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I was interested to read your report last week about the proposed Katherine Warington School in which Ben Bardsley, spokesperson for the Harpenden Parents Group, attempted to build up excitement surrounding the proposed new school and to play down the opposition as “a small group of residents” who “continue to try to thwart the school opening given its clear and obvious need”.
Those opposed to the siting of the school at Batford are not just a few NIMBYs as Mr Bardsley seems to imply, but include over 3,500 people from all around Harpenden and the surrounding villages who signed a petition asking for the site to be re-assessed.
Furthermore the opposition has never been to the school itself, although Ben Bardsley’s “obvious need” has not always been evident from the ever-changing figures provided by Hertfordshire County Council.
The opposition has always been to the siting of the school in an entirely inappropriate location.
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The reasons have been repeatedly presented to HCC since their decision to build on Site F was first sprung on the general Harpenden public several years ago.
HCC have, however, pressed ahead regardless of the issues raised.
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The safety of children travelling to and from school on the Lower Luton Road and the traffic pollution that will blight their school environment are two of those as yet unanswered issues that seem to be conveniently overlooked by Mr Bardsley and the Harpenden Parents Group.
Or perhaps the parents involved have assessed these potential dangers and decided that they are a risk worth taking?
ADRIAN STEPHENSON Mackerye End, Harpenden
I am writing to express my complete agreement with Mr Leach that we need to focus on dealing with the problems facing the NHS.
However, members of the St Albans for Europe group and I want to get across that, while the issues facing the NHS predate the EU referendum, Brexit will damage, and is already damaging, the NHS and making the situation worse.
In the words of Lord Kerr, author of Article 50 and former UK ambassador to the EU, who spoke in St Albans in January; “The effect on the NHS [of Brexit] will be very bad. As the tax take goes down, because growth is not as great as it otherwise would have been, the money available for welfare, and in particular the NHS, is going to drop.”
The campaign group Healthier in the EU www.healthierin.eu has produced a useful factsheet available on their website, to which Mr Leach may like to refer. For example, it explains that applications from EU nurses to fill NHS vacancies have dropped 96% since the referendum; NHS vacancies after Brexit could be as high as 40,000 staff, and the falling value of the pound will put up NHS supply costs by hundreds of millions of pounds.
We need to recognise that Brexit is reversible if people change their minds before we have left - Lord Kerr was very clear on that point - it is possible for us to take back our Article 50 notification. As what Brexit really means becomes clearer, people may take a different view on whether leaving the EU is a good idea. Democracy did not end on June 23 2016 - it is an ongoing process and the country should not just accept, without question, whatever version of Brexit the Government decides upon.
So if you’re worried about what’s happening with the NHS, please ask yourselves whether we really want to be leaving the EU right now. And if you’d like to do something about it, please join us at www.stalbans4europe.co.uk
FIONA MCANDREW Chair, St Albans for Europe
I can only agree with Sarah Adamson’s letter on Brexit ‘Still not too late’, especially where she states: “I think it ie democratic to be able to change our minds, as the reality of what Brexit might mean becomes increasingly clear...”
Surely, in order to reach a sound decision, you have to be adequately informed, and with the Referendum, it certainly wasn’t the case – more a case of mis-selling?
As it becomes clear what the reality of Brexit might be, then the UK public should have a right to feel livid – or could it be an only too humen reaction of not wanting to admit that you have been duped?
In general, the British public are far worse informed than elsewhere – at least in Germany.
Two years ago on September 17 2016, hardly reported in the UK press, over 300,000 Germans and Austrians, worried by the possible effects of TTIP and CETA on their daily lives, took to the streets in some parts of Germany in the pouring rain.
However BBC Radio 4 thought it was more important for the British public to know that Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks, celebrating Nigel’s standing down as UKIP leader, had been skinny-dipping off Bournemouth Pier on that weekend!
I have a son in Germany who was 16 at the time, who had already heard of TTIP and CETA. How many 16 year olds in this country can say the same?
PHIL FLETCHER Sopwell Lane, St Albans
I carefully separate my paper and plastics into the bins provided by St.Albans council. Over the past few weeks I have noticed that the refuse collectors tip them into the same container when they pick them up. This happens all along the road
Have we had a new edict from the council that I have missed?
Am I now wasting my time?
How does this equate with the renewed emphasis on reducing the use of plastics?
Claygate Avenue, Harpenden
I can certainly see both sides of the debate over council car parking.
I worked for the council until about seven years ago.
Prior to 1987, when the new Civic Centre was built, council offices were split into several different buildings throughout the city centre and the “sale” of these helped fund the new building which was intended to improve efficiency and the convenience of access by citizens.
The building naturally included the car park, both to replace the decentralised parking that was already taking place and to conform with the council’s own planning regulations, which required on-site parking provision for all new office developments, to avoid on street parking and conflict with residents’ parking.
The same regulations were applied to new private sector offices and there are several private office buildings in the city with their own on-site parking. Whether or not they charge their employees for parking in them is a private matter.
I can appreciate that parking in the council’s car park is not such a private matter. However, as I recall, it is not all council employees that can park there free of charge, or indeed park there at all but is restricted mostly to “essential car users” who are required in their contracts to use their own cars for council business during the working day, because of the nature of their jobs, which require site visits to all parts of the district.
Another factor in the debate is that in general council employees are paid significantly less than those of equal qualification and/or ability in the private sector and have consistently been falling further behind for many years. Many are working for local government out of a sense of public duty and accept this situation because of it.
It seems to me that there is also some sense and efficiency in providing free parking as part of a package offered to some employees. The alternative might be to pay them more, only to recover the expense by charging them to park in council owned car parks.
Some of your readers would seek that free use by council employees should just be taken away from them but this could be seen as unfairly altering the contract that was made when the took up their posts, in much the same way as private sector employees would have been well aware at the outset that their contracts did not include it.
Some seem to be suggesting that public sector employees are somehow of less value and make less contribution to society, whereas surely public service is every bit as important as the private sector which provides a private product or service as well as private profit on the way?
In summary, there is a good argument that free use of the council car park for essential car users contributes to the efficiency of the council in providing public services and is cost-effective and should not be seen as a “perk”.
There is a wider debate to be had on the whole question of car park charging in towns and cities, which are struggling to survive against the competition of out-of-town shopping and business centres, where parking is free to all.
It would be preferable if all council owned car parks could be made free, so that shoppers and users of services could be attracted back into towns, which are struggling
However, this would require a change in the way local authorities are funded by central government because as it stands, year upon year they receive less money and need to levy parking charges to balance their budgets and provide adequate services.
It would be still more preferable if workers, public or private sector, who purely commute to the city in cars, which are are not actually required in their working day, could do so in an improved public transport system, thereby also improving the quality of life of those that do not have access to a private car and reducing our carbon footprint.
However, this would also require big investment in public transport by the county council and something of a change of attitude from us all. Arguments about who gets free parking will not address these bigger issues.
In your article last week on this school, you put a negative slant on what was a very positive action by Wheathampstead county councillor Annie Brewster.
Cllr Brewster demonstrated to, and persuaded, Herts County Council that the Lower Luton Road is not a safe walking route for children from the village to get to the Katherine Warington School (KWS) as had previously been defined.
As a result the children will be allocated free bus travel thus allowing them safe journeys, helping families and considerably reducing the amount of traffic that would otherwise have been generated on the Lower Luton Road.
While not everyone may be happy with the school’s location, wherever it was located there would be objections, the KWS will provide a much-needed boost to secondary school places available for children in the area. COLIN BUCKTON
Did you sit your O Levels at the school in the summer of 1969?
We are trying to contact as many ex-students from that year as possible for a reunion (not at the school) to be held next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary so if you are interested in getting together with your former classmates, please call 07799 794082. The more the merrier!
LORAINE PAINTER (formerly Childs) By email