Cobb Road

First World Taxes for Third World Conditions

Cobb Road is a small cul-de-sac on a 1950's housing estate in Berkhamsted. There is a small grass circle on the bottom of the road, which is repeatedly churned up by vehicles. These drive onto the grass because parked cars make the road too narrow for them to pass. The resulting mud gets spread about the street and blocks the drains, causing flooding.

In 1996, residents were asked by Mr. Philip Camp of Dacorum Borough Council for suggestions for off-road parking. Residents responded with two suggestions:

a) Widen the road, so the dust cart and delivery vehicles could circumnavigate the circle without impinging on the grass.

b) Make the grass circle into a parking area. The residents realised that obviously this would not leave anywhere for the children to play. After many follow-up calls from one of the residents to Mr. Camp, no answers were forthcoming!

After a period of time had elapsed, one of the householders made enquiries and was told on good authority that the cost would be in the region of 7000. When this figure was put to Mr. Camp, he said he did not know which department was responsible for paying - Highways, Verges or Uncle Tom Cobley.

In February 2000, a petition of the residents in the lower half of Cobb Road was organised by the late Mr. Bob Sear. This was handed to the Clerk to Berkhamsted Town Council, Mr. Colin Westwood, early in that month. He said he would pass this via internal post to Hemel Hempstead.

Seven to eight months passed and nothing further was heard. Enquiries were made of Mr. Westwood, who said he would send another copy of the petition to Dacorum Borough Council at Hemel Hempstead.

Ten days later, an answer was received from Mr. Camp in a letter dated 4th. October 2000. As the original petition was lost, we were now out of time and no money was now available! Funnily enough, there was money for parking provisions in nearby Chiltern Close.

On the 11th. of January 2001, one of the residents received a letter from Diana Webster at Dacorum Borough Council. This stated that Mike Bishop had included Cobb Road in a list of locations for conversion of the verge to parking. It was being considered, and going to the committee later in the financial year.

On the 24th. April 2001, Philip Camp wrote to one of the residents, saying Cobb Road was 112th. on the list of sites for assessment. It was clearly stated that as there had been no accidents, nothing would be done. Perhaps when a child is killed we will move up the list. The letter states that our petition was never placed before a committee as it was dated 1st. February and he did not receive it until September! This was certainly not the fault of residents, but we were penalised.

The first Berkhamsted Town Warden, Mr. Andy Rolls, was also informed of the situation and the flooding which took place every time it rained. He had two workmen clear out the soakaway.

On the 22nd. February 2002, one of the residents wrote to the Chief Executive of Dacorum Borough Council, stating, "The circular piece of grass looks like a scene reminiscent of the First World War!" A reply from Carol Deuden stated that this letter had been passed to Mike Bishop.

Mr. Bishop replied on 28th. February saying that thoughtless people drive over the grass verges. One of the offenders is the driver of Dacorum Borough Council's refuse collection vehicle. On 6th. June 2002, one of the residents wrote to the Chief Executive again stating, "The beautiful grass circle has been reduced by at least three feet all around the circumference! The area is now just dried mud and earth, with enormous unsightly tyre tracks. It looks disgusting and is a hazard for children." This story was featured in the local free newspaper, The Herald and Express, in glorious colour!

On the 12th. and 18th. June I received letters from Mr. Bishop saying that Hertfordshire County Council was responsible for rectifying this situation. I was also informed, by a council employee, that as Cobb Road was on a council estate, we stood no chance of any work being carried out. Surely that is blatant discrimination, which should not be tolerated under any circumstances?

On the 30th. of July in view of Mr. Bishop's comments I contacted Hertfordshire County Councillor Kenneth Coleman (Conservative), who represents Berkhamsted. He sounded sympathetic and said he would come back to me, but never did.

Early in November 2002, we contacted Berkhamsted Town Councillor Geraldine Corry (Liberal Democrat) by telephone. She promised to investigate and call back, but so far the silence has been deafening!

Mr. Bishop who is now titled, "Hertfordshire Mid-West Highways Area Manager Dacorum" (sounds like somewhere in North Dakota, U.S.A.) stated, amongst other things, "You elect various representatives to the town, borough and county councils, and to parliament to decide on the priorities for spending the various taxes collected." So we have a real Catch 22 situation. The Highways department tell us to speak to the politicians and tell them what you want, while the local councillors say they do not have the power to do anything.

The county council is based in the county town of Hertford, which is a long way from Berkhamsted. As long as it has our council tax to pay for fat-cat salaries, pensions, comfortable offices etc., then I do not think it cares a damn about us people on the far-flung corners of its empire. On November the 14th., The Herald and Express newspaper asked for suggestions of how to spend 15,000. Contact Kay Malloy at Dacorum Borough Council, it said. We did, but she was only interested in setting up Neighbourhood Watch schemes. However, she did contact Philip Camp, who contacted Mike Bishop, who was asked to contact one of our residents regarding the flooding etc., but never did.

On 7th of April 2003, John Wood Esq, Director of Environment, Hertfordshire County Council, Hertford, wrote:

"Thankyou for your letter of the 27th of March 2003 enclosing your petition containing 43 signatures from the residents of Cobb Road. In order for a petition to be formally heard at one of the County Council's committee meetings it needs to contain 100 or more signatures."

As there are only approx 28 houses in the road, we would have to forge signatures to reach the target, but of course we are law abiding, unlike the MP's and the government!

Our suggestion, which is not rocket science, is to reduce the circumference of the grass circle by approximately four feet. Black and white bricks could be used as on roundabouts. It is interesting to note that when this saga started, Council Tax per annum per household was 581.55. Now, seven years later, it is 1,092.64. Almost double. So we are paying First World taxes for worse than Third World conditions! No wonder visitors from Europe and the U.S. see it and comment: "It's dreadful - why do you put up with it?"

You tell me why we should have to.

Letter from John Waller to the Daily Mail

Sir,

I bet we will never see this headline in the paper:

HUNDREDS OF MP's MADE REDUNDANT, AS GOVERNMENT CLOSES OFFICES AND RELOCATES OVERSEAS

A government spokesman said, "This will enable us to remain competitive in an industry that has over capacity worldwide. We must have our legislation enacted in a low cost environment. MP's with vastly inflated salaries, inflation proof pensions, expenses etc have priced themselves out of a job and are no longer financially viable. We can employ thousands more in the third world and get higher production at a lower unit cost. This is good news for the UK economy."

Yours Sincerely,
John Waller.

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