Letters October 23 2014
The fight to protect our wildlife habitats
SIR - Lord May wrote in the WWF’s & ZSL’s Living Planet report that we are on the “tip of a sixth great wave of extinction.” The report concludes that across the world wildlife abundance has crashed by more than 50 per cent since 1970; the cause of this is people. How should we respond to this in Hertfordshire? Hertfordshire’s Ecological Networks report states “we cannot…rely …on protecting increasingly small… and isolated sites… A landscape-scale approach is needed.” How should we respond in Harpenden? As a town councillor I have tried to encourage my colleagues to establish wildflower corridors – mini-meadows - where bees and other insects could thrive. I have, however, mostly failed. For example, at the Harpenden end of Wheathampstead Road is a large verge, where earlier this year I discovered Ladies Smock growing in some profusion; it was mown down on the very day ecologists were due to carry out a wildflower survey. At the Environment Committee on September 3 2014 I proposed that sections of two areas of the Common should be considered, opposite St John’s Church, and near the main entrance to Rothamsted. The BBC’s Roger Harrabin reported that morning that meadows have probably declined by 99 per cent – worse than originally believed – an argument which did not match the concern that the area opposite St.John’s is used by Brownies. This proposal will be discussed again on November 12, but I am not hopeful. I surmise that some councillors consider community events and recreation, and keeping the world tidy, should be prioritised. Residents should also be consulted, but if people express objections such that “there are plenty of wildflowers in the open countryside”, how should such misinformed views be accommodated? The sad fact is, as Blake opined: “Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all.” Witnessing unsympathetic mowing and vehicles parked on the Wheathampstead Road verge it is hard not to be dispirited. But giving up is the very opposite of what is required. Within Harpenden and beyond we need to create ‘rivers of flowers.’ I have proposed two potential sites, but there will be others. I invite readers to send me suggestions of areas they think might be suitable for mini-meadows. We need to make space for nature – for nature’s sake, but, also, of course, for those Brownies, and their successors, who will inherent a much impoverished world unless we do. For a good summary of these issues read www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/conservation/11130750/Life-on-earth-is-dying-thanks-to-one-species.html, and for inspiration visit www.plantlife.org.uk and www.riverofflowers.org
SIMON LEADBEATER Amenbury Lane, Harpenden SIR - This week in the national papers I have read about market towns being forced to treble in size as well as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) saying that we have lost half our wildlife in the last 40 years. A pitiful state of affairs. Harpenden, St Albans and many other beautiful areas of Hertfordshire will change beyond recognition unless local residents, MP’s and town councils fight against it. Bats used to be a regular feature in my garden at dusk until the old detached house behind me was demolished and replaced by two semis. A lovely mature garden went too, along with the destruction of a wildlife habitat. Most of it is now concrete and grass (so much easier to look after than hedges and plants). The same scenario is happening all over Harpenden at the moment, no doubt to be followed by a desperate search for more pockets within Harpenden and then on into the outskirts. The implications for an even greater push to expand housing in this area are huge... on wildlife, traffic, schools, health and hospitals to name but a few. Harpenden was once a village, it is now a town, how long before it becomes a city I wonder?
ALISON FELTON Rothamsted Avenue, Harpenden
Our polluted city
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SIR - Your lead story on vehicle pollution in St Albans struck a chord with me. I have just spent a few days in St Albans with my mother, and on Wednesday October 1 I accompanied her on a business trip to Central London by public transport. Upon returning to St Albans around 3.30pm, the hiatus in St Peter’s Street had to be experienced to be believed. I wonder if you, and perhaps more importantly the City Fathers, realise just what an appalling picture is painted for visitors by the traffic gridlock I witnessed. I attended school in the city in the 1960s, and have visited regularly since then, so I am able to make an comparison with Norwich, our equivalent to St Albans here in Norfolk. I appreciate that the Wednesday market is a feature of St Albans. However, pedestrians and bus users are very much second class citizens at such times, and are at best inconvenienced, and at worst endangered by the takeover of the west side of St Peter’s Street by the market traders’ vehicles in late afternoon. I suggest that St Peter’s Street be pedestrianised, certainly between 7am and 7pm Monday to Saturday (with limited periods of loading/unloading). On market days the traders should not be allowed to stop on St Peter’s Street in the afternoon until, say, 6.30pm. Private motorists (and I am one) are essentially selfish creatures unless taken in hand, and drastic action is needed. No doubt residents and regular visitors have not notices the gradual deterioration, but I can assure you that what I saw on Wednesday does not reflect well on St Albans. As a footnote, I notice one of your correspondents (my brother Paul!) is commenting on parking down the ages in Harpenden. I would choose Harpenden over St Albans for parking in, and driving through, any day. And I fancy the air pollution is a lot lower too.
LAURIE BISHOP Catfield, Norfolk
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SIR - Just a detail concerning the adverse health effects of heavy traffic (Herts Advertiser October 2): crucial as it is to reduce the CO2 for its impact on the climate, it is the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and the particulates (microscopic smoke particles) which cause the health problems. All three forms of pollution are the inevitable result of burning a fuel to generate energy, whether it be by a vehicle or, less obviously but in large amounts, by a plane. One solution is obvious but unfortunately is unpalatable to many.
JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden
A change of culture is required
SIR - What an excellent article from Jon Dean under the title Putting our city in the Premiership (October 2. He is absolutely spot on when he bemoans the fact that comparative historical cities, like Canterbury and Winchester, have smaller populations than St Albans but attract double the number of visitors. This needs to change, as the council’s Visitor Economy Strategy recognises. It seems, however, we have not developed the culture that proclaims St Albans a visitor destination. Perhaps the mindset which just expected transitory travellers on the 18th and 19th century coaches persists? The New Visitor Partnership, promoted in Jon Dean’s article, will need to change that culture as much as developing the city’s new branding. For example, the commentary correctly identifies that “our heritage is a compelling factor” in attracting visitors to St Albans and that it why it is so disappointing that SADC decided to withdraw support from this September’s Heritage Open Days. This decision was not only a step backwards but was entirely inconsistent with trying to encourage more visitors to St Albans. We can only hope that common sense will prevail and support for Heritage Open Days will be re-instated for next year!
TIM BOATSWAIN Chairman of St Albans Civic Society Sopwell Lane, St Albans
Scratching the surface on repairs
SIR – I’m writing to answer some of the questions raised in Geoffrey Bean’s letter ‘Different surfaces make no sense’ published in Your Views on October 2. Hertfordshire County Council’s highways teams undertake a huge programme of maintenance work each year, and our engineers visit each site to design the right repair programme for different sections of roads. Sandpit Lane was already earmarked for works this year, but after the road suffered significant damage during the exceptionally wet winter, we redesigned and added to the work accordingly. Along Sandpit Lane, we have resurfaced the most damaged sections and carried out surface dressing to extend the life of the surface where the damage wasn’t as bad. Surface dressing takes a while to fully bed-in and loose chippings on the surface are a normal part of the process. During the bedding-in process there are signs up to warn the public to take extra care and the contractor will typically return to sweep the road several times to control the amount of loose material on the surface before replacing the road markings after the final sweep. I do appreciate that surface treatments like this can look untidy and be a bit noisy when first applied but along a busy road like Sandpit Lane the bedding-in process doesn’t take too long. This combination of selective resurfacing and dressing allowed us to treat the whole road in question for much less than it would have cost to resurface it. Residents can always report any hazardous defects on the road using our online fault reporting system www.hertsdirect.org/highwayfaults For more information about our maintenance work visit www.hertsdirect.org/roadworks
TERRY DOURIS Cabinet Member for Highways Hertfordshire County Council
SIR - I’m suffering an identity crisis. I was born in St. Albans. Yes, St dot Albans, not St Albans. Who’s stolen the dot? It’s on plaques commemorating mayors in the 1700s and events in the 50s, see also St. Albans Tandoori, St. Albans Music Centre and, most recently, St. Albans Hotel. So where has it gone from council notices, the local museum, the website? In a dot.com society, who’s got rid of the dot, and why?
Clifton Street, St. Albans
(Editor’s comment: Actually we’re guilty of this too, but that’s for typographical reasons dating back to the days of hot metal. Avoiding surplus “dots” meant one less character for typesetters to worry about. Mind you, if we’re really being pedantic about the name of our city, shouldn’t it be St. Alban’s?)
Join in the debate over museum site
SIR - I refer to your article ‘Have your say on MoSTA site’ in the edition of October 2. Look! St Albans ‘Our Community Voice on Design’ is delighted to have been asked by St Albans District Council, acting as trustees and owners of the Museum of St Albans in Hatfield Road, to host a design charrette for the site. This event will be the culmination of Look!’s first year as a fully constituted community-led body. Fittingly Look! will hold its second AGM at the final event of the charrette. For details of the AGM please visit our website www.lookstalbans.org The aim of the three events is to produce a design for the museum site of which the community at large will be proud. No special skills are needed, everyone is welcome as every view counts. The draft design codes already produced by the community will play a key role; to see these please use this link http://www.weebly.com/uploads/2/7/7/4/27749191/look_st_albans_final_design_workshop_report_jan_2013.pdf There will be three independent external facilitators with a range of skills helping the community. The events are Friday October 24 7-9pm at the Museum of St Albans Hatfield Road, Saturday October 25 10am- 5pm at the Council Chamber Civic Centre, returning to the Museum of St Albans on Monday 27 at 7pm followed by our AGM. There will be at least two presentations, one by Kate Morris, on the history of the site and Cllr Annie Brewster about the New Museum Project. The outcome from the first two events will be presented back to the community on October 27 to gauge the level of support. All events are free to attend. As Look! St Albans is host we will have to fund certain aspects ourselves. We totally rely on donations, sponsorship and voluntary help. If you feel you can make a donation please contact me. There are so many aspects of planning that we feel we have very little power to influence, but I suggest design is one we can. The NPPF states: “Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people.” The accompanying guidance states: “Design codes seek to capture the specific requirements of a place and encourage interested parties to think together about each development in its entirety as a unique place.” I hope, anticipating a successful outcome, this will lay a marker down to other landowner’s and developers what we can achieve by working together.
VANESSA GREGORY Chairman Look! St Albans Tennyson Road, St Albans
Missing the point of Page 3 campaign
SIR - I was extremely disappointed that you chose to print a letter criticising my clothes in the photo accompanying the story about my campaign to get Page 3 out of St Albans cafés. It just goes to show that when women dare to put their heads above the parapet they get shot down for the way they look rather than anything to do with the issue they care about. Plus cá change. I would have expected better of the Advertiser.
LOUISE RESTALL St Albans
(Editor’s Comment: We believe in offering all of our readers the opportunity to have their say within the grounds of taste and the law. Just as you were given the chance to speak publicly about your campaign, so too was Mr Piggott accorded the same privilege to air his views.)