Letters, September 4, 2014

Is it the end of the line in rail freight fight?

SIR – It would appear that the long-running rail freight saga has reached its final conclusion, but there is a slim hope that HCC may do the right thing and not sell this land to Helioslough. However, in all battles there are always winners and in this case very honourable losers. I have followed this closely and many people have spent a lot of their time in opposing this and their efforts have been outstanding with very good opposition from local councillors of all parties. I would also like to thank our local MP Anne Main for her role in this. She has been at the forefront of this fight. Many may not like her politics, but she has done her very best. I would suggest that all is not lost, but if this is the case there will be many other issues where those who seek to develop in the Green Belt will have such concerted opposition that they will have to think again. One battle lost is not the end of the world and they will have formidable opponents in the future. Be not downhearted, but optimistic as the battle has only just commenced and with the efforts of all the good people who have opposed these plans at the end of the day surely sense will prevail.


New House Park, St Albans

Eric could get in a pickle if he visits

SIR – I was interested to read in your sister paper, The Welwyn Hatfield Times, that a “victory party” had been held in Hatfield following the Government’s decision to block the plan to build an incinerator at the southern end of the town. Among those attending the party was Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman and high-profile MP for Welwyn Hatfield, who is quoted as saying: “I’ve told Eric Pickles that if he ever sets foot in Hatfield we’d gladly carry him aloft through the streets on a human chariot in his honour”. I feel that our St Albans MP, Anne Main, should take careful note of this statement and be sure to warn Eric Pickles that if he considers taking up this offer from Grant Shapps he should plan his route most carefully and avoid St Albans where he would face a very different reception following his decision not to block the ill-conceived plan for Helioslough to build a rail freight depot which would undoubtedly create a serious blight on, not only St Albans, but also the neighbouring towns, including Hatfield.


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Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

The missing link for motorway

SIR – So there is a ‘secret’ plan to provide an M25 connection to service the proposed SRFI! (Letters, August 7) I rather think not, and such fanciful conjecture is completely at odds with the facts to date. Sticking to those facts, and as previously noted, a prime particularly salient point, and on-running sore, is that there is a significant risk that rail paths will not be available so as to assure Helioslough’s ability to provide the necessary scope for the planned SRFI, synonymous with a corresponding risk of the facility, in effect, operating at least partially as a “road to road” distribution centre. Network Rail, despite a request to do so, regrettably did not attend the appeal hearings, but their vague written response as to the requisite path availabilities equivocally stated that they could “offer no guarantee that the currently available paths will be available in the future because they are open to all licensed freight operators. All the paths required for the SRFI would need to be bid for and are subject to the industry wide timetable planning process.” Nevertheless, the latest Inspector made what can only be a highly subjective assessment that the “timetabling and bidding process should ensure that sufficient paths would be made available.” Similarly, on the viability of the planned gauge enhancement work, the Inspector declined to assess the risks, stating that Network Rail’s Guide to Railway Investment Projects was “an internal NR evaluation method and not part of the planning process” dismissing any potential problem with the words “these are commercial considerations rather than those relating to land use.” So in effect the appeals process has excluded any definitive consideration of the requisite rail paths not being available. But what if they are not? Helioslough’s own application admits the need for safeguards to be set up to assure their meeting of conditions. Such conditions must include stipulated sanctions should Helioslough fail to perform, and provision for the enforceability of those sanctions, either in this crucial aspect of improper use or for any other failure. In addition, no planning permission should be finalised without the precedent incorporation of: Confirmation by the Parent Companies of Helioslough Ltd that any obligations or undertakings of Helioslough Ltd are fully covered by irrevocable Parent Company Guarantees; Satisfactory evidence of the Parent Companies’ professional and financial integrity, so as to guarantee assurance of their ability to furnish any warranties, first written on-demand bonds, etc, for the meeting of all costs and conditions encompassing the scale of Helioslough’s proposals;I am not aware of any such provisions - evenly remotely connected - incorporated within any documentation, including the present Section 106 agreement, the provisions of which appear to be limited to those included within the Unilateral Undertaking between LaFarge, Gorehambury Estates and Helioslough Ltd. These matters need to be resolved!


Park Street Lane, Park Street, St Albans

Why can’t they do it in the roads?

SIR – It is very disappointing to read that Cllr Roma Mills is having to struggle so hard to get the county council to make greater efforst to get road repairs carried out. The stretch of Waverley Road facing the city hospital is in a dreadful state,far worse than many other roads which have been recently re-surfaced. From your report last week it seems that the only constructive efforts being made are the obstructive actions of the “jobsworths” at county hall who are afraid to deviate from long made rotas of where work should take place. It is quite common to see official notices in your columns warning of work being scheduled for as far as six months in advance. I suggest it is high time that someone in authority at county hall should grasp the nettle, take notice of a local councillor who knows her ward and follow Churchill’s edict “Action this day”, rather than fend her off with the excuse “it’s not due to be done till Christmas”. Whilst writing perhaps I should point out that when Hall Place Gardens was recently resurfaced, the yellow lines were not re-instated at the time so that more than a week later uncontrolled parking is taking place and it will be very difficult to get the road cleared so that the yellow lines can be put down. A little joined-up thinking needs putting in place and PDQ too.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

The squeezing middle of the city

SIR – St Albans – affluent, mostly middle class (whatever that is supposed to mean), above average income and house prices in the high several hundred thousands. A visitor, say from Rotherham or, even, Mars, might be lulled into thinking that ours was the epicentre of mild manners and politeness personified. Not so. Scratch just beneath the surface, drive into any residential road and you are likely to find another species lurking in among the daintily detached dwellinghouses. And it’s not, before you accuse me of stereotyping, foul-mouthed chavs or errant youths with no sense of propriety. No, this primordial species is St Albans finest – outwardly exemplary, upright citizens, fifty plus and with just as much attitude as money. Give them a chance and they’ll show their true colours, just as foul mouthed and ill-behaved as any resident of HMP! Only last Sunday, I was driving to Tesco. Nothing unusual about that. However, as we all know, there are limited spaces in the rear car park. Waiting patiently to enter and proceed into a vacant space, an elderly gentleman about 70 tapped on my car window. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” he shouted. “I beg your pardon,” I replied, too shocked to retaliate and admiring of his chutzpah in attacking a much younger man. I then smiled to placate him. That was my fatal mistake. With that, he spat, yes spat at my window and waltzed off. I wondered what crime I had committed to make him so angry and pinched myself not to respond to his actions. Then there’s the pseudo WI, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouth brigade in M&S. There I am looking through the tomatoes to check the best before dates and quality when a Laura Ashley skirted woman of about 60 swore at me as if I was committing a crime for having the audacity to touch the produce. I wouldn’t mind but on both occasions, I was completely innocent of any wrongdoing. These two ‘persons’ would make ideal traffic wardens, particularly for Drovers Way, but are probably very comfortably off living somewhere in deepest Marshalswick. St Albans? Does it really merit its status as a desirable place to live when such detritus dirties its doorstep? Over to you!


Green Lane, St Albans

Cravells Road, Harpenden

Pop go all the weasel words

SIR – (Letters, August 21) Judas Iscariot was not paid money (for his act of betrayal) by a high priest as an act of “fiduciary duty”. Your correspondent, Mr Walkington who used to sit behind us of a sabbath, misunderstands what a “weasel word” is. He berates the motivation of his own party’s county councillors (along with the others) over their sale of Green Belt land. A “weasel” is a person or party who gives an answer to a question in one way to one person and implies a different meaning when replying to another. I proposed “assisted dying” and “proposed” as examples in other contexts, but the principle is the same. Be consistent.


Marlborough Gate, St Albans

Allot of bother

SIR – Alan Bunting makes interesting arguments in favour of building on allotment land in the south of the town rather than green field regarding it as the “lesser of evils.” Were it for a new secondary school his argument would have some merit as all the schools are to the north of the town with their attendant open spaces. Perhaps as other writers have suggested build on golf courses which we have in abundance; the common, large tracts of which are restricted as a golf course; the large houses in parts of the town are another source just ripe for development. Granny annexes built in the gardens of already substantial houses? Subdividing some to multi-occupancy first, not the garden space of small homes with handkerchief patches deemed as sufficient by government guidelines. Cravells Road since we moved in over 30 years ago has seen three houses demolished to make way for rear garden development and fill-ins. From the junction of St John’s Road to the Southdown roundabout the number of dwellings had almost doubled, 69 original properties minus the three have seen a further 61 added. We are full, stuffed and on high density. Proof of the increase of population at this end of town is that we’re getting two new pedestrian crossings almost without request. Some correspondents have suggested NIMBYism is behind all letters of protest but there are actually petitions to have the new secondary school at this end of town, not in opposition to it.


Cravells Road, Harpenden

Cashing in on council car parking?

SIR – Yesterday I had occasion to visit both Watford and St Albans council offices and therefore needed to park in both authorities’ public car parks. The difference in costs for two hours parking was striking and this prompted me to look up costs in neighbouring authorities’ central car parks.Watford – £1.20 (£2.00 for INTU); Welwyn Garden City – £1.50; Hemel Hempstead – £1.30; Luton - £1.20/1.40 (£2.00 for The Mall) St Albans – £2.80! You have to wonder if St Albans District Council is deliberately trying to destroy the viability of the city centre. Does it have anything to do with the control of the council being effectively from Harpenden – or just that councillors can park for free (supposedly if on council business)!


Park Street Lane, Park Street

Thanks for generous animal aid cash

SIR – Animal Aid would like to thank the people of Harpenden for their generosity in helping us to raise £147.66 at a street collection on Saturday, August 2. Money raised from street collections will help fund our peaceful campaigns and important educational work on all aspects of animal cruelty. For more information on how to prevent animal cruelty please call Animal Aid on 01732 364546 or visit the Animal Aid website: www.animalaid.org.uk


Animal Aid Collection Co-ordinator

Youth Connexions is made up with music

SIR – I am writing to congratulate the Youth Connexions team on the wonderful Summer Sounds event on Saturday, July 26. This was a free music festival for 13-19 year olds held in Clarence Park and showcased young local acts. From the outset young people (including my son) were involved in the organisation of the event, brought onto the committee and encouraged to offer ideas, and they also had to help set up and clear up on the day. A competition was held to decide on publicity designed by young people and acts had to submit audition material for the chance to perform on one of two stages. The standard of acts on the day was extremely high and although the numbers attending were not as high as hoped, probably due to the holiday getaway, those who did enjoyed a fantastic day in a beautiful environment listening to local, live music. The security was excellent and the zone kept alcohol and drug free. Particular thanks to Debi Roberts and her team for their huge efforts, and to Youth Connexions for providing the funding. It would be wonderful if Youth Connexions could make Summer Sounds an annual event, perhaps at the end of the summer holidays so that as many young people as possible could take advantage of this wonderful day showcasing the best of young, local musical talent.


Mount Pleasant Lane, Bricket Wood