Letters, September 12, 2013

Vandals threaten to siege Romeland

SIR – Me thinkest St Albans School doth protest too much? Romeland safe? Not if the current proposals are, heaven forbid, ever implemented.

It depends how you define “vandalism”, I suppose, but turning Romeland into a traffic island to accommodate coaches and double decker buses with all it involves seems to me scary enough to come within the meaning of the word. And it isn’t just Romeland but all the narrow ancient historic streets that radiate out from this sacred place in the shadow of the Abbey.

The expansion of St Albans School over the years has increased the difficulties for the school of how to accommodate larger numbers. They recently completed major building works which has improved the standard and scope of internal facilities on offer to students and staff.

Now is the time for the school to take responsibility for the affect of how to ensure their arrival and departure without damage to the historical area in which the school is privileged to be sited.

The number and size of the coaches has increased over the years, resulting in the understandable concerns raised by those living nearby.

However, moving these large vehicles from one route/direction is no solution, so why waste time and effort in that even on a trial basis?

Most Read

There are two drop-off points for coaches providing a safe walking route through the park to the school.

With the co-operation and goodwill of the staff and students the school can provide the solution to this problem, which will enhance their contribution to the area and the environment.

SADC should ensure they are not overawed by the venerable status of St Albans School. Only a complete ban on double deckers and large coaches, on a regular basis, being tolerated in our historic ancient city, is acceptable.

Imagine the shock horror caused by a double decker accidentally reversing into the Abbey Gateway, the drivers of these vehicles are only human, or mechanical failure? It only takes one...


Orchard Street, St Albans

Further woes over hospital transport

SIR – I read with great sympathy your headline story about Mr Fraser’s long wait for transportation from the Lister hospital.

I was unfortunate enough to trip on a pavement in Welwyn Garden City on the Friday of the bank holiday weekend, seriously breaking and dislocating bones in my left arm. I take this opportunity to thank those kind citizens who stopped to give assistance and first aid, especially Mark the dentist.

The paramedic and ambulance team arrived within 10 minutes or so, and were very efficient and caring. I arrived at QEII by about 4.30pm, and had been stabilised, X-rayed and had a temporary cast put on by about 7pm.

I was then taken to a holding ward pending transfer to the Lister for an operation first thing the next morning. There were three other people also awaiting transportation. It was clear that there would be a delay, but I had to keep asking the matron what the situation was.

She periodically called the transport department to get an update and was clearly unhappy, declaring that she did not want to be there all night “babysitting” us, and “this is not a ****** Travelodge”. The one to two hour delay initially mooted eventually turned into nearly eight hours. The ambulance crew came at 2.40am, so I had a wait of seven hours 40 minutes, exhausted, in pain and discomfort.

And I was given priority over the 90+ year old who was waiting to be taken back to his care home, so goodness knows what time he eventually got to bed. One of the other two (a very elderly lady) was eventually taken by private taxi paid for by the hospital.

The very kind and efficient ambulance crew told me the delay had been caused by staff shortages as it was a bank holiday weekend. Credit where credit is due, they ensured I was quickly registered at the Lister, and was settled by 3.20am.

So Mr Fraser’s experience was not an isolated incident. How many other people have been affected but either do not have the energy or wherewithal to complain? Is it really so hard to arrange a work rota for transportation?


Alzey Gardens, Harpenden

Frazzled by 4x4s

SIR – The last few weeks were blessed with a level of sunshine not seen during the summer months for quite a few years. With the school holidays in full flow, our parks were overflowing with bodies and the roads have been full too.

Alas, the fullness of our roadways has been made much worse by the fact that many of the cars taking up the whole width of our roads have been SUV-style 4x4s! Now I know some may say I have an aversion to particular sectors of the motoring population – and I do – silver Nissan Micras and school coaches in particular, but there is one thing that irks me more than anything – the sheer number of people who own these gargantuan monoliths of motoring mayhem.

In the USA where fuel is $4 a gallon, where they have 10-lane highways and even minor provincial roads are wider than even our widest motorway, these cars work, financially if not ecologically very well.

But over here, on this tiny, overpopulated isle that is not so much sceptred any longer but a poorly led lapdog with as much world clout as a hammer made from tissue, 4x4s are THE most impractical, offensive, wide, gas-guzzling monsters that annoy ordinary road users with unfailing regularity.

Take for example the humble supermarket car park. Perhaps it’s a failure of the supermarkets themselves in trying to maximise every last inch of space but the parking slots allotted seem only big enough for Kia Picantos or small hatchbacks. Cue Mr or Mrs Flashharry in their swanky Audi Q7 though and their vehicle, being so wide, overlaps the space allotted leaving just enough room for a contortionist to get out.

Maybe all 4x4 drivers are descendents of Harry Houdini though?

What I do know is that with fuel bordering on £1.45 a litre, the people who drive these machines, machines that are so unsuited to traversing Britain’s roads, it may just be a case of “look at me – see how much debt I’m in!”

For most brand new cars these days, especially those around the £50K mark are purchased on finance deals. And who in their right minds would want to spend, let alone afford to pay £470 on a year’s road fund licence as well as a monthly fuel bill of around £600 just to make others jealous!?

Personally, even with the funds to purchase one of these behemoths, I would choose a small car any day because it makes me smile every time my car is filled up for £50 when, next door, the driver with the nozzle stuck permanently in their voraciously thirsty X5 looking to the sky whilst sucking in air trying to look calm when inwardly, they are having a nervous breakdown is only adding to the bulging level of debt they are so obviously in. 4x4s? You can keep ’em mate! I thank you.


Green Lane, St Albans

No-show for MP over Syria vote

SIR – It comes as no surprise that rather than attending the most important Parliamentary vote in a decade, Mrs Main spent the evening lapping up the sun on the shores of the Costa Del Cop-Out.

Readers will take their own view on her claim to have “shifted the Prime Minister’s position” from the confines of her sunbed, but to disguise the no-show as an “abstention” is a blatant insult to the good people of St Albans.

Lets hope for better attendance and less sun, sea and sand from our part-time MP.


Park Street, St Albans

SIR – It is a very odd way to represent what I am quite sure is the majority view of her constituents, but the article on Anne Main not bothering to come back from holiday when Parliament was recalled because she didn’t like the tone of David Cameron’s motion intrigued me.

Yes, it was an idiotic and meaningless motion, which was neither one thing nor another, but if other MPs follow her lead, then none of them need to bother turning up at all.

A pointless and badly drafted Bill has been presented on lobbying, which only serves to make campaigning by major charities difficult. MPs have called this a “dog’s breakfast” in Parliament, but I assume that as this is such a stupid proposal put before the House by Andrew Lansley MP, Mrs Main will decide to go off on a mini-break.

Most of the ideas on education put forward by Michael Gove look as though they have been put together by a committee of lunatics. She could probably take a whole year off and not bother going in at all.

When you disagree with the Government, and when you are an MP, and when Parliament is sitting, you should be there. Otherwise, why bother electing MPs to go to Westminster? No wonder the electorate is disillusioned, and voting in elections is becoming a minority activity.


Coopers Meadow, Redbourn

Praise for Day Surgery Unit

SIR – On August 29, I was admitted to the Day Surgery Unit at SACH. This was my fourth or fifth admission to the the unit over the last five years and I was touched that staff-members (including the anaesthesiologist) remembered me.

As with every other visit to the unit, I was impressed with each person I had contact with: nurses, doctors, surgeon, anaesthesiologist, cleaning, and admin staff were all incredibly kind, considerate, caring and professional.

I never fail to be impressed that the organisation and professionalism of the ward does not interfere with the comfortable and friendly atmosphere. With so many people always ready to criticise our NHS, we in West Herts are incredibly fortunate to have the Day Surgery Unit. It is a shining example of the NHS at its absolute best: congratulations and many thanks to all.


Park Street, St Albans

Welcome to Pothole Hell, Herts

SIR – I refer to Mr Cashin’s letter on this topic.

Of course, St Albans has always been a disaster area for shopping if you live outwith the town and choose to use a car. In fact, I very rarely choose to shop in St Albans because of this reason. At the risk of stirring the pot, historic St Albans has not (cannot ?) move with the times.

On potholes, an old Friend, now resident in Auckland, NZ, commented on the poor state of the roads as we drove up Farm Avenue in Harpenden. I find that even when potholes are reported, that only a fraction are filled within a fortnight. In fact there are some in Wood End Road, Harpenden, that have been there for over three months. Yes, they filled one of the four, which are all within 3m or so, but the others are still there. I suspect the vibration from various potholes has probably cracked the integral foglight mounting bracket on my car.

On roundabouts, my pet hate is vegetation higher that say 2ft, which can impede the view of oncoming traffic from the right, especially on mini roundabouts. Perhaps councils need to do a Health and Safety review of the issue?

Finally, perhaps we can we have a competition for the message spelt out in flowers on our Herts roundabouts ? How about `Welcome to Pothole Hell’ !


Tuffnells Way, Harpenden

SIR – Herts Highways bodge up repairs again...

Yet again another road, White Horse Lane in London Colney, has had a thin surface overlaid without first of all filling in the pot holes.

It would have been better to just fill in the holes if nothing more is to be done.

Surely Hertfordshire County Council are aware what is happening and must accept responsibility for the utter waste of services and money?

It’s time Herts County Council accept that the method of using contractors and consultants is not working and that they need to get out of their offices and see for themselves what is going on as it is they who control the budgets and allocate funds

I can only presume that more roads have received this back-to-front method of repair and maintenance and call upon Herts County Council to explain their actions or in this case lack of action.

There are many roads in the county that need the correct type of repair and if these money-wasting methods were not used could receive the attention they need Wake up Herts County Council and get your act together.


Five Acres, London Colney

SIR – I recently reported a pothole in Station Road Harpenden at the junction with Bowers Way (Fault Report No 201005620641).

Herts CC’s partners Ringway refuse to repair it as they consider “the fault does not meet intervention levels for repair”.

If anyone has an accident or damage caused by Ringway’s failure to repair this pothole, I believe they would have a good case to sue Herts CC and/or Ringway for damages.


Aldwickbury Crescent, Harpenden

New free school missed off list

SIR – It is unfortunate that the details of secondary schools published by Herts County Council in your paper last week omitted our new school, Harperbury Free School, which will open next year for our first Year 7 students.

Families living in the south of the district, especially in London Colney, Park Street and Bricket Wood, will be able to apply for places – along with those living in Radlett, Shenley and Borehamwood. Admissions are based on the distance from home to the school (which, subject to ongoing negotiations, will be in Harper Lane, near Radlett).

Applications in this first year must be made directly to us via our website www.harperbury.org.uk rather than through Hertfordshire County Council.

We will be holding three open meetings at which presentations will be made by our head, Martin Blain, and governors and parents can discuss any aspects of our school.

These will be at Fairway Hall, Borehamwood, on September 28 (10am-1pm), The Chapel, Shenley, on September 30 (6-9pm) and London Colney Community Hall on October 2 (6 -9pm). Further details are on our website.


Chairman of Governors

Harperbury Free School

Woodfield Road, Radlett

No party politics in the parish please

SIR – Having lived in Bricket Wood for 39 years I am saddened to see through recent letters to the Herts Advertiser that the poison of party politics has now entered St Stephen’s Parish Council.

About two years ago when it was first announced that, for reasons best known to themselves, the Lib Dems were going to enter into elections for St Stephen’s parish councillors I expressed my concern this would lead to us seeing the sort of nonsense we regularly see in our district and county councils. Sadly this now seems to be coming true.

During all the years I have lived in Bricket Wood I, and I am sure many others, have been impressed by the service and facilities provided by our independent parish councillors. To give just one example I recommend that people visit the excellent Greenwood Park facility.

Party political candidates in any election always have an advantage over independent ones due to the publicity they can receive throughout the year in party leaflets which are generally funded centrally.

I would like to see political parties keep out of St Stephen’s future elections so that we can have a truly independent council which would always work for the benefit of its constituents and never become a platform for political posturing.

So that there is no confusion let me say that I am not a member of any political party.


Reynards Way, Bricket Wood

Party politics are good for democracy

SIR – I have only just read the ‘attack’ by Cllr John Bell on my Focus Article in the Herts Ad of August 29 and feel that it needs a response.

In his comments about political involvement in the parish council, he fundamentally misunderstands the nature of political parties. I’m sure that nobody standing under any political banner for a parish council has ever been mandated to vote in any particular way, certainly no Liberal Democrat standing for St Stephens Parish ever has! So why does anybody put a party name against their own, particularly if it can be seen as an electoral disadvantage?

Fundamentally it is a matter of indicating to the electorate as to the sort of person you are, and what you might believe in. I also see it as a matter of honesty. There have been councillors, past and present, on the parish council who choose to stay silent about their political affiliation. That is their choice but they are no more or less “political” or indeed independent than I am.

By standing for election, we create choice and encourage scrutiny of what councillors do on our behalf, surely that can only be good for democracy. There probably has been more debate in these pages and beyond about St Stephens Parish caused by the 90 or so words I put in a Focus article, than the parish has managed to generate on its own in the last five years. I see that as a good thing, wherever you stand on any of the issues raised.

Oh! And why did I not come back on this last week John? I was just being an “ordinary bloke” doing the best for my community – leading Bricket Wood Explorer Scouts on an expedition to the Pyrenees.


Chair, St Stephen Liberal Democrats

Spurious advice stopped homes bid

SIR – I read your lead article in the Herts Ad, August 22, concerning planning matters. How relevant it is, in my opinion, particularly in view of one planning item considered by the Referrals Committee when an application for 20 houses off Barley Mow Lane was turned down following spurious advice from the officers both in the report and during the meeting.

In relation to the claim of previously developed land, the officer’s report claimed unauthorised and unlawful use without adequate substantiation which would seem to elevate the importance of the statement and leading Members to be heavily influenced in considering the case.

It was very surprising to see the self congratulatory remarks relating to the judgement of Local Planning Authority actions at the end of its recommendation causing a loss of objectivity.

Members were materially misinformed creating confusion in a situation where the application was considered in accordance with an outdated local plan almost 20 years old.

Cllr Chris Brazier protested that in the present circumstances Colney Heath was progressively declining as a result of the limitations relating to Green Belt applying throughout the parish. Lengthy dragging of feet in connection with a Green Belt review and revised local plan clearly suggests that the council’s planning policy is unfit for purpose.

In relation to the application to which I refer, the decision would appear to leave the applicant no alternative other than to appeal and by-pass the local planning authority. It is possible that this could become a worrying developing trend in St Albans.


Mile House Lane, St Albans

Pubs are winners in Harpenden

SIR – In the recent past, there has been much moaning and whingeing from some of the traders in Harpenden concerning the lack of business. We’ve heard about everything from the state of the economy to the fickleness of customers to shoppers being allowed to park for too long, etc., etc.

Well, I believe I have discovered another very important reason for business not being quite as good as it could be: some of the traders are actively turning business away.

Now don’t get me wrong – I believe the majority of our local shopkeepers provide a friendly and much-needed service and I will always support local shops where possible. A small minority are, however, turning away such support.

Over the past few weeks, I have attempted to take my wife, who I love very much, out for a coffee and a chat in the evenings.

On the first occasion, I decided that Costa would be a good venue for a cup of coffee, seeing as it is in fact a coffee shop, and had a look on their website for their opening hours. Indications were that the local branch closes at 8.30pm. However, upon arrival at around 7.40pm, we were greeted by a locked door and a printed sign advising would-be patrons that the shop closed at 7.30pm. Business turned away.

On another occasion, we decided to try Okka which, on its signage, describes itself among other things as a café. Joy of joys, when we arrived at 7pm they were open and looking forward to a nice brew, we walked in and asked if we could order two coffees. Imagine our dismay when we were advised by the manager (and I kid you not) that “we don’t do coffee after 5pm”. This notwithstanding the fact that there was only a single table in the entire café occupied at the time. Business turned away. (In this case more like business go away, we don’t want your money).

We then decided to wander down to Café Nero and, you guessed it, closed. They close at 7pm. Business turned away.

In fact, in a walk around town we could find not a single coffee shop open after 7.30pm on a weekday evening. (If we managed to miss one, please forgive me, let me know who you are and I’ll be a regular and loyal customer).

Couple a number of similar incidents with the refusal of the likes of Thorns Tobacconist to accept payment by debit card, and it becomes apparent that some of our traders are doing themselves no favours. I would hazard to suggest that they should be taking a long hard look at their business practices prior to any further whingeing.

So, who has been getting our business? The simple answer is those establishments that remain open in the evenings, namely the pubs. The trouble is though that, although they are friendly, accommodating, open and will actually serve a cup of coffee at pretty much any time you might fancy one, they are still pubs. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, in fact quite the contrary. However there are times when I want the ambiance of a café or a coffee shop.

Apparently in the evening in Harpenden, this is not to be.


Luton Road, Harpenden

More praise for vets

SIR – I would like to endorse the letter about Heath Lodge veterinary practice (I have no connection with the surgery).

Some years ago we took a rabbit to another vet and I was upset at the way he was handled and the apparent indifference of the vet treating him.

A few years later we had another rabbit who seemed to be suffering from a neurological/balance problem and I took him to Heath Lodge – the kindness of the vet was absolutely lovely; she did everything she could to save our pet and was really thoughtful and considerate throughout. I cannot recommend them highly enough.


Carnegie Road, St Albans