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Archive for May, 2016

Silt extraction from Verulamium Park lake

**UPDATE since original post on 31st May – Environment portfolio holder explains the plan for the lake to the City Neighbourhoods Committee on Wednesday 8th June: click here watch the recording, start at 4 mins and 15 seconds in. **

If you’ve poked a stick into Verulamium Park lake recently you’ll know just how much silt is sitting there, contributing to algal blooms. You’ll also have noticed the stench near the Fighting Cocks end. The Council and the portfolio holder for the Environment, Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles, are working on a long term solution with the Environment Agency. Daniel also agrees that some short term action, specifically the extraction of silt that has accumulated near the Fighting Cocks, is needed and this is happening tomorrow.

Verulamium Park Lake_2016_05_16

A skip containing the silt will be next to the toilet block until the water has drained away. It will then be taken to a licensed waste site. The extraction would have happened sooner but it was decided that it was probably better to wait until after the bank holiday weekend.

There are signs around the lake giving information about how the lake is being managed andthis is being regularly updated.

See http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-green-space/parks/verulamium-park/lake_info2016.aspx

Although the algae is no longer on the lake surface and the lake water is clear, and the park rangers have been ensuring the outlet grid is clear of twigs to ensure the water can exit the lake and have a constant flow through, the algal problem will probably return. Extracting silt from Verulamium Park lake isn’t a sustainable solution and when I asked how much and how often we’d need to do it (if we went down this route) the answer was about £200K every 10 years. I am pleased the Council and Cllr Chichester-Miles are working with the Environment Agency on a long-term sustainable solution.

Should the Government subsidise veggies?

Fresh from watching an edition of Countryfile devoted to veggies*, my mind is turning over the problem of the price of carrots and to a lesser, extent Jersey Royals. One farmer talked about the new national minimum wage meaning he’d have an unsustainable business in four years time and that the most viable option would be to ship out from Essex to Eastern Europe. This is absolutely shocking and when a chap from the Retail Consortium taled about consumers putting downward pressure on prices and retailers being unable to pay our producers more for their crops, my first thought was “why can’t we pay more for our veggies?”

According to the programme buying British is important to people but if it means higher prices, we won’t do it. I’m wondering if there’s a current petition I can sign to encourage all supermarkets to pay producers more and pass the costs onto consumers.

Lettuce-Seascape2

Plant life is vital for good health so should the Government subsidise arable farming? Or could we whack an even bigger tax on highly refined treat food and pass that along to farmers? Or should we just pay more? I am a prudent food shopper who has reduced her family’s meat intake over the past year because it’s better for our bodies, planet and our purses.

I was in Cambridge for work on Friday and I paid 75p for an apple at an innovation centre. I could have bought a packet of crisps or a Mars bar for less I dare say (I don’t know because I don’t buy them – call me out of touch or smug if you like). I paid 75p for the apple because it was a better choice than anything else on offer but I did wonder why on earth a pure, unrefined product cost more than the aforementioned (as I have wondered for many years). Perhaps, I wondered to myself, it’s because they throw a lot a way each week so the price charged factors this is in?

Incidentally, Transition St Albans is showing “Just Eat it,” a film about food waste on Tuesday 7th June at 8pm at St Paul’s Church Complex, AL1 4JP (suggested donation £5). It’s in my diary.

So back to this question of cost. Public Health England’s 2014 Health Survey for England found 61.7% of adults are overweight or obese and our NHS (which was set up in 1948 in part as the most cost effective way of creating a fit workforce after the war, not to deal with lifestyle diseases) can’t cope. We’re not taking enough exercise and we’re eating too much calorie-dense food that doesn’t satiate us, so would it be prudent for the Government to intervene and make veggies cheaper?

I used to believe markets should be left to make themselves but in this scenario it would seem prudent for the Government to intervene and make good food cost less. Here’s my thinking: the people who are over-eating and under-exercising aren’t being given the bill for their healthcare so it’s costing all of us more to fund the NHS. If the Government spent money advertising fruit and vegetables (with as much gusto as the companies who peddle their treat food on bus stop poster boards for instance) and made plant products eye-poppingly cheap then wouldn’t it follow that our health would improve? I know this is incredibly simplistic but the main principle holds: make something attractive enough and people will go for it. Or instead we could charge a fee for access to care and medications related to lifestyle diseases?

Big questions. I feel a debate coming on – perhaps in the SuStAinable St Abans week later this year?

* This is the first time I’ve watched an entire Countryfile (BH Mondays at home are great) and it was absolutely brilliant – social issues, political issues, art, food and farming all blended into an interesting 60 minutes. Cuddle with my dog under a blanket was a bonus. The picture above is made entirely of veggies by Carl Warner who appeared in the programme.

If the bin’s full…

…who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! No, the park ranger!

The park ranger’s mobile number is now on the bins for park users to call if/when they see a bin needs emptying. I started stickering last Sunday morning and just have a few to complete at the Waffle House end of the park.

Stickers for VP bins 2Stickers for VP bins

 

The back story: I thought we were missing a trick in Verulamium Park by not allowing the public easy access to the park ranger to alert him/her*  to overflowing bins and I suggested stickers with the ranger number on them. I met with Council officers and some of the John O’Conner team (including the MD) last year to look at various little things we could improve in the park with little cost. Currently if residents have a problem with street/park cleanliness our Cleaner District phone number (01727 819598) takes you through to a call centre, but I think it’s far better for calls to go straight to the ranger, who knows the landscape of the park, and who can deal with it there and then.

What we haven’t got at the moment is a numbering system for the bins so you can’t call and say “bin 21 needs emptying.” I believe Officers at the Council are drawing this up and our thought was to get going with the phone number stickers ahead of the heavier park usage over the summer.

The rangers work really hard, especially in the summer when they can be emptying the same bin every two hours. It’s like painting the Forth Road Bridge.

Early risers who use Verulamium Park in the summer will know that 6am scenes of paper nakins, crushed cans, empty water bottles and crisp packets are a common site as young people (and it is mainly young people) leave behind the accompaniments to their conversations the night before. My next step is to talk to the John O’Conner team about handing out small bags to groups of young people and say something along the lines of “Enjoy the park and when you’re done please remember to bag and bin everything.”

What do you think?

>> Final thought: join me on my next litter pick in Verulamium Park? No matter how hard the park rangers work, we find it’s useful to have some extra hands clearing the periphery of the park, especially along King Harry Lane where people have been sleeping rough and people in parked cars throw litter out of their windows.

*Currently two ‘hims’ – Hayden and Alan, and Alan is temporarily covering the park whilst a new permanent replacement is found for Peter.

Verulamium Park Playground

VP playground_2016_05When I stood for election last May I told residents I wanted to take action on litter, verge destruction, fly-tipping and to help drive a refresh of Verulamium Park playground. Today I’m really pleased that you can have your say on the playground via a survey officers have just put live on the Council website. What age range should it cater for? Should it stay in its current place or move closer to the splash park?

I’m certain families across the district will have ideas of what they’d love to see in place of the current play equipment,  so please do share your views. Our flagship park deserves something really special and the first step is to understand what the community wants.

Funding

The project has a starter kitty of £50K of section 106 money (money given to the council by developers of King Harry Park, specifically to improve local leisure amenities) and will probably need to raise another £200K from crowd-funding, grants and community fundraisers.

Timeline

The aim is to agree plans by the autumn, fundraise throughout 2016 and create the new play area by late spring/summer 2017. This is a grassroots project and I’m hoping residents will come forward with bid-writing skills, energy to run fundraisers and enthusiasm to join a working party to shape the design. The first step is the survey and then a public meeting (information to follow).

Survey open until 19th June

To share your views, please complete the short online survey by Sunday 19th June.
Jessica Chivers


13 Jerome Drive,
St Albans,
Hertfordshire,
AL3 4LT

01727 856169

Twitter: @JC4SADC

cllr.j.chivers@stalbans.gov.uk

Disclaimer
The views expressed on this website are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Conservative Councillors' Association or the Conservative Party.