Your letters to the Herts Ad...
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I refer to your recent article entitled ‘Expanded airport hit by infrastructure problems’.
My own experience flying recently with easyJet to and from Inverness corroborates what you reported along with other readers who have expressed strong dissatisfaction with the way in which customers are treated by the airlines and the airport itself.
My complaints encompass the following:
1) The £3 drop-off and pick-up charge for passengers for up to 10 minutes wth £1 thereafter - why does Luton Airport do this when it is free to drop off and pick up passengers at most other UK airports?
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2) The traffic jams extending right back to the M1 J10 at peak times sometimes starting at 4.30am resulting in passengers missing their flights.
3) The inordinate delays in retrieving baggage - I had to wait 50 minutes to retrieve my baggage from my Inverness flight this week notwithstanding the fact that the baggage from the Aberdeen flight which arrived later came in first - we were told that as a separate baggage handling company is responsible for baggage retrieval, we would have to address our concerns to that company - not easyJet with whom I fly, another example of ‘passing the buck’.
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4) The severe overcrowding in the departure lounges with long queues for toilets and coffee bar/restaurants with people having to sit on the floor because of the dearth of seats.
5) The ‘cattle class’ treatment of passengers going through hand bags and body searches - there are frequently long queues particularly early in the morning with not enough staff on hand
6) The long waiting times for arriving passengers going through passport control.
It seems to me that the fundamental problem of Luton Airport comes down to an airport which has rapidly outgrown its capacity relative to the number of flights and passengers it is trying to cope with. The airport should have planned and completed the building of the infrastructure relating to terminal sizes, car parks and road capacity way before it bowed to pressure from airlines to accommodate more flights.
The lack of a CEO or ‘chief fixer’ to coordinate and resolve customers’ issues is symptomatic of an airport which pays lip service to the needs and wishes of its customers who come bottom of the pile. The ‘passing the buck ‘ mentality is a reflection of this attitude.
Crabtree Lane, Harpenden
I’m not sure if Mr Affleck of North London, the ‘frequent flyer’ annoyed by the current disruption at Luton Airport (August 18), expects our sympathy. If so, sorry, no chance; it’s the restless (“let’s jet off for the weekend”) frequent flyers who mainly fill the airports, adding to the noise and road congestion we here have to put up with.
Meanwhile, the bland comments from some local MPs at the time the expansion was mooted are now being replaced, too late, by concern about the reaction to the increasing noise problem and suggesting different flightpaths - but where?
Finally, it helps if those you interview say in which direction the offending aircraft were flying, so we can infer where they’re from; and then those affected could perhaps get that airport to pay for effective noise insulation!
Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden
The referendum outcome, it is argued, will strengthen our democracy by repatriating powers from those “faceless bureaucrats” in Brussels who we do not elect, to our parliamentary representatives in London, who we do elect. Consequently we, the British voter will be better represented and have greater control of our destiny. So perhaps now is a good time to ask, how well does British democracy represent us?
Democracy assumes we have a choice of leadership. Ours is between the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems. But Labour is currently unable to fight a general election, a situation which seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon, and I’ve not heard a word from the Lib Dems lately. Do they still exist? If we had a functioning bi- or tri-partite democracy, David Cameron’s resignation should have resulted in the opposition parties demanding a general election, so we could all participate in selection of a new prime minister. Instead, we all sat by and watched unelected Tory party members chose our leader for us. Given the gravity of the impending tasks ahead, it would have been nice if the shape of our future were to be fashioned by someone chosen by the electorate, not by what could be described as the “faceless unelected Tory party bureaucracy”.
Now let’s look at our MPs. In my definition of democracy, their job is to listen to and understand their constituents, and as far as is reasonably possible, represent those views at Westminster. In a perfect democracy, we would all go to parliament every day and represent ourselves. This is not a practical possibility, and the MP’s job is to replicate this as well as possible. They do not have liberty to pursue their own personal views at the expense of, or heaven forbid, in opposition to their constituents. For Anne Main to campaign for Brexit in opposition to the wishes of her constituents suggests that she thinks that she alone is so much smarter than the combined intelligence of the sizable majority of well-educated and well informed St Albans voters she claims to represent. Democratically, this is very dangerous territory. The question is, if there is going to be a parliamentary debate and vote on Brexit, how do we get Anne Main to represent us, not herself?
As one reader put in her letter, if I don’t like Anne Main, I can vote her out. The problem is, our democracy just doesn’t work like that. It comes back to the one party state we currently have, and the concept of “safe seats”. Conservative seats are very safe give the lack of opposition. If you have a safe seat, you can really afford to ignore your voters, claim ridiculous expenses, go on expensive foreign “fact finding” trips to exotic places etc. without any risk of not being re-elected. I am not saying that any politician I know is actually doing these things, but what I am saying is, though we vote for people to represent us, once they have been elected, we really have very little leverage over whether they represent us or not. In fact perhaps we have no more leverage over them than we do over the “faceless bureaucrats” in Brussels.
Recent years, have witnessed many reports in the national press describing Westminster as being controlled by elitist privileged toffs who have never worked in their lives and are completely out of touch with the population. When I have spoken to people I know, most readily agree. So I ask myself, what are the real practical benefits of repatriating powers from a group of people we do not elect in Brussels to another group in Westminster who will use their increased power to represent their own interests.
Antonine Gate, St Albans
Of course Mr Stone is entitled to have opinions, whether derived from his gogglebox or through the writings of others, but I wonder what it is that possesses him to continually bestrew his armchair ideologies over the pages of his local newspaper? He is certainly not shy at carping at others yet is unable to take criticism himself as his recent letter adequately demonstrates. But when he accuses me of “unusually” admitting the EU is shambolic, it gives a clear indication of the shallowness of his logic processes, since his sweeping judgement is baseless, misdirected and in fact quite wrong, as I have often openly criticised EU operations, even at meetings in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Over the past few decades, I’ve visited all EU countries and actually worked in both in Strasbourg and Brussels, brushing shoulders with commissioners and directorate-general staff and have personally served on several advisory panels. I’ve seen at first hand how it works and witnessed the evolution and development of the countless and undeniable benefits that the EU has provided throughout Europe, from social integration, open trading, freedom of movement, protection of workers, infrastructure improvements, modernisation of the poorest sectors, and most importantly, healing the torn wounds so painfully exposed by world wars. The EU was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, for “over six decades contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. NATO’s 7000 nuclear warheads and new missile base in Romania simply cannot compete with that. And yes, Mr Stone, I have also had dealings with NATO and chaired several NATO-sponsored events.
But I am in now way an EU sycophant. I am amongst the first to criticise the opulence, the sheer mountain of bureaucracy, the frustrating attention to needless detail and especially the absurdity of the travelling circus involving truck convoys and upwards of 1,000 personnel yo-yoing between Strasbourg and Brussels for 4 days work every month. The cost to the taxpayer of the inability to make one particular decision is around 1 billion Euros in each funding cycle, and 10 thousand tons of CO2 annually to the planet. There is no question that the EU is in need of considerable development. Its operations are by no means ideally structured and its modus operandi can at times be quite inefficient and questionable.
Mr Stone says he has no feelings of euphoria or victory over the Brexit vote, yet there is an obvious measure of glee, if not schadenfreude, in his own personal and self-declared “certain” prediction of EU “descending into utter chaos”. He poses a hypothetical war-loaded question. I shall give this pretend scenario the same respect I did to Osborne’s (dis-)illusionary pre-EU vote budget - I have absolutely no intention of getting involved in puerile “what if” situations in our local newspaper. I have better things to do in my spare time, like visiting pubs with an open mind, and besides, the readership deserves better.
Nunnery Stables, St Albans
In his letter published in your August 25 issue, Paul Spelzini ignores the fact that the number of passengers transported per square metre will normally be much greater for buses, which are a far more efficient user of road space, than cars – a surprising oversight for the representative of a passenger transport users’ group! How many of the private cars and goods vehicles travelling up and down Holywell Hill actually need to be entering the centre of St. Albans at all, and are just passing through? Moreover, running all northbound bus services via Cottonmill Lane and City Station would presumably involve opening Prospect Road, with its many speed humps, as a bus route and require a new stop to serve the Abbey Station; as well as making the journey into St. Peter’s Street much longer than at present, even allowing for delays at the Peahen junction. Once again, why should those who cannot afford, or choose not to have, private transport be treated as second-class citizens?
The principal cause of the problems at the Peahen junction becomes obvious from only a few minutes’ observation – northbound vehicles wishing to make the right turn from Holywell Hill into London Road are prevented from doing so by southbound traffic from Chequer Street travelling down Holywell Hill, and the vehicles waiting for a gap in the southbound traffic prevent anything larger than a car from travelling north in the narrow left-hand lane at the top of the hill. If the traffic lights were phased so that northbound and southbound flows were alternated, this problem would be eliminated; such phasing is currently in place for eastbound and westbound traffic flows between London Road and High Street, although there seems to be much less of a requirement for it. As introducing an additional north/south phase would make the full cycle of traffic lights at the Peahen even longer than at present, I would suggest the responsible authority apply phasing to the north/south flow and remove it from the east/west flow for a trial period, and monitor the effects.
Trevelyan Place, St Albans
It would appear that problems arising from the ever increasing numbers of taxis clogging local stations and roads is on the rise.
Of late, the vast majority of the short term drop-off and pick-up bays at Luton Airport Parkway have become occupied by taxis. The station operator has recently installed parking sensors in the bays and I assume it is quick to act against “overstayers”. It would appear, however, that this does not apply to taxis.
Station Approach at Harpenden is an ever-increasing nightmare, with aggressive drivers parking not only in their (over) allocated spaces but double parking and regularly leaving precious little access to the public parking area.
Two simple questions: Are taxis legally allowed to take up so much space and, if this is the case, given that they are using the bays for commercial purposes, are they obliged to contribute towards the upkeep of the station for the general benefit of the commuting public?
Then there’s the behavior of taxis in Bowers Way, waiting for Sainsbury’s shoppers. Instead of finding spaces like everyone else, they park outside the shop, obstructing the the traffic. Should you dare to comment, you are met by a tirade of aggression, choice language and threatening gestures. Who do these guys think they are?
Couple all of this with the exorbitant charges and one cannot help but wonder how this “mafia”, seemingly above the law, exhibiting a lack of consideration for other road users and aggressive to boot, can be allowed to operate unfettered and uncontrolled.
Community service? I think not.
Luton Road, Harpenden
I would like to remind fellow readers about the design charrette which commences tomorrow evening Friday September 9 from 7-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10 and 11 10am to 5pm and Friday September 16 7-9pm for the Civic Centre Opportunity Site. Also looking at the wider picture to include the Victoria St entrance to The Maltings. All events will take place in the council offices as they are the nearest and most usable to the site.
The partnership consisting of St Albans City and District Council, Hertfordshire Constabulary, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and Boultbee LDN (owners of The Maltings shopping centre) have asked Look! St Albans to host this event which will be independently externally facilitated with The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community in support.
A design charrette is a relatively short focused collaborative planning method; which brings the talents energies and local knowledge of interested parties to the table, to tackle site specific design aspects of buildings and surrounding open spaces.
Charrettes need to be independently externally facilitated to give confidence to all involved that all voices are heard, not just those who shout the loudest, in reaching a consensus view.
During the events we shall be looking at access, layout, uses, movement, public realm, landscaping and parking, scale, massing, grain, building/block street level access, townscape impact and rooflines, privacy, orientation and light and materials. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with all the terms as all these elements give the overall look and feel of the place.
Over the years this site, in the very heart of our city, has been so very contentious it is about time the entire community had its chance to co create a design worthy of being a legacy for future generations. We are grateful to The St Albans Chamber of Commerce and Kingston Smith for giving us financial support to enable us to leaflet over 35,000 homes and businesses inviting people to take part. If you live in the district but have not received a leaflet, that does not mean you are not most welcome to attend, indeed you are, as it is OUR city centre. My views or that of any other members of the Representatives Group don’t carry any more weight than others taking part.
So often we only have the chance to critique others designs, on this occasion, as with the award winning MoSTA design charrette we co-create the designs.
It is expected that a planning application will be submitted later this year.
Chair Look! St Albans
Regarding your recent article “Mum’s concern about safe way to get to school”.
I am another affected parent, and whilst the buses from Redbourn to Roundwood Park appear to have been sorted this year the council appears to still be ignoring the fact that there is not a safe route for children to walk to school.
The crossing on the A5 roundabout junction is an accident waiting to happen.
Has a child got to be killed here before the council will finally accept their responsibility to make this crossing safe?
The blanket response from the council when they are asked is “it is the responsibility of parents to get their children safely to and from school”. How are parents expected to do this if there is no safe way to cross that road?
MRS M WELLSBURY Redbourn