Your letters to the Herts Advertiser...
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Your article on July 20 gave a misleading impression, inadvertently I’m sure, of the recent debates at St Albans council on air pollution and proportional representation.
Your quotations from Conservative councillors contained spurious and false assertions about my priorities as a Green councillor and my proposal in favour of a fairer voting system.
When the people of St Albans get their councils, MP and Government all elected despite most people voting for someone else, you have a broken system. If fair votes are good enough for Scottish local elections, they are good enough for English ones too.
As for air pollution - your readers will be aware that tackling this menace is a key priority for St Albans Green Party.
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There was ample time for the debate about this vital topic - in which I and many others spoke - as well as my motion on proportional representation. The latter did not affect time given to the former.
My proposal was debated first simply because I submitted it first.
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That is the rule and if the Conservatives don’t like it they are free to propose an amendment to the council’s constitution.
In truth, far from being in conflict, the two topics go together: evidence shows that countries with proportional systems have better environmental legislation. This is often because countries with PR give a fairer hearing to the Green party.
St Albans Green Party will take no lessons from the Conservatives about the urgent need for action to tackle air pollution, one of the biggest health emergencies of our time, contributing to 40,000 early deaths a year.
We are the only party to have carried out our own monitoring of nitrogen dioxide in St Albans. We are also the only party to have held a public meeting to highlight the issue and hear from local people about what needs to be done.
Whilst stricter enforcement of anti-idling is vital especially near schools, as proposed in the motion to council, to tackle air pollution properly also requires serious measures to cut traffic and vehicle emissions, to make walking and cycling safer and easier, and to restore proper bus services that are run in the public interest.
Air pollution is a major public health issue and should not be used as a local political football. People in St Albans district have a right to expect more of their elected representatives.
CLLR SIMON GROVER St Peter’s ward
Thank you for your continued coverage of the saga of Bedmond Lane Field. It’s all getting a bit complicated, so it’s not surprising perhaps that your report in last week’s edition wasn’t quite clear.
There are TWO separate processes going on at the moment. Firstly, CALA Homes, the current owners of the field, last year had a planning application to build stables on the site rejected by the council. They have now appealed against this decision and a Planning Inspector, independent of the council, is now considering their appeal – we await the verdict. A previous similar planning application was also refused, and this refusal upheld on appeal, a year or two ago.
Second, the council, at the request of the Verulam Residents Association, has listed the field as an Asset of Community Value, which means that should it come onto the market local residents would have the opportunity to put in a bid to buy it. CALA Homes appealed against this decision also, and the case is now making its way through the courts. So far CALA have been unsuccessful twice and the case is due to be heard in the Court of Appeal in November. So, again, we await the verdict.
Throughout all of this, Verulam Residents Association will continue to do its best to ensure that residents have every opportunity to have their voices heard about the future of what is a much-loved part of their local community. TIMOTHY BEECROFT
Chairman, Verulam Residents Association
We fully support your call for local residents to contribute to the CAA’s current consultation on aircraft noise (July 20 - “Don’t miss your chance to have a say on aircraft noise”).
However, the claim in the article that there are no restrictions on night flights from LLA is simply not true. In fact, LLA has some of the most stringent night noise limits of any major UK airport.
No aircraft departing between 23:00 – 07:00 can exceed 80db. This will be reduced to 79db by 2020. Considerably lower than the 87db limit in place at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick. Many aircraft types are already completely banned from LLA during those hours and operators who violate noise limits are fined. The money generated goes directly to local groups through our Community Trust Fund.
LLA also charges higher landing fees at night to incentivise day time flying. Finally, the airport has a lower limit on the total number of night flights allowed at night than both Gatwick and Stansted.
It is also worth noting that St Albans residents made 452,667 journeys through LLA last year, an average of three flights per person. The airport’s annual contribution to the Hertfordshire economy is expected to reach £161 million over the next decade, supporting 2,765 jobs across the county. We understand that residents have concerns about airport operations. Our aim is always to work constructively to strike the right balance between maximising the positive social and economic benefits of a successful airport while minimising the impact of aircraft noise.
NEIL THOMPSON Operations Director London Luton Airport
I was dismayed to read in the Herts Advertiser that Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group’s (HVCCG) board had approved West Herts Hospital Trust’s (WHHT) boards plan to redevelop both Watford General Hospital and St Albans Hospital.
I wonder how many people living in the West Herts community and staff who work in the local West Herts Hospitals agree with this decision.
Why would you consider spending such vast sums on redevelopment of these ‘not fit for purpose’ hospitals rather than do what is really needed by building a new super hospital on a greenfield site, central to the West Herts communities it will serve.
Have the two boards really considered the following before making such a disastrous decision?
1) The current location of Watford General Hospital is not central to the West Herts communities it serves. Public transport links from neighbouring towns to WGH are at best adequate.
2) The current location of WGH is built on land which rises sharply from the current car parks to the hospital buildings. A dreadful experience for anyone attending the hospital who is not well!
3) The current location of WGH is restricted in size and will not allow future expansion without acquiring land currently being used for housing and businesses.
4) Redevelopment of WGH and StAH will cause years of disturbance, noise and inconvenience for both patients and hospital staff.
5) Affinity Water estimate that by 2040 they will have an additional 600,000 people to serve. Will the redeveloped hospitals have the capacity to handle an increasing population in West Herts? Have the boards estimated the population growth in their long-term strategies and models? I wouldn’t like to think that come 2030 the costly newly redeveloped hospitals are then unable to cope with the demands of a growing population and WHHT then have to look to build a new hospital on a new site - that would be wasting valuable public finances!
6) Over 10,000 signatures were registered on a petition set up by the New Hospital Campaign group calling for a new hospital to be built in a location central to the West Herts communities it would serve. What is the number of signatures needed before the two boards, WHHT and HVCCG, take note of their residents’ dissatisfaction with the current location of Watford General Hospital?
I have now received a response from David Evans, HVCCG programme director, regarding Amec Foster Wheeler’s flawed assessment of the former Radlett airfield as being not a suitable or available location for building a new hospital on. This is despite HelioSlough finding it ideal for a huge and damaging strategic rail freight interchange. Strange that!
Mr Evans dismissed my criticism of the HVCCG commissioned report by saying: “We agreed the Kings Langley site as the comparator site for comparing the costs and practicalities of the various options under consideration.”
Why then pay a consultant to assess 19 shortlisted sites and then say any one of these locations is suitable to act as a comparator? Surely you need to identify the best available location for a new hospital before it can be fairly assessed and used as a comparator against the option of redevelopment?
Mr Evans also said: “The main advantages of developing existing sites over a new build on a greenfield are flexibility (ie. being able to flex the level of development) depending on how much finance we are able to access and also the ability to phase the development of existing sites over a period of time rather than having to access a significant amount of capital investment in one go (which is again a significant advantage in terms of project financing).”
Firstly, new hospitals can be financed over the build and probably over a much longer period. (Not a costly PFI arrangement as has been previously used for new builds) The New Hospital Campaign group have provided figures to HVCCG showing that their expert believes a new build hospital will cost less than the redevelopment of existing hospital sites, be ready earlier and deliver a complete solution for West Herts acute services needs.
Secondly, Katie Fisher, Chief executive of West Herts Hospital Trust, said the redevelopment option had been chosen because it would be delivered earlier than the building of a new hospital on a greenfield site.
Mr Evans mentioning “flex the level of development depending on how much finance” suggests less certainty as to any delivery date and even more concerning as to how much redevelopment will actually be achieved !
Hopefully a new hospital on a new site would not suffer any political meddling and would ultimately be delivered in its entirety and earlier than a full redevelopment of the existing hospital sites.(The NHS/Treasury guaranteeing the necessary public funding before the project started)
The boards of WHHT and HVCCG, need to remember who they are serving and rather than having “Your Care, Your Future” it would be better changed to “Your Care, Our Future” Residents’ participation in such major decisions as new hospitals is vital if the trust wishes to achieve the best outcome for all stakeholders.
The planned redevelopment of Watford General Hospital will be a missed/wasted opportunity to finally address the shortcomings of acute services care in West Herts. The doctors serving on the HVCCG board need to think again and support their colleagues out in the community. Local MPs need to take our case to central government.
There is money to build HS2 why not a much needed new hospital located centrally to those it will serve?
HVCCG’s prescription should read - a new world class hospital, in a more central location with the capacity to care for a growing West Herts population. No compromises!
ANDREW LOVE Warren Road, St Albans