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No-one in their right mind would feel anything but immense disappointment, anger and shock at the widespread news regarding the nefarious activities of some Oxfam employees engaged in international aid projects. Media reports, which will no doubt run for months to come, have shone a spotlight on a cancer that needs to be handled robustly, and removed.
I would, however - while not for one second condoning any illegal and immoral behaviour - make a plea of personal support for the Oxfam shop on Chequer Street, St Albans, in the hope that any mass hysteria that may possibly arise due to press coverage doesn’t unfairly impact the altruistic efforts of a little shop trying to make an impact for good in a world that, patently, needs all the good that can be mustered.
My wife and I, as part of our Saturday morning shopping routine, usually pop into this particular Oxfam outlet, and we are unfailingly greeted with courtesy, humour and kindness.
I do of course realise this doesn’t negate the appalling conduct of Oxfam personnel who, it seems, have abused their positions, but it does go some way to balancing the situation when it looks likely that a fully-loaded bandwagon of salivation and condemnation will soon be in full swing.
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Sometimes we make a purchase or two, sometimes we browse in search of hidden treasures, and occasionally we donate.
The Saturday staff we usually meet always have time for a friendly chat, a joke, and a greeting, regardless of whether or not we have actually spent money.
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Every charity - and, come to that, pretty much every walk of life - has rotten apples in the barrel.
That, I’m afraid, is life, but that fact does not mean that all charitable works are polluted, not by any means.
Neither does it mean all charity workers are sinister characters. Far from it. Most go about their acts of goodwill quite modestly and selflessly, often without recognition, and on a volunteer basis. Anything else would be an unfair conclusion.
I am not naïve enough to think that Oxfam is as pure as the driven snow in every department, but that does not prevent me appreciating the warmth of welcome that exists in St Albans city centre.
This should be acknowledged, whatever happens next.
Wetherall Mews, St Albans
Who would have thought there were so many meanies in St Albans? I am of course referring to the disgruntled many who have taken umbrage at the council’s provision of parking for its employees.
Many (most, even?) employers provide parking facilities for their staff. To my mind it is a wholly unremarkable state of affairs that St Albans council, which is surely just an employer like any other, would do the same.
I know we are all encouraged to think that public sector workers are there to answer to a higher calling - are all nurses not just one step away from beatification after all? - but the reality is that they are just doing a job in return for a package of rewards that include pay, pension, and yes, perhaps a parking space.
They are not doing us a favour, but neither do they have any special duty to provide a level of service greater than that they are compensated for. Basically they are the same as the rest of us.
Judging by some recent letters to this paper there are a number of residents of St Albans who would have council staff don hair-shirts and work for free until such time as every pothole is mended and every verge is in Chelsea Show garden condition (good luck with recruitment, by the way).
If you don’t think the district council offers a good level of service for the tax you pay there are a group of people you can legitimately whinge about - they are called politicians.
However to become aerated about this one small aspect of council workers’ employment package and to link it to the quality of services in the district or even your own work parking provision, or lack thereof, is silly. More than that, this insistence that we should ‘level down’ and deny others a small perk just because we might not enjoy the same reveals a petty mindedness I had hoped not to see in these parts.
Jerome Drive, St Albans
In response to Lee Rogers’ letter (Time to cash up? Letters February 8): I believe the subject of his plaint, a known and voluble Brexiteer, now lives in France.
I’m not sure whether there is a word for ‘beyond irony’, but if there is, consider it employed.
Coldharbour Lane, Harpenden
Following the piece in your issue of February 1 on the Sandridge Road Wastes, some explanation of their ownership, management and status may help your readers.
The estate (or manor) of Sandridge was part of the monastic lands owned by St Albans Abbey. In 1381, as a consequence of the Peasants’ Revolt, the right to rest livestock being brought to and from St Albans market was conceded either side of the stretch of road now between Boundary Road and the King William crossroads.
At the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII the estate was sold, with the common rights still applying.
It eventually came into the ownership of the Spencers, Princess Diana’s family. The Sandridge Road Manorial Wastes, along with the common land of Bernards Heath, are owned to this day by the Spencers, but are managed by the City of St Albans for the benefit of its citizens, according to an agreement signed early last century.
The flowering trees along the Wastes, admired and valued by residents and visitors alike, were planted in 1935 to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V. Planting trees on common land is not prohibited, within reason, but permanent structures, or ‘works’ as they are termed, including any hard crossings, have to be approved by the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, according to section 38 of the Commons Act of 2006.
In addition, there are local byelaws prohibiting parking on the Wastes.
Access to property across common land is allowed, but the legal owner still has the right to make a charge, if they so wish, for crossing their land. The article stated, incorrectly, that the Wastes are commonly owned land. Most common land is in fact owned by someone and is not necessarily in common ownership, as might be imagined.
However, historically, the local populace (‘the commoners’) had the free right to certain defined activities, grazing animals or collecting firewood, for instance.
In letters of February 8, Liz McCann jumps to the conclusion that Friends of Bernards Heath advocates the draconian action of denying the owners of properties on Sandridge Road access to the Public Highway across the Wastes. Not so. FoBH members have no wish to deny access. The concern is that, whether it be by poor choice or neglect, the spacious grassed verges have come, over recent years, to look like the proverbial dog’s breakfast, being a mixture of tarmac, concrete, block paving and gravel.
A consistent and limited choice of visually less intrusive crossover types would do much to enhance what is one of the principal gateways into our city.
Ms McCann also referred to neglect of the trees on the Wastes. It should be pointed out that trees do not live forever.
In particular, trees selectively bred for their outstanding flowering abilities will not live as long as, say, oaks or yews.
Those of the original, 1930s planting are 80 years old and replacement is to be expected. They are of considerable size now and responsibly, cannot be allowed to shed branches or fall at random as the result of decay.
The Friends of Bernards Heath exists to further public enjoyment of Bernards Heath, Sandridge Road Wastes and Beech Bottom Dyke and promote knowledge of their long history. We are concerned that they should not be absorbed carelessly and unthinkingly into a suburban landscape indistinguishable from many others.
ROGER MILES Committee member, Friends of Bernards Heath, Upper Culver Road, St Albans
‘Affordable housing development hauled back before planning committee’ - Herts Ad online, February 2.
You reported that Aldwyck Housing’s application to demolish and rebuild Linley Court on Valley Road, St Albans, with 28 flats was stalled last week by the council’s planning committee because the applicant had failed to complete Section 106 agreements.
Such contracts are not ‘agreements’ in the accepted sense i.e. entered into willingly by both parties. They are a local authority’s licence to force a housing provider to pay for ‘community benefits’ which often have little or nothing to do with and frequently some distance from the proposed development.
In this instance St Albans district council has demanded £32,000 which includes a contribution of £14,910 towards the cost of the new museum and art gallery, something the new residents of Linley Court will no doubt enjoy and visit daily. In addition Herts County Council has submitted an uncosted shopping list which includes community benefits such as the installation of wi-fi in St Albans central library.
Aldwyck is a housing association whose writing on the tin is the construction and management of affordable accommodation for people in housing need. These worthy projects will in effect impact the level of rents and other outgoings and thus make the new flats less affordable.
Quite how and why a not-for-profit organisation set up to do what councils no longer do should be charged for the privilege, especially when the planning application is for the replacement of an existing development deemed no longer fit for purpose, defies logic and common sense.
However this may not trouble councillors on the planning committee where local housing provision is reduced to tick-box targets.
ROBERT HILL East Common, Harpenden
I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the wonderful owner of The Little Convenience Store on London Road, for coming to our aid after a road collision on the evening of Saturday February 2.
He immediately came to see if I was OK, stopped the traffic, helped park my damaged car, let me and my baby sit in his warm office, and helped my husband and the other car owner with all the admin. He even found someone to drop up off at home.
His actions were so kind and helped make a stressful situation so much easier.
Despite his protestations that ‘it costs nothing to be nice’ he really went above and beyond.
Good to know we have such kind and helpful people in our little city!
Burnham Road, St Albans