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SIR – In this, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, it would seem that the spirit of Malvolio is alive and about his dismal business putting boundaries on those of us who would enjoy a glass or two in good fellowship. I am not of that Puritan persuasion. I stand with Sir Toby Belch in declaring: “Durst thou think because thou art virtuous there will be no more cakes and ale?”
So many of the city’s hostelries have gone over the years. My wife and I were the last customers to exist the Bat and Ball some years since. Many more have followed. Some more recently have been levelled by developers and speculators. Others have changed their use. It could be argued that this process has always happened and no doubt will continue. Nothig is constant but change.
However, the case of The Brickyard, formerly The Spotted Bull, is of a different order entirely.
I live within the catchment area of APRA (the Abbey Precincts Residents Association) and a recent article in that journal caught my eye. The content so at variance to my experience that I felt compelled to respond., In the past I would on occasion ssep over the threshold of The Spotted Bull on a hot day when overburdened with shopping, it being the only pub on route home but I never did so out of preference. The sad slow decline of that place was pitiful. The standard of cleanliness at the last was too much to endure. On that occasion I was not sad to see its demise.
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Later I observed the restoration underway and made the assumption that change to residential use was in progress.
I was gratified to find that was not to be the case and when it reopened, the transformation was not so much a restoration as a renaissance. No care or expense had been spared. It was clean, bright and welcoming. When comparing it to its former self, one might have thought a civic award would have been appropriate. Instead it would appear some strident voices thought otherwise.
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I have spoken on several occasions with the landlord there and found him to be the epitome of the genial host. I have seen the efforts he has made to appease his detractors and to turn what was previously a dismal, insanitary hovel into a modern tavern but none of this has endeared him to that Greek chorus who, it appears, will accept nothing other than closure.
I have taken a glass or two on a number of occasions at different times and different seasons within its walls without experiencing any impropriety. I accept that some in their cups might behave inappropriately and that such may have happened at a time when I wasn’t there but the age restrictions are designed to exclude the worst excesses and the stated policy is to exclude such elements.
I find the concerted attacks against this business hard to justify. It seems to me to be an orchestraterd campaign to destroy a man’s business whatever the proprietor does to placate and reassure those who would have him gone. The current premises is not a change of use but an upgrade of something no longer fit for purpose. A failing public house will be a silent one and would generally meet the critics’ criteria. A popular public house will certainly generate some volume but if one chooses to live in proximity to a pub there will inevitably be some noise.The urban environment is full of noise and other disadvantages such as air pollution and light pollution yet still we remain in spite of the ‘sound and fury’. On occasion air traffic circling to land or departing from Luton Airport and low-flying helicopters monitoring traffic has disturbed my tranquillity but I am not thinking of starting a campaign to close the airport or installing a Bofors gun in the back garden!
Compared with areas nearer to the metropolis we are blessed; and I think a little bit of dialogue and forbearance in this instance would not be amiss. Let at least one of the two surving pubs on the Verulam Road continue to serve its original purpose which is to refresh the weary traveller.
New England Street, St Albans
I recently had the misfortune of using a taxi to get home from Luton Airport at the eye-watering cost of £17 for five miles. So, when my son returned from a trip a week ago, in an attempt to avoid being ripped off again, I volunteered to collect him.
Once I had negotiated the traffic and obstacle course that is the current approach to the pick-up zone, I waited for between 15 and 20 minutes. Last time I did this, I was charged £2.
This time I was charged £5. Yes, five pounds for less than 20 minutes! If this is not taking greedy advantage of customers with no alternative, than I don’t know what is.
In my attempt to avoid being ripped off, I was ripped off. How ironic!
Luton Road, Harpenden
Ms McElhinney’s condescending diatribe was well dealt with by the other letters you printed, but there is one statement I would like to pick up on that “we have a duty to the unrepresented youth...”
Of course it is the fault of those who did vote that their average age, by all accounts, was older than those who did not. However our youth are far better served than those of the rest of the EU (and we haven’t left yet) because they have jobs. The unemployment rates for young people in the EU are appalling. But this is hardly surprising because the the whole edifice of the EU is a giant conspiracy by Brussels fat cats to continue to enjoy their huge and largely untaxed benefits at the expense of the southern members whose economies they have wrecked and it is the youth in those countries who are paying the price and will continue to do so.
The letter ends with a delphic reference to ‘groups like ours..’. It may be your editing but that phraseology sounds like a threat. The margin for the vote was not overwhelming but it was democratically decisive.
Cunningham Hill Road, St Albans
The news today (August 2) and two words (Lies and Chilcott) in Louise McElhinney’s letter have prompted me to comment.
Both sides told untruths, the Office for National Statistics has confirmed a Brexit untruth that the £350 million weekly contribution to the EU was incorrect, it is in fact over £375 million. Less refunds that have to be spent as the EU dictates.
Chilcott criticised that after victory there was no plan. What is the remainers plan for the first general election after Brexit is cancelled? I am sure UKIP will get at least 16 million votes, on a manifesto to activate Article 50. What party will the remainers vote for?
Willow Way, Chiswell Green
SIR – The clamour by Remain voters at the referendum for the resignation of Anne Main because she did not represent the views of what turned out to be the majority if voters in St Albans is grossly unfair for the simple and obvious reason that she could not know which side would get a majority. I was genuinely surprised that there was a majority to remain in St Albans because I encountered only one person who intended to vote that way. So I shall be obliged if someone would explain how Mrs Main could know which views to represent.
I would also make the point that a large majority of MPs favoured Remain. If the principle that those who did not represent the views of the majority of their constituents should resign was enforced then we would be facing 200 to 300 by-elections including almost every Labour MP north of Birmingham. What nonsense!! It was a free vote from the Prime Minister down and had absolutely nothing to do with the representation of views.
It is time the Remain supporters accepted a decision that had a majority of over one and a quarter million people, stopped whining, became positive and, more important, stopped trying to talk Britain down in order to be able to say ‘I told you so’.
R F COLLINS
I was confused by the article ‘Have your say on the future of city centre site’ (July 7). Is the site now owned by Angle Properties? Are our views wanted only on the appearance of the redevelopment of the site or is the consultation also about what is included? This is important as the closure of the Town Hall means that we have lost a major public asset.
If all goes to plan the Town Hall will reopen to provide a magnificent art gallery for the University of Hertfordshire and our museum staff will make creative use of the space they are allocated in the building, but so far there has been no mention of providing facilities for the activities displaced from the Town Hall.
Over the years, the Town Hall was used for a wide range of activities, including public meetings and talks, craft fairs, book sales and concerts. Will there be room in the new development for accessible and affordable facilities for activities like these?
Another consequence of the closure of the Town Hall is demise of the Tourist Information Centre, whose helpful and well informed staff used to provide information for visitors and locals alike. It had display space for information about local events and box office facilities for some of them, such as events at the Maltings Arts Theatre. When the Town Hall closed in March, it was replaced by a much smaller and more limited Visitor Information Centre, squeezed into a corner of the foyer of the Arena, with very limited space to display information.
Then, last time I went there, I found that the staff had disappeared and Arena Box Office staff were expected to do the Visitor Information Centre staff’s job in addition to their own. I am sure they are doing their best but, as they usually seem to be fully occupied selling Arena tickets. It therefore seems unlikely that they will have time to to do much more than take money from purchasers of the souvenirs, which seem to be all that is left of the Visitor Information Centre. This seems very short sighted. It isn’t difficult to see how St Albans found its way to the bottom of the Heritage League tables, despite our extensive history.
Warwick Road, St Albans
Thank you for your excellent editorial about the closure of our important and popular Tourist Information Centre. You are right that the display in the Arena foyer is in the wrong place and “risible, a mediocre display of tatty pamphlets”. May I add two further points: Why can’t the TIC move into one of the many empty shop units in the city centre, some of which the council owns?
Mr Shwe says it’s only for 18 months. Is this not hugely optimistic? Four months have elapsed already and the museum website says the project still needs to raise more than £1m to go ahead. In any case, until a contractor is appointed, the programme can only be a guess.
Abbey Avenue, St Albans
It is very disappointing to read that the council is not currently providing a tourist information service to us local businesses. It seems that even though the business rates we pay to the council have gone up by £1,500 this year and we have neighbouring shops who now pay a staggering £6,000 per month in rates, we seem to get less service.
We get no refuse collection, no local vote, no tourist information, no parking vouchers and yet as a group we contribute over £60 million per year in rates taxes. It is expected that next year our rateable values on our business rates will increase by 60 per cent and we will also have to pay an additional 1.8 per cent BID levy. It seems the more you pay the less you get!
PAUL HARGREAVES Mail Boxes Etc
Holywell Hill, St Albans
I am a disabled pensioner living on my own in a maisonette, and the council seems to consider that I need three wheelie bins, four recycling boxes with three lids, and a waste food pail which is rarely more than five per cent full. Of these items, three recycling boxes and two lids are now redundant. Small wonder that Colin Donald (Herts Advertiser, July 28) complains of ‘bin pollution’.
When the bin men recently delivered our shiny new bins, someone asked them if they were going to take away the redundant items. They replied that the council hadn’t thought about that and they hadn’t had any instructions, despite the fact that the stuff is quite a safety hazard.
What now? Is it up to me to arrange the disposal of the redundant items? If so, I am faced with something of a linguistic dilemma. Is there a suitable word for the disposal to landfill of recycling items intended to minimise disposal to landfill. ‘Incest’ springs to mind, but has anyone got a better suggestion?
Gilpin Green, Harpenden
I live in Watford and am lucky enough to have an efficient and regular kerbside recycling scheme run by Veolia.
Unfortunately the citizens of St Albans also under Veolia, are being treated differently.
I was delighted to hear that my elderly mother was having her recycling boxes replaced by a wheelie bin in St Albans. Then I discovered, unlike Watford, where all the recycling is put into one large wheelie bin, my mother will still have to put her newspapers and cardboard into her existing recycling box. Once this box is full of newspapers, it is very heavy and impossible for my mother to lift.
Despite repeated requests to Veolia St Albans to have consideration for the elderly and disabled council-tax paying residents of St Albans, their only response is ‘if the recycling wheelie bin is contaminated by newspapers then the bin will not be collected and a £10 charge will be incurred in order for Veolia to come and sort the contaminated bin’.
So, Veolia, why is a recycling wheelie bin ‘contaminated’ in St Albans if it contains newspapers and cardboard but ‘not contaminated’ in Watford if it contains newspapers and cardboard?
How short-lived was my delight at seeing the long overdue repainting of the local street letterboxes taking place.
Upon closer inspection it was quite apparent that virtually no preparation had been included in the job specification – with the contractors simply painting over the loose, flaking or missing paintwork that I would estimate had last been applied perhaps 30 or more years ag ?
Quite simply the Post Office should a) refuse to pay for the work done and b) insist upon proper pre-painting preparation prior to getting the job done correctly.
These items are much loved (and still much used) icons of our streets – and deserve better.
For some time I have even been contemplating carrying out the work myself on our local postbox in Clarence Road. If the powers that be cannot be shamed into taking appropriate remedial action then I most certainly shall!
Jennings Road, St Albans
It’s a complete disgrace that the lake has not been promptly and properly cleaned by experts - the answer is for the RSPCA to take St Albans council to court in view of the number of dead and dying birds . What an advert for the city and what a callous attitude to animal welfare.
Overstone Road, Harpenden