Letters, September 11, 2014

Failings in repairs by contractors

SIR – Well done for highlighting the poor state of repairs by council contractors to properties in Keswick Close. My attention was drawn to these problems whilst campaigning for the council elections. I have been back to Keswick Close and seen the poor state of painting. The painter had started to paint directly onto flaking, unprepared surfaces. When the residents tried to object, they found that he didn’t understand English and so a foreman was called and had to show him how to rub down woodwork with a piece of sandpaper. There is also a gate that has been hung out of alignment to the fence post, and a fence that has been propped up, using lengths of timber set at approximately 45 degree angles, coming out into a right-of-way causing a trip hazard. How the council can claim that they passed this ‘work’ is beyond belief. Is this what residents are paying for? I have to ask, do the council ‘vet’ contractors or just go for the cheapest price? Is a specification provided to show standards and works required? Do the council inspect works on completion before paying the contractors? These questions also apply to other matters such as road and pavement repairs. I have spoken to people who have been injured due to falls on poor pavement. Standards have really gone down. Before the council even start to think about expanding our district, can we have our basic infrastructure back on track?

ALAN MALIN Vice Chair UKIP St Albans Meadowcroft, St Albans

Rail freight could cost MP her seat

SIR – Despite the costs, congratulations to the district council for taking Eric Pickles to court for “irregularities” in agreeing the construction of the rail freight depot on 300 acres of Green Belt. Our MP Anne Main,with a majority of only just over 2,300, looks set to lose her seat at the election when a good proportion of the 10,000 plus who voted against the proposal will surely desert the Conservatives. This before UKIP came on the scene. Anne has been a good MP for St Albans but looks unlikely to progress to high office with the Conservatives by putting her constituents before the party line, UKIP would probably snap her up. As to the costs to the district council there are people out here who would probably donate to a fighting fund if it could be arranged,for although there is a degree of apathy by residents further away from the site who think it will not affect them it will surely lower property prices generally as St Albans becomes industrialised,with up to 3,000 lorry movements a day, many likely to try to find alternative routes as the site area becomes congested.

RAY FAIRBAIRN Warren Road, St Albans

New M25 junction needed for depot

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SIR – Christopher Langdon and John Breen (Letters, August 21) are right in that the North Orbital is a nightmare during peak times – that is why the Highways Authorities will have to provide a direct access to the M25 for the rail freight site. The new access will be midway between existing junctions and will be just for this site. The population of the UK went up by 400,000 last year and the population of London went up by 50,000 last year – that’s 1,000 every week. All of these people want to eat and have clothes to keep warm. Our population went up by more than that of any other European country. The southern Euro countries have the sun – but no jobs – that’s why economic migrants come here. A lot of goods going to London go by road – the new terminal will enable those goods to be switched to rail with road just for the final link reducing pollution and slowing the rate of global warming. The shipping industry are spending billions to reduce obnoxious emissions – new fuels and scrubbers to clean up what’s left in the exhausts, and road and rail have to do their bit. Instead of fighting the freight terminal proposal, your politicians should be demanding a new M25 junction – a fight that they must win.

DAVID STONEBANKS Chequers Bridge Road, Stevenage

Just no room for any more homes?

SIR – I write in support of J Evans, whose excellent letter on the unsustainable nature of the Strategic Local Plan you published on August 14. I agree with nearly all the comments made so I won’t waste space by repeating them. But there are a couple of points I would like to add. The first concerns the purpose of the Green Belt. I agree with Mr/Ms Evans that one benefit of the Green Belt is to prevent a town from expanding to the point where it grinds to a halt. But its original purpose, as I understand it, was to avert ribbon development along main roads, and you don’t have to drive very far up the A1081 to see that this is still a relevant objective. At present we appear to be looking at access roads for Luton Airport but is there really going to be no building between them? And will the Luton/Luton Airport conurbation come no further south? These are surely questions that affect the sustainability of Harpenden, but I doubt if Harpenden will get much say on them. The second point concerns water, which in this area comes mainly from the chalk aquifer (water-bearing rock). This is recharged each winter as rainfall exceeds evaporation and water percolates through the soil and down into the chalk. Obviously, water cannot percolate through tarmac or concrete, so the imposition of a large number of houses on the area (or the expansion of the airport) can be expected not only to increase the demand for water but slightly to lessen the supply. This is probably not a very big problem but it needs to be taken with the fact that this region is one of the drier parts of the country. The Strategic Plan clearly needs to consider sustainability with respect to water, but does it? Rainwater that is prevented from percolating into the soil can, if not well managed, become a flood hazard. Recent research at the Department of Civil Engineering of Southampton University examined floods in the UK during the last 129 years and concluded somewhat controversially that increased flooding in Britain was due to urban expansion rather than to climate change. Perhaps it is time that we said, ever so politely, to the authors of the Strategic Plan, “Sorry chaps, we’re simply full up.”

TOM ADDISCOTT Gilpin Green, Harpenden

Waste in the name of coalition?

SIR – I refer to the excellent letter by John Metcalf. He’s right. From the perspective of the county council, the most efficient bus service of all is the one with no buses at all, leaving the roads free for yet more cars to congregate and congest. Never mind that buses take cars off the roads. That’s not the Tory way of doing things. Actually, from their point of view, the best thing that we could all do is to drop dead. Then we wouldn’t cost them money, what with having children to educate, needing social care when we grow old, and suing them when we cycle or drive into one of their infamous potholes. And finally, we wouldn’t be able to make rude remarks to them either when we are issued with one of their stupidly dishonest consultations. Sadly, from their point of view, I’m still alive. Please may I use your columns to tell them that I don’t want the evening and Sundy bus service to be curtailed or done away with altogether – 6.30pm is too early to leave us stranded. What are we supposed to do if we work overtime? What are shopkeepers, publicans, cafés and restaurants supposed to to do if were are unable to visit them after work, because the county council has decided to become efficient? The Tories are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Less trade in the shops means lower tax revenue. Already the Tories have boosted the national debt by several hundreds of billions of pounds or about a quarter since they won the last election. Will they never learn, or do they just enjoy upping the borrowing bill? Is that the true meaning of efficiency? Waste in the name of coalition?

TONY WAITE Holywell Hill, St Albans

Bus cuts controversy

SIR – John Metcalf (Letters August 21) is spot on in asking whether Conservative-run Hertfordshire County Council has such a low opinion of its citizens that we can be conned into thinking that cuts in bus services mean more “efficiency”. If its proposals to cut funding for a number of bus services in the evenings and at weekends go ahead, they will have a drastic effect on many people’s lives, especially people who don’t have a car, or who can’t walk very well. What about people who need the bus in the evening to get back from a medical appointment, or those who work late and rely on the buses to get home? It seems that the council considers that only people with a car, or who can afford taxis, should go out in the evenings or weekends. And many people who have a car often need to use a bus instead because of parking problems for example. The proposed cuts will also add to the potential risks faced by many people, particularly women, who may be rightly concerned about their safety walking at night. It is also extraordinary that the council is making proposals that are likely to add significantly to air pollution if more people use cars instead of buses. It is quite unclear why these funding cuts are being proposed, especially as the council’s revenue budget for 2013/14 shows an underspend of £15 million. And, if money needs to be saved, what alternative savings were considered? There are innumerable reasons why these proposals are totally unacceptable in the 21st Century. Bus services are a basic part of the fabric of our lives.

MIKE GEORGE Chair, St Albans Green Party Beechwood Avenue, St Albans

SIR – The Herts County Council proposals to cut bus services make very depressing reading. In brief it means that anyone who relies on buses will not be able to get from St Albans to Stevenage or Hemel Hempstead or the places in between after 6.30pm on weekdays or at all on Sundays. Rather bad luck if you wish to visit someone in hospital for example. However all is not lost, you could still visit friends in Hatfield town centre as the 724 to St Albans runs once an hour during the week or once every two hours on Sunday! As long as you leave by 8.32pm during the week or 6.16pm on Sunday! The idea of supporting public transport is to make it as convenient as possible so that people will use it as a viable alternative to car use. The new proposals will set this aim back as well as disadvantaging people who do not have alternative transport; a retrograde step for HCC green credentials. It would be interesting to see how many county councillors actually use buses? Bus services should be promoted by the council to increase use so that subsidies can be reduced rather than cutting services. The council’s recent spending figures are also interesting; £5.5 million wasted on a flawed incinerator plan which would have been enough to cover the money spent on buses for seven or eight years. Which would you have preferred? Please make your opposition to this idea plain by: Signing the “Stop the bus cuts petition” on the Herts Direct website; filling in the survey on the Herts Direct website. A copy of the survey is also available by calling 03001 234050. There is space for comments. Contact your county and local councillors

PAT & TREVOR ADAMS Hillcrest, Hatfield

SIR – So it looks like our lovely Tory county council want to save money by cancelling funding for evening and Sunday bus routes. What are they planning to waste that money on? Non-essential projects I expect. Cutting services could, unless operators try to run the routes as commercial, lead to job losses as less drivers will be needed. Is that what the Tories want? To push up unemployment figures again, especially as they say that unemployment is coming down (a blatant lie of course)? It is true that some journeys on St Albans city routes run virtually empty at times,but the trunk routes (301,321,602) do a good trade with students and evening shift workers seven nights a week, so how will these customers travel to their destinations? By taxi at a high cost to them, especially the low paid.

MR JAMES Radlett Road, Frogmore

Well done for WWI display at Thorns

SIR – Through your newspaper I would like to congratulate Thorns in Harpenden High Street on their fantastic World War I window display. There seems to be something different each time I look and I’ve learnt so much about the war from all the artefacts and information given. It must have taken a long time and a lot of hard work to put it together and I only wish we had this type of shop in Hemel Hempstead. Well done Harpenden.

SILVIA SHILLINGFORD High Street, Hemel Hempstead

Hospital at risk

SIR – I have read with much disquiet that there is no guarantee that services will continue at St Albans City Hospital. It is totally wrong that a town this size which is so central to three motorways has no accident and emergency department and more services available. I presume that the reason for St Albans City Hospital being earmarked for potential closing is the alure of the site; however the people of St Albans deserve a functioning hospital and its services. I do hope that your newspaper will be at the forefront of protest at any further curtailment of services and possible closure.

MRS B KIRBY Robert Avenue, St Albans

Parking hike fury

SIR – For quite a few years I have been using Vince, a good barber located in Keyfield Terrace, St Albans Not only does he offer very good service, but is reasonably priced compared to some other establishments. However, recently the car park opposite his premises has increased its charges out of all proportion. When in the past one could pay 70p for half an hour and surely that is long enough to get a haircut the charges have now gone up to £2.80 for two hours and that is the only option. Of course his business is suffering, but why should it? What a way to encourage any small operation. To add insult to injury the car parking machine blandly states overpayments accepted, but no change given.

GERALD STONE New House Park, St Albans