Letters, September 19, 2013

Village made unfriendly to cars

SIR – Barry Cashin asks ‘Isn’t it about time to help motorists?’ Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles has said that local authorities should ensure that town centres become more car-friendly environments, with more parking spaces and fewer speed humps. So perhaps St Albans should restore the much missed one hour free parking in the much missed St Peter’s Street service road? But look away from the cty to the village of Chiswell Green, take account of what Eric Pickles said and see how Chiswell Green has become less car-friendly. Here the “little council”– the parish council – has had a campaign a year or so back, to encourage people to shop locally, but the “big councils” – HCC and SADC have worked against this plan and have made Chiswell Green shopping areas less car-friendly. The little council was probably pleased when a vacant shop was opened up as a bakery and café, attracting more people to bring their cars to the village centre and park for some bread or a cuppa. The big councils didn’t like this, so they extended the yellow lines well beyond the bakery, they installed raised kerbs to prevent people parking on the pavement in order to improve traffic flow, and – in case the raised kerbs didn’t work – they also erected lots of posts on the edge of the verge. Just to make it all less car-friendly. On the other side of the crossroads are four shops with limited parking. Some motorists parked with one wheel on the verge opposite the fireplace shop, where the road narrows. The big councils didn’t like this so they installed a raised kerb which had the effect of reducing parking space and making it less car-friendly. So some motorists drove a bit away from the shops and parked on the grass near the bus stop. The big councils didn’t like this so they put some more posts up on the verge nearest to the shops. Just to make it all less car-friendly. Down the road the local Post Office is the only one for some miles and is a popular stop. Across the road from the Post Office is a lay-by, used by shoppers. I have never seen anything parked on the verge there, but the big council decided to make it harder to park there and erected posts and rails along the kerb edge of the lay-by. As a result if a car parked in the lay-by close to the kerb it is very hard to open the nearside door, so drivers had to park away from the kerb, possibly jutting out into the main roadway as a safety hazard, if anyone wanted to get out on the kerb side. Just to make it all less car-friendly. Eric Pickles wants local authorities to ensure that town centres become more car-friendly environments, This will mean a complete reversal of philosophy for St Albans district council, but if they want to keep on the right side of Eric Pickles whilst he still holds the decision on the rail freight terminal perhaps they should start by undoing all the “less car -riendly’ schemes” I have mentioned above. ROBERT BOLT Forge End, St Albans No excuse for absenteeism

SIR – Who else was amazed that the St Albans MP and a good few others failed to return from holidays to take part in the Syria debate? It must have been a crucial debate otherwise Parliament would not have been recalled, or so we were all lead to believe. The effects of that vote, which could have gone either way, are already having an impact worldwide with other democracies examining their normal positions, including both the US and France. Do we owe this to the stay-away brigade? Yet Anne Main examined the motion from afar and didn’t think it was important enough to cut short her holiday! Abstaining in absentia. That the RAF had already sent fighters to Cyprus and several navies were massing at the eastern end of the Med was a mere detail. “Where were you mummy when MPs narrowly averted bombing Syria?!” “Oh I was checking out the situation on the beach next to you darling. Remember when I said we don’t have to leave here early and I bought you that extra large ice cream to celebrate?” If you add up the numbers there were at best just over 560 MPs taking part if you include, tellers, speakers and the ministers allowed to wander off plus a couple claiming to be out of ear shot of the bell – does that go on the list of “the dog ate my homework” excuse? What the whole thing has made obviously clear is that at 650 MPs there really are too many. Don’t know about a reduction to 600, maybe 550 which takes care of those who wanted to keep their towel by the pool. LESLIE FREITAG Cravells Road, Harpenden

Conservation area at risk from planning

SIR – The area around Lower Dagnall Street is historically important in the story of St Albans, being the 18th Century site of Nathaniel Cotton’s pioneering psychiatric hospital (see Yesterday Once More, Herts Advertiser, May 30 2013), whose buildings were subsequently used for the local industries of hat and boot manufacture. The streets today contain small cottages and houses, many over 150 years old, together with the remains of social, religious and educational buildings used by this mixed Victorian community. The balance of housing in this area is being distorted by over-development from the conversion of social and commercial buildings into warren-like residential flats. The frontage of the Old Meeting House at No 11A Lower Dagnall Street has been preserved, but the building has been divided into 10 one- and two-bedroom flats. Now the Nationwide Office building on the site of Cotton’s hospital is to be converted to 14 more. Planning applications had been consistently rejected by the council until Eric Pickles’ recent relaxation of regulations. These conversions represent a 60 per cent increase in households in the street and a major increase in traffic. Moreover there is insufficient off-street parking for this number of occupants. Where will they park? Council officers have admitted to there being at least 30 more cars with overnight parking rights than there are bays to accommodate them in Zone B, and this gets worse with every new development. In addition to the congestion caused, these flats will appeal to buy-to-let landlords rather than to buyers who will cherish living in this area. We would welcome the sensitive and moderate conversion of unused buildings to provide decent homes, but in a Conservation Area it is essential that this should be done in keeping with the existing environment and community needs, rather than to satisfy the financial aims of developers and number-obsessed housing targets. What does “conservation” stand for here?

ANGELA & ROBERT PANKHURST College Street, St Albans

Too late to save 712

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SIR – I use the 712 bus twice weekly to help support the service and escape the tedium of St Albans for the stimulation of our capital city. It’s a great shame if St Albans residents really aren’t aware of the 712 bus, but after the vocal campaign to save the previous Arriva service, I can’t believe that’s truly the case. I calculate the journeys I take to London usually attract some 20 odd passengers, but the returns are barely half that number. Uno deserves credit for giving it their best shot, but they can’t be expected to run the service if few are interested. The buses are clean, usually punctual and the drivers always pleasant. It was great while it lasted and St Albans has lost, what I thought, was a great asset, but I was clearly in a minority and will now make good my escape to London by reverting to the car and other bus routes. TONY FERRIS West View Road, St Albans

More ideas for food waste caddies

SIR – With reference to Frank Leman’s comments on Waste Not, Want Not Is The Answer (Herts Advertiser, Letters, August 28), he is absolutely right. I was a war baby and grew up with very practical family members, for example one set of grandparents had a very large farm in Scotland so I was very lucky at time to be in at the deep end as I see it now. With Frank Leman in mind, I’d like to add my idea to the letters column. Thanks to our local council who have given me yet another idea as to what to do with the food waste caddy we’ve all received at our home addresses. My idea has been put into practical use without any problem. I took the lid off the caddy, drilled six small holes in the base. I then put an ordinary (fixed) coathanger hook to the handle, filled it with clothes pegs and it slides up and down the washing line with ease, self draining and clean instead of picking up mucky pegs. Come on lads, make your wife happy and save money and time at your local hardware store. I’m sure there’s other ideas out there folks, let’s have them. RW THOMSON Roundfield Avenue, Harpenden

Why delay work on Green Ring?

SIR – Despite their shortcomings, the new bike routes in Verulamium Park are well used by families at weekends and during the school holidays, showing that the park is an excellent location for bike routes in St Albans. Hopefully the children learning to ride bikes and enjoying themselves in the park will carry on cycling as they grow up – keeping them healthy and helping to reduce traffic in the city, and their parents will start to use their bikes more for local journeys. Apart from the missing bridge which is mired in funding and approval problems, the real improvements to the cycle routes – links to the Alban Way and widening the route to the Museum – will only be delivered when the Green Ring is completed, sometime in mid-2015. Widening the Museum route shouldn’t take too much effort, but the crossing of Holywell Hill and the short link to the Alban Way along Griffith Way may take some time to plan and execute. If the council wants to show their commitment to cycling and finish the job off, how about pulling these two jobs forward and delivering them as soon as possible instead of waiting until 2015, a summer of cycling away? MIKE HARTLEY Pondfield Crescent, St Albans

Generous shoppers

SIR – Please pass on a big thanks to the shoppers on St Albans Market who generously supported the St Albans Soroptimists local women’s group on September 7. The Soroptimists have a second hand bookstall every year to mark International Literacy Day. This year we raised more than £300 for the St Albans & Hertsmere Women’s Refuge. Thanks also to the Herts Ad for publicising the event, and to the council for making the charity stall available and affordable to us once a year. JANE SLATTER Soroptimist International St Albans & District www.sigbi.org/st-albans

Warning over dropped kerbs

SIR – On Friday, September 6, at approximately 7.10pm I went to get fish and chips from the Quadrant at Marshalswick, St Albans. I parked my car in Sherwood Avenue on a single yellow line making sure as I thought that I was not over anybody’s driveway, in fact my car was parked parallel with a brick wall. When I returned to my car after about five minutes, there was a traffic warden standing by my car. I said to him that as far as I was concerned it was alright to park in that particular spot after 6.30pm in the evening. It was explained to me that as I had parked slightly over a dropped kerb, which in this particular case was facing a brick wall, parking was not allowed at that particular place even though there is a single yellow line there Therefore, be warned that if you park over a dropped kerb even though it is parallel with a brick wall and after 6.30pm on a single yellow line, you may well be liable to a parking ticket, although on this occasion, thankfully, I did not get one! Mrs J Seabrook St Albans

Keep it real Barry

SIR – Having only just got interested in “close” reading the Herts Ad, maybe a couple of years ago, at first I thought that Barry Cashin’s contributions to your paper were somewhat interesting, dealt with local issues and humorous. However, after the last few contributions on the pound shops in St Albans and the state of the roads I am beginning to find him a bit too much like a “grumpy old git” with not a lot to occupy himself. True, the roads are in a state, especially the stretch between the King Harry and The Three Hammers, if he wants to try that road out, and well done to him for going on about the roads, but is he really being fair and true to use the terms “thousands of pounds dead-heading geraniums”, “hundreds of thousands loving up our roundabouts”. I actually think that John O’Connor and his blokes do a terrific job with the roundabouts on entry roads into the city and know that visitors find them very attractive – so maybe Mr Editor you could have a word with your local reporter and, whilst not putting a stop to his letters, perhaps just ask him not to exaggerate some figures quite so much. PAUL CADIOU Jenning Road, St Albans

Probation fight is battle for justice

SIR – Saving probation is not about left or right politics it is about justice. Last week I listened to the latest developments in the Government’s mission to destroy the current probation service. The Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, had served notice on the 35 Probation Trusts that make up the service in England and Wales to wind up by March 31 2014. It will be replaced by a so called National Probation Service (NPS) and a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). NPS will handle high risk of harm clients and risk management. The CRC will deliver 70 per cent of the work. Current staff will be “score boarded” to decide who will join which side of the 30/70 split. It remains unclear how the two organisations will locate, will there be a presence in each town? Will clients be expected to merely “sign on”? If this is the case those 340 civil servants who are working on the plan have really no idea about what probation does. If the success of the current probation service was due to a client simply attending and signing on as if on bail we never did need a probation service just ask people to sign on at a police station! Here in this great city we are proud of our cathedral whether believers or not. Would we stand by if people made plans to demolish it? Unfortunately, the probation service is not built as a cathedral though perhaps it needs to be seen in such terms because I believe this government has embarked on a programme to demolish an institution that has existed for 140 years. As I sat listening last week it sounded like an invasion. An invasion by this government into an institution that attempts to deliver justice yet at the same time assist people change, an invasion like Henry VIII to smash everything that does not fit with its ideology justifying it in the name of efficiency and then handing the spoils to profiteers. Would we treat a renowned piece of art in such a way? I think not, that is why I encourage you to find out about the work of probation, ask those who have been on it and then join us in saving it from those who seek to eradicate it and replace it with a cheap and poor counterfeit. If your readers are so moved could I ask that they email Anne Main MP for St Albans on maina@parliament.uk and sign the epetition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions44403 Gordon Jackson Branch officer, Napo Chiltern Counties (Herts & Beds) Eskdale, London Colney

Thanks for help

SIR – On the evening of August 30, I collapsed in the toilet of the Hatfield Road social club where I had been a guest at a function. My wife Geraldine and I would like to thank the people who came to our aid, in particular a young man who sat with us until the ambulance service arrived.

We would like to thank the ambulance crew who attended promptly and offered a level of care that was second to none. It is reassuring as an older member of our community that there are people willing to come to a stranger’s aid and be so caring. Also that we have the ambulance service only a phone call away. Once again many thanks.


Wellington Road, St Albans