts Advertiser October 9 ) asks “Why should the south-east be turned into a vast urban sprawl?” The UN has recently raised its prediction that world population will peak at nine billion in 2050 and then decline, to saying that it is likely to reach nine to 12 billion by the end of the century. In view of this huge increase, it won’t only be the south-east becoming an urban sprawl. Certainly, we must try to ensure that development is spread more evenly across the country, but there are other things we can do also. Since I joined the charity Population Matters, met other like-minded people and received much relevant information, I have come across all sorts of small ways of promoting the attitude, both at home and abroad, that small families are sustainable ones. (The UK still has a higher proportion of large families and a higher birth rate than other European countries) Parliament is currently reviewing the role of sexual and reproductive health services. Family planning services are some of the most cost-effective of all the things the government funds. We need to ensure that “reviewing” does not mean “finding ways to cut”. Although the UK is one of the few countries, which includes family planning in what it supplies as foreign aid, we still hear many complaints from the British public that foreign aid is a waste of money. Our government should be given credit where credit is due and encouraged to do more. Anyone who is concerned about urban sprawl would be welcome to join with us to think about how to prevent the underlying cause of the problem and take action, however small, to try to help. Many small actions add up to something bigger.

HELEN HARAN Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

In defence of MP after vitriolic attack

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SIR - I was astounded to read Jon Humphrey’s letter blaming local MP Anne Main for Eric Pickles’s decision to approve the rail freight interchange on the former Radlett aerodrome site. He seems to be completely oblivious to the sterling efforts Ms Main has made over the past couple of years to look after her constituents’ interests and get Government Ministers to treat St Albans fairly on this issue. She has refused to toe the party line, challenging the Government on the secret talks that have taken place with Helioslough and urging Ministers to take into account Central Bedfordshire Council’s wish to have a rail freight interchange at Sundon, north of Luton. Helioslough’s case for the Radlett site was based largely on the claim that there were no other suitable sites available in the north west sector of outer London. Eric Pickles’s refusal to take the Sundon proposal into account is a perverse decision that should be overturned in the courts (and may well be if St Albans District Council’s latest legal challenge is successful). The idea put forward by Mr Humphrey that political decisions are taken on the basis of the popularity or otherwise of a local MP is both laughable and preposterous. Politics is all about gaining and holding onto power, and pursuing vested interests or promoting a particular ideology. The Government, by its decision to impose a rail freight interchange on St Albans, has once again demonstrated that it is in hock to big business and views economic development and so-called prosperity as overriding all other considerations.

RICK SANDERSON Garden Court, Wheathampstead

SIR – I am amazed by the blinkered vitriol aimed at our St Albans MP by your correspondent Jon Humphrey in the Herts Advertiser October 9 edition. Rarely have so many fiery arrows been so off target! Firstly, to assume that Mrs Main’s ‘popularity’ with government ministers governed Pickles’ decision on the SRFI is frankly naïve, and even if there were any truth in such a claim the fault would lie entirely on Pickles’ side. Rather, one ‘fundamental difference’ between the rejection of the incinerator at Hatfield and the approval of the SRFI at St.Albans-Radlett is highly likely to be the aggressive lobbying and legal bullying engaged in by Helioslough, for which they have a track record. It has been impossible for even our elected MP to obtain a clear picture of just how much big-money lobbying has been going on behind closed doors. The allegation of Mrs Main “fiddling her expenses in extravagant style” is decidedly wild. After the IPSA investigation of all MPs’ expenses, no repayment was required from our MP; and when the previously-allowed use of expenses to pay mortgage interest was withdrawn in 2010, Mrs Main stopped using that privilege eighteen months prior to its withdrawal date. Hardly “fiddling extravagantly”! The only extravagance that seemed to have any foundation was an over-expensive meal in a restaurant! Haven’t most of us done that at least once? As for Mrs Main’s unpopularity with the Tory rulers, this is entirely due to her not being a ‘yes-person’ to every ill-thought-out piece of government legislation. Thank goodness, we have an MP who is thoughtful and will stand up to party bullies who try to force their way past critical appraisal by using the whip system. From conversations on the matter, I believe that she would not stand much chance of hanging on to her seat next May if she had been merely a tame sheep of the Conservative government. Rather, many of us would gravitate to other political parties, probably to UKIP in particular who seem to have the most common sense and down-to-earth grip on reality at the moment. However, like (I suspect) most voters, due to Mrs Main’s genuine hard work and independent stand for our area, whilst she remains our candidate she has my vote. But woe betide the conservative’s chance in this area if anyone foolishly deselects her!

IAN LaRIVIERE Park Street, St Albans

Shocked by train passing church hall

SIR – Reading about the rail controversy columns recently brought a smile to my face as I remembered an incident some months ago when I had been invited to a social evening at the SS Alban and Stephen Church in Beaconsfield Road and I sat myself with friends by a window to one side of the church hall. Chatting away to one another, I suddenly became aware of a distant rumble which then increased to an almighty roar as a train flashed by on the other side of the window within, it seemed, inches from me. I almost shot from my seat in alarm, so sudden was this totally unexpected happening but then we all at the table fell about laughing once I had recovered from my shock at this out-of-the-blue event. I hadn’t realised that the church was in such close proximity to the railway station and although I had been thus assaulted by one their trains, the rest of the fraternity within the hall I had noticed, never turned a hair, so used to this frequent calamity were they; it was something that they just accepted and no-one seemed at all traumatised by this happening in their church building. For myself, I have no views one way or the other on this issue as I prefer to travel long distance by coach but would it brother me if I happened to have a railway line at the bottom of my garden as some people have? No, I don’t think so.

ELIZABETH DUMPLETON Wilstone Drive, St Albans

Thanks for help after fall in park

SIR – The other Sunday, walking appropriately through Verulamium Park to attend OVO’s excellent play Boudicca at the Roman Theatre, I was overtaken by low blood sugar and ended up on the ground with a possible fracture. Kindly passers-by gathered around, phoned for an ambulance and got me transported to Watford General where a break to the pelvis was diagnosed. Thank you kindly passers-by – where would I have been without you? Apologies to Fansofstan people who were hoping for some classy jazz from us at the Maltings Arts Theatre this October. Sadly gigs must be on hold till bones knit and normal walking is resumed. Be assured that come the spring, we shall be skipping around jazzwise as usual.

MARION HAMMANT Langley House, Garston

Mixed views over pupils’ manners

SIR - In response to J Newman’s letter (Herts Advertiser October 9) ‘Lack of manners in our schools’. Yet again let’s blame the schools. If it’s not falling standards, or poor diet, or anti-social behaviour, it’s manners too? J Newman, I would love to see you spend just one day in a school faced with an oversized boisterous class. Of course schools are not to blame if teenagers misbehave on a bus home any more than a football club is to blame if fans riot on the way home. Manners and social behaviour are the responsibility of parents. The 11/12 year old who offered his seat would have been at Bushey Academy for less than two months. Do you really think that is where he has learned manners and students in St Albans schools lost their manners in the short time since they started secondary school? No. There has been a decline in social behaviour over the past decades and the responsibility lies solely with parents and I am afraid J Newman, your generation were responsible for parenting those that are parents today. What were you all up to in the ‘60s?

J HAZELL Beech Road, St Albans

SIR – I am 85 and I read Mrs Newman’s letter (Herts Advertiser, October 9) with interest as I had the same experience two weeks ago. The bus I got on was full of schoolchildren from four different schools and not one offered me their seat. The following week it was girls from Loreto College (I presume, as they all got off at the City Station) and one sat with her feet up on the opposite seat. I was lucky that day as a young man offered his seat. Whatever the schools teach these days, it certainly isn’t good manners.

MRS R. J. WEBB Ashley Road, St Albans

SIR - I have just read J Newman’s letter in the October 9 issue of your paper. I do not know which bus this person uses, presumably that which services Sandridge, but my wife and I have used those between Fleetville and the city centre regularly and others further afield occasionally ever since the bus passes were first issued and we have yet to stand on a crowded bus when there were children occupying seats. The only times we see some children remaining in their seats is when they have been with their parents. Even then others ensured we do not stand. Please do not malign our local youth in this way.

B HOY Beechwood Avenue, St Albans