Your letters to the Herts Advertiser...
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I am prompted to write by a recent edition of ‘Flog it’ on TV, where St Albans was described as “ once famous for its clockmakers” as the item was a chronometer made by Mercers.
What else was St Albans famous for when I was growing up in the ‘50s? Roses Lime juice, Heath & Heathers, Ryder’s Seeds, printers such as Eversheds, Staples, Fisher & Knights,T he Campfield Press, to name but a few., clothing factories such as Rodex Aquascutum, Ballito. Dare I mention Handley Page ?
Who decided that St Albans should be a place to live but not to work ?
Still famous though, for the most coffee shops, dining alfresco, (foreign word for blocking the pavement ) and a stinking lake. That’s progress I suppose.
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Hilldyke Road, Wheathampstead
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I am responding to your article re gritting cuts on September 15.
As a resident of St Albans living in the Fleetville area of the city, I am in a position to know that on Woodstock Road North and Woodstock Road South there is considerable traffic during the rush hour first thing and then later in the day. In term time there is also traffic generated by parents ferrying their children too and from Verulam School on Jennings Road and Fleetville Infants School on Woodstock Road South.
The county council’s decision not to grit Woodstock Road North or Woodstock Road South is worrying in view of the amount of traffic we experience and with so many children making their way to and from home on foot. Clarence Road is also affected by this proposal. As with WRN and WRS this road is a major thoroughfare for school traffic generated by Verulam School but it is also a very busy route for commuters making their way to St Albans Station.
I would urge those responsible for gritting roads in St Albans to look at this proposal again, taking into account the points raised above. It just doesn’t make sense not to grit roads that are so obviously vital to so many and that without crucial gritting might become unsafe for cars and adults/children alike.
Further to Maria Harlan’s letter “Giving refugees hope and dignity” (September 22).
Any reader of the Herts Ad who is keen to learn more about the work of the Hertfordshire Welcomes Syrian Families Group can do so by listening to an interview with one of the HWSF team which was broadcast on Radio Verulam’s ‘Local Life’ earlier this summer and is still available on the local Talking Newspaper website (www.sadtn.org.uk) at the tab ‘Listen Online’ in the archive ‘Interviews’.
Chairman & Editor, St Albans & District Talking Newspaper
In his glee at dancing on the grave of The Brickyard with a cucumber sandwich in one hand and ginger beer in the other, Mr Barry Cashin fails to explain his triumph at the demise of the cocktail bar given that he lives in Green Lane, several miles away.
He does say that he thinks “it must be hell” living near the former Spotted Bull pub which has been serving drinks in Verulam Road for over 100 years. “Who needs a cocktail bar anyway?” he opines.
Since it would be dishonest of Mr Cashin not to disclose an interest, we must assume that his excitement was not caused by any affiliation with Abbey Precinct Residents Association (APRA) who have been mobilising RAs across St Albans on a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” basis in a campaign against the hostelry.
With the exemption of Mr Cashin, articulate APRA activists have been capable of impressing the council through legal means without even bothering to meet the beleaguered proprietor of the business Mr James Hanning.
Their success means that St Albans must be wondering who’s next?
But APRA now faces a backlash from residents who do not like it when “a cabal” assume titles, purport to speak for the community (which they do not) and assume the role of real, democratically elected councillors.
While affected residents are entitled to complain, dodgy tactics by APRA have been played out in these pages for months.
Mr Peter Godwin of Fishpool Street and formerly of Fishpool Street Residents Association attacked The Brickyard under the title hon secretary of the Combined Residents and Community Associations of St Albans (CRCA) (December 31).
Mr Godwin was trying to give the impression that he speaks for half of St Albans. Maybe he thinks he does?
Mr Geoff Dyson of College Street, who is chairman of the same CRCA confirms the involvement of residents associations from outside the area: “It is of no consequence where members live,” asserts Mr Dyson, “the residents associations are simply supporting committee members who live in close proximity to the premises.” (January 14)
Does it not occur to Mr Dyson and his friends who can have absolutely nothing to do with The Brickyard, that their willingness to complain by proxy and with such ease of conscience is playing games with a man’s livelihood?
APRA chairman Mr Peter Trevelyan of Abbey Mill End knows exactly why Mr Hanning went out of business and it had nothing to do with him.
Mr Trevelyan, expert on upmarket cocktail bars, considers that turfing customers out of the legally designated garden area by 10pm as they enjoy the last of the summer day does not harm the business. (September 22)
Nothing to do with us, agrees APRA member Mr John Hedges of Abbey Mill Lane and another distant critic of The Brickyard.
Mr Hedges dismisses his association’s alleged “reign of terror” against Mr Hanning as inconsequential and in a blitzkrieg of scorn against the hapless proprietor, his cocktail bar and his business model in particular, reckons that going out of business is what you get for charging £5.70 for a pint of beer. (September 22)
Interestingly, APRA member Mr Axon of College Street, in a response to an earlier suggestion by a reader concerning his domestic repose assures readers that he “does not need double glazing”. (January 14)
What is it then, Mr Axon, that is making your life such a misery that “intolerable noise at all hours of the day and night” (John Hedges September 22) does not even reach the house?
APRA member Mr Robert Pankhurst of College Street is “pleased with the result” but says that “he is heartily sick of The Brickyard... as must be the readers”. (You’re wrong there Mr Pankhurst!)
Oddly, he says he just wants to get back to his work in the community “supporting residents and local businesses”. (September 22)
Do be careful what you wish for Mr Pankhurst, because now that you and your collection of RAs and activists have convinced the council that no hospitalitybusiness can ever flourish at that premises, and given that you refused to negotiate with Mr Hanning from the outset, the ex-boss might just apply to raze The Brickyard to the ground and build a block of flats at the end of your garden instead.
MOLLY BRODERICK Folly Lane, St Albans
Around 20 years ago the first three houses in College Street, adjacent to The Brickyard (once the Spotted Bull) were classed as offices and change of use had to be granted for residential use. Anyone buying these properties must surely have been aware that with a shoddy , rundown public house next door there would inevitably have to be improvements and changes. Who on earth would buy a property next to a pub and expect total evening peace and quiet? Yet when these changes came the Abbey Precinct Residents Association (APRA) mounted what for them has been a hugely successful, if totally vindictive, military campaign to destroy a genuine entrepreneur`s initiative. This is a triumph for nimbyism, reminding me years ago when purchasers of a property adjacent to the old Blue Cross kennels in Kimpton complained of dogs barking.
Verulam Road is one of the gateways to our cathedral city . Over the last few years the whole appearance of a once almost seedy looking road has become more and more attractive from Harry`s Bar down to The Brickyard. What Mr Hanning had achieved could well be considered to have been an enhancement to the area and considerable encouragement for those who wish to draw more visitors into a vibrant and viable city centre. If local nimbyism and an unreasonable resistance or reaction to change prevailed over the whole city this would be severely detrimental to St Albans, which needs its commercial centre to thrive.
A vibrant city centre is the hub of any community and the more our visitor economy is boosted the better it is for nearly all of us, except sadly maybe for the residents of College Street. In this ever-changing world, whilst there have to be sensible rules and regulations to regulate wild and unruly crowd behaviour there has to be give and take in achieving the right balance. From my few visits to The Brickyard I can only confirm that the management of the premises was polite, courteous and orderly - never once wild or unruly. This is unbelievably so different a picture like that demonically painted by the immediate neighbours amounting to the tarring of the reputation of the premises and its management.
Mr Hanning would seem to have admitted to errors when he started his project, but he states he offered mediation, which was rejected out of hand. He also latterly agreed to an earlier time to close his patio area, but all of this seems not to have been met with anything but a barrage of nightly complaints that must have driven the council`s licensing department mad. Were some of these complaints trivial? Indeed some that actually came into the public domain seem to have been. One complaint was even made when the premises were closed! People must have been walking down the road rather noisily. Another complaint overheard by a customer on the premises on a Sunday afternoon was of four ladies laughing too loudly whilst sitting at a table on the patio.
What now for the premises? The neighbours have most certainly killed off the prospect of any restaurant or pub chain let alone another entrepreneur daring to put an offer in. The building itself is part of the conservation area, but could be converted internally into residential use. That in itself does nothing for the local economy, but it would preserve the appearance of this gateway into our city. The worst thing would be to see a boarded up premises for months or even years to come.
A few residents may well now be congratulating themselves that they have achieved their goal, but this is at a sadly detrimental cost to the rest of the city. Further will their campaign end there? As Frank Casey tongue in cheek implies (Herts Ad Sept 22) cathedral bells keep many awake. Perhaps all church bells should be silenced.
As I see it a hard working entrepreneur has actually been hounded out of business. APRA cannot deny that they have forced this closure. This whole episode is a very sad tale for St Albans.
Clarence Road, Harpenden
Your editorial about jam tomorrow on Thameslink (September 22) omitted two vital words: Network Rail.
It matters little which company holds the route’s franchise because the actual trains and most of the staff don’t change. Yet the state and maintenance of the tracks, signals and overhead power lines have a significant factor on how any train company can run its service. That’s the role of Network Rail - which often fails to provide such resources reliably and is prone to take on too much.
Believe it or not, the northern part of Thameslink was once noted for reliability and punctuality. Over the years the route’s infrastructure has aged, become fragile and services have become more and more enmeshed with operational problems south of London. That initial strength of Thameslink - a through service across the capital and beyond - has become part of its vulnerability.
In your September 15 article about the Railfreight Depot you report Segro’s Gareth Osborn saying: “A heck of a lot of money has been put in to upgrading bridges and lines” as to why his freight trains can be accommodated. Where and when exactly has this happened? It hasn’t - yet. This is surely some spin offensive in preparing for a purchase bid of the land at Park Street before any detailed timetabling has been established. Even Network Rail has declared his assertion as “premature” and requires more analysis. So, after 10 years they still don’t know whether any timetable would work.
If the benefits of the long awaited extra trains on Thameslink in 2018 are to be given a proper chance of working the last thing we need is the imposition of Segro’s freight terminal works and its freight trains. The current operational obstacles south of the river and around London Bridge would simply move north to around here!
St Albans people are very good at getting up petitions and protest groups after decisions have been made. Too late! The best way to ensure Hertfordshire’s residents get a decent train service is for the county councillors to refuse to sell the land to Segro. If they do, I fear there will be no jam tomorrow and your editorial’s scepticism will prove to be spot on.
Passengers and county councillors need to wake up and smell the coffee before, like the trains, it’s all too late.
Fishpool Street, St Albans
For those people grumbling about having an unwanted recycling bin, this is what I did with mine. I planted one bulb of rhubarb and what a result!
Villiers Cresent, St Albans
Oh dear me! To the gentleman from Green Lane, I must confess that my prose style may sometimes have more in the nature of a meat cleaver than a rapier, but lavatorial references I tend to avoid as a matter of personal taste and decency.
However, I’m rather confused by his comments regarding a location that he never visited and in all probability never would have. Such being the case his opinions have neither merit nor relevance.
I began my initial correspondence on the subject of The Brickyard with a quotation from the Bard of Avon. I have that shoebox filing system in my head from which quotations often spring unbidden and occasionally they are even apposite.
When I first encountered that late Georgian terrace close by the Spotted Bull many years ago, I was taken by its fine proportions and delighted to see the original doors still retained and with their original fittings. It reminded me of a section of a well-appointed Dublin square.
At that time the block in College Street was almost entirely given over to offices with the mental health charity Mencap occupying the part nearest to Verulam Road, a fitting location since the poet Gilpin had for a time been cared for in that very street during one of his episodes of mental illness. When I look at that facade now charity is not the first word that comes to mind. Like the Biblical whited sepulchre, a handsome frontage can often conceal something less attractive.
I am now in my seventh decade and nearing my eighth. In my time I have encountered and confronted many self-appointed Jacks in office and am well acquainted with the nature of the beast.
I would like if I may, returning to the subject of decency, to conclude here with a quotation from within my own lifetime.
“If it was within my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me... You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left, no sense of decency?” (Response of US Senator Welch to US Senator McCarthy on June 8 1954)
From this correspondent, on this subject, “the rest is silence”.
New England Street, St Albans
Further to the public forum design charrette for the proposed city centre redevelopment, the two sessions I attended were well supported and facilitated. However working for a contractor I see the following situation arising all the time and this project will be no exception.
When the consortium of land owners (clients) put their respective busienss cases in place and a loss consultant (quantity surveyor) has allocated a budget a contractor will need to be appointed to take liability for the budget.
Then the reality of cost unaffortability will become apparent, resulting in a cost reduction exercise taking place. To be fair to the facilitator of the charrette it was made clear that the current wish list of desires was at a preliminary, provisional stage.
But cost unaffordability is typically in the 10 to 20 per cent range above budget, which will necessitate some 10 to 20 million pounds in savings to be found. Such an overspend will require major savings to be achieved such as reducing landscaping, including the green veiled walls (which are costly to install, difficult to maintain and cause a nuisance due to the number of birds and insects they attract), simplifying the elevational solutions and perhaps reducing or omitting some of the building areas.
In addition future-proofing the design of the buildings to permit alternative use some 100 years hence, or has been suggested, will become an issue as no contractor is going to underwrite a warranty to guarantee a life expectancy of that duration, particularly to the refurbished buildings where the already ageing existing structural frames are being required.
It is hoped a contractor can be appointed as part of the team sooner rather than later who can provide buildability advice within a period of time where changes can be made to the scheme before a planning application is lodged.
T R WILLIAMS
North Riding, Bricket Wood