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Eric Roberts’ column on behalf of the St Albans Civic Society (October 13 edition) raises some points which beg an answer as to why public design review forums fail to deliver the perceived product.
A charrette, or as Mr Roberts says, whever other buzz word may apply, only addresses conceptual architectural design. A contractor is the only party in the building process who understands all aspects of delivering a building.
They have to as they take liability for the design, construction and very often all other uncapped third party liabilities, except client scheme changes.
It is therefore inevitable a conceptual design is always going to be compromised to enable building works to proceed to meet client cost budgets.
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From my experience planners act responsibly in their concerns for environmental impact.
Likewise, statutory authorities such as Network Rail, LUL, BAA, British Waterways and service providers also have jurisdiction over matters where their works are impacted upon.
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But we live in a money-driven world and cost is always going to be the overriding major factor for any client, and planners are sympathetic in that respect.
Designers do not understand these issues because they have not been trained accordingly and the general public will only believe what they have been led to believe by the designers.
The recent charrette for the proposed city centre redevelopment serves as a current working example.
In addiiton to the specific issues I raised in my October 6 letter, there are additional areas that will get reviewed, such as reducing or omitting the glass canopes, perhaps purchasing the now empty BHS building in the high street to house some accommodation, separating out the combined residential and office buildings to save monies on expensive acoustic isolation barriers and relocating the car park alongside the residential buildings to provide occupants with a parking space in the proposed phase one works.
Only don’t expect to see anything happen for at least two years while design developments and team rhetoric takes place.
North Riding, Bricket Wood
St Albans, Harpenden and our surrounding villages are plagued far more by Heathrow aircraft noise than those from Luton.
For the past two weeks the wind has been blowing from the east and hence Heathrow aircraft take off on the easterly runway and then climb over Harrow, Watford and St Albans, where they open the throttle and power up the engines to gain altitude as they set a course for the North Atlantic and onwards to their destinations in the Americas.
Many of the noisy aircraft are British Airways jumbos - 747s or A380s and are easy to spot as they have four jet engines and are navy blue underneath with a red and white flag on the tail. They fly from south to north over our district.
Residents should prepare themselves for a third runway which is very likely to gain approval any day now and the consequent increased flights, noise and disruption it will bring to us.
Hedley Road, St Albans
I am both amazed and disappointed at the recent resurrection of the Abbey Line becoming a busway.
Cllr Derek Ashley heard the adverse comments against a busway idea at a public meeting, 80 per cent of those who subsequently submitted comments were of similar views. Yet in a week that the new PM Theresa May declares the community will be listened to the reverse happens in Hertfordshire. Perhaps this news has yet to percolate down to Herts?
Either Cllr Ashley is a very devious politician despite coming across as open and receptive or he has no grasp of what his officers are up to? If as he stated the Abbey Line is a key component in east-west transport it follows that the old railway to Hatfield now a popular cycleway would surely need to be part of a future busway too. The busway option was considered in the Watford area instead of the major work now underway diverting the Metropolitan line into the Junction station, the removal of another rail feeder is nonsensical and undermines the purpose of this improvement.
To put conversion of a railway into a busway as a so called “vision” by 2050 is cleverly putting down a marker that effectively is defined as policy. The road buildering fraternity who would do the work will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of subsequent approval of a busway by government citing the county document long after the Cllr Ashley has departed.
Let us consider some facts. Outside Hertfordshire in the UK there are very few busways, abroad even fewer, Germany who first floated the idea soon abandoned it, leaving the sole example in Essen as a museum piece frequently visited by British politicians with little comprehension of costs and possible there limited attraction. Whoever saw a politician on a bus?
Are they a success story even in the UK? Evidence strongly suggests not. Some in this country have been abandoned after initial use. They are very expensive to build and usually been way over budget and considerable late in completion. The one quoted between Luton and Dunstable is a case in point. Costing about about £90M and two years late. To gain government approval by the last Labour government, they have all had origins in Labour administrations by the way, it was categorically stated by “experts” that it would attract massive ridership from year one, yet after three years it has only reached 43 per cent of predictions. The local councillor responsible had to eat humble pie and admit on television that they had massaged the figures to get hold of the money.
On top of this they are accident prone. The last incident on the Luton busway needed several emergency vehicles and up to a score of people hospitalised. The only investigation that takes place is by the owner the local council, thereafter silence.
Your paper cleverly showed a double decker bus about to travel along the busway in Cambridge. It also had a warning notices about a speed limits in force. Indicating one of its frequent accidents that has impacted that route too. Double decker buses could not be able to use the Abbey Line without many bridges being rebuilt, adding to the construction time and costs.
I congratulate the local user group from suspending itself from the Community Rail Partnership which surely cannot continue to be chaired by a councillor suggesting closing the line.
LESLIE FREITAG Cravells Road, Harpenden
Following Madeleine Burton’s excellent and balanced article on the treat to the Abbey Line, anyone who wishes to protest against the loss forever of a valuable asset should visit www.abfly.org.uk/savetheabbeyline
This enables them, in one step, to endorse our petition and send a protest letter to Cllr Ashley. Our arguments, though well represented in the article, are set out in full on the website.
Considering that last year’s consultation, which produced an overwhelming majority against the busway, has been roundly ignored by Cllr Ashley and his colleagues, an even more decisive voice is needed this time. Hence it is vital that everyone who ever uses the line should sign, and I also urge the wider community, though they may not currently use it, to protest against the obvious folly of ripping it up.
Membership Secretary, ABFLY
Juniper Avenue, Bricket Wood
Regarding St Albans Stronger Together’s Niall Deacon’s question: “How will we deal with the need for a hard border in Ireland, cutting families in half and endangering the peace process”, the answer is that no such need exists.
The freedom of movement across Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands pre-dates not only the EU in its various forms but also the second and first world wars, the invention of passports and the internal combustion engine. It was formally codified in a memorandum of understanding regarding a Common Travel Area between the British and Irish governments in 2011, and is completely independent of either country’s membership of the EU.
No political grouping in mainland Britain, Northern Ireland or the Republic is proposing to introduce such controls. Ukip’s former Director of Communications Patrick O’Flynn, current Head of Policy Mark Reckless and interim leader Nigel Farage are all on the record as backing continued freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland post-Brexit. Even the now defunct British National Party did not oppose this freedom.
I think it unlikely that the EU would wish to be seen to be enforcing a latter-day Berlin Wall though the town of Belleek, or the village of Pettigo. Either way, a hard Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be as close to unenforceable as makes no difference. Even in the 1980s, with the Troubles and Cold War defence budgets, securing the entirety of the 220-mile Northern Irish border could not in practice be enforced. The farms and dwellings straddling the various inter-county borders which constitute it create what are in effect private crossing points, and the exact maritime boundaries between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have never officially been agreed.
It has never been necessary to possess a passport in order to cross from the Republic into Northern Ireland or vice versa. Unless either the British or Irish government chooses to remove itself from the Common Travel Area, it never will be. As shown by the Isle of Man’s participation, EU membership is not a requirement for the Common Travel Area.
Charrington Place, St Albans
I read with interest your editorial in the Herts Ad of October 13.
You rightly criticise the the capacity of SADC to be the competent body we as residents can expect.
If I may pick up on the car parking fee increases you cite, am I alone in noticing that, at the same time, many dozens of street parking spaces have been removed from use in recent weeks?
To illustrate, I ask you to look at the Grosvenor Road / Ridgmont Road area. This is an ‘out-of-town-centre-area’ still within reach of many amenities by foot. Previously restricted for one hour or so in the day - to banish all-day free parking by commuters - these roads have just become part of Zone K resident only parking operational 08:30 to 20:00 seven days a week.
And the result? Completely empty, wasted space all day long. The residents here largely enjoy private driveways, so no real benefit to them but they would now appear to enjoy traffic-free, ‘ghost’ status while anyone else with a legitimate reason to park for a short while now is forced to join the fight for (and pay for) an off-road car park space, already in such short supply.
Could this have been implemented by the same “lacklustre” district council you refer to, “filling its coffers” and “decreasing its services” ? Did the faceless officers who implemented it lose their own parking spaces, doubtless paid for by Council Tax payers like me?
I think we should be told!
J MAXWELL By email