Welcome to the official website of the Tring and Berkhamsted Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

  • Welsh Flag Portmeirion
    Article: Aug 11, 2020

    Rosemarie and Nick had a short break this year already with four days in Wiltshire, when we were very lucky with the weather, but then the rest of their holiday plans ( like those of everybody else ) were wrecked by covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown. Not that they're complaining - a friend of theirs lost his wife through covid in March. The disease must be taken seriously and very many families have lost multiple loved ones.

    However they were ( again like everyone else ) finding the lockdown tedious and frustrating, so as soon as the relaxation started and hotels started re-opening Nick started looking for accomodation in Wales. The news was that the hotels would open from the 1st August. As soon as the Llywodraeth Cymru announced this officially, Nick rushed to the computer and booked four nights at Gwesty Portmeirion, getting a good deal and a room from the 3rd, the first night the hotel actually opened.

    The restaurant was superb and the social distancing imaginative, effective and practical, though the one-way circulation did take you out of the French windows and round through the garden to get back in by the front door. The staff all wore masks and all the guests were very disciplined in respecting social distancing. The only small disadvantage was that with reduced seating and tables, the meal times had to be carefully fitted in over a long timeframe. Room service was suspended during a guest's stay, but then you have to tidy up for yourself and make your own beds at home - so not a big deal!

    Because Portmeirion is built on a peninsula projecting into an estuary and a couple of miles from the mountains, the rain - and there was quite a lot - tends to miss it when the wind comes in from the west. This meant they were able to enjoy some lovely woodland walks, sheltered from the winds. These became quite powerful however, when they emerged at one point onto a cliff top location with a spectacular view.

    Sadly the heritage railways were not running and the Cambrian Coast Line was on a very reduced timetable for key workers only. Nevertheless they went out by car to Portmadoc where they managed to combine walking, birdwatching and shopping and, on another occasion, a car trip to Criccieth, Pwllheli and Tremadoc and some more fine blustery walks along the coast and the beaches.

    One point did strike Nick since his last visit to Wales 5 or 6 years ago - Welsh speakers seem to have lost their inhibitions about speaking Welsh in public and in the street and there was a general air of greater confidence and activity, even though there were hardly any tourists around. He was also pleased that, for a change, people now didn't mind carrying on a conversation in Welsh - instead of switching straight into English as in the past. One thing that was also striking was the number of flyposted stickers calling for independence, and a larger number of flags than usual.

    On the downside, however, was the shortage of EV charging points in North Wales and this is something which the Tourist Board, businesses and local authorities need to address. At Portmeirion there were 2 sockets on one column ( each delivering 6.6kW ) and they never had a problem using them, although there were at least 5 electric cars on site. However, during their stay, work was going on to instal another 5 columns (10 sockets).

    Just the same, from Porthmadoc going south, there is no charger at all until Llanfair Caereinion 70 miles away and no rapid charger until the M54 services at Telford about 85 miles away. In addition Nick learned the hard way in England just how unreliable mobile phone apps are - at least Android apps. Bring back the RFID swipe cards, he says! The fact is that the apps often have a problem connecting to the charger and also in reading QR codes.

    And just to reinforce that point Battery EV car registrations in July have now achieved a market share of 5%. Responsible local authorities need to recognise that. At the moment they are trying to ignore the fact that both transport technology and consumer choice is changing - and changing fast.

    Still, Rosemarie and Nick enjoyed the short holiday very much and both felt much better for having got away for a break!

  • Trees (Keith Melton)
    Article: Aug 9, 2020
    • There's no doubt that global heating is changing the UK's climate and making it noticeably warmer. Not all changes are uniform of course. Most people will have heard of the Gulf Stream. This is a stream of warm water which drifts across the Atlantic and keeps the UK 5 degrees C warmer than the corresponding parts of Canada. The ocean movements are quite complex but the Gulf Stream is slowing down. At the moment there is a 15% chance is could stop by the end of the century. If that happened then the UK would feel the chill quite quickly. Of course that might not happen and, if it did, then it might still be centuries away.

      However, for the present, the flow is being maintained, so for the moment we continue to have a slowly warming climate and this means that animals and fish, birds and insects, plants, fungi and microbes can all live happily a litle bit further north every decade. Unfortunately, combined with global trade, this has led to plant and tree diseases and unusual fungi and insects moving into England and slowly spreading north.

      10 to 15 years ago we lost most of our elm trees to Dutch Elm Disease and more recently a number of insects and bacterial and fungal diseases, spread by their own insect vectors have reached southern England and are spreading out from there. These are Black Weeping Canker, Ash Dieback Disease, the Oak Processionary Moth, the Asian Longhorn Beetle and a bacterium called Xylella. These affect Horse Chestnut, Maple, Plane, Oak and Ash. In addition tree health in the county is generally declining due to longer, drier periods in the summer, increased wind load when in leaf, air pollution and the effects of increasing urbanisation when work to services often damages tree roots. This is in particular damaging many of the urban trees planted in the 1950s/60s.

      The county has a responsibility to reducing injury and damage to property caused by trees shedding branches or falling down, but these events cannot always be predicted from visual inspection. Where agency agreements with borough or district authorities exist the county council can rely on assistance fom their staff to help out, but nevertheless it is proving difficult to maintain the routine 3-yearly inspections, though priority is obviously given to urban highway trees and those close to main roads.

      The county council values trees not only for their amenity value and effect on well-being but also for their role in reducing airborne pollution and in removing carbon dioxide (at least temporarily) from the atmoshphere and following Member pressure, officers will concentrate on this latter aspect in the future and aiming at replacing every removed trees with at least two new ones. There are recognised difficulties sometimes in replacing removed trees in the same locations it would be almost impossible ever to do that with two new trees.

      Accordingly the county council will now actively look for land in its possession which it could allocate for the planting of new small or large woods with the help of volunteers. This would be to accomodate the "second trees" from urban area removals but would also increase tree cover in the county in line with the Sustainable Herts Strategy in response to the Climate Emergency Motion.

      The County Council already has a Pollinator Strategy in place to encourage the development of a greater extent of pollinator-friendly habitats on the Rural Estates (mostly tenanted farms) and within its parks and nature reserves. It is now going to introduce an Enhanced Vergeside Maintenance regime for highways.

      They will trial a selection of rural swathe-cut verges on single carriageways where one cut would be made to the full width of the verge between the road edge and the boundary hedge or fence, between mid-July and mid-August and with the grass cuttings being removed. The extent of the trial areas will be approximately a quarter of a million square metres and the council will based its practice on The Good Verge Guide published by Plantlife, a national conservation charity. The remainder of the rural swathe-cut verges would be cut as usual but now only once a year instead of twice.

    • If successful the contracts with the 6 borough and district councils with agency agreements will be modified accordingly. If local residents were prepared to accept, then certain urban verges along high-speed roads could also be included and to minimise disruption contracts would in future be awarded to one single contractor to carry out litter picking, grass-cutting and cuttings removal.

  • Textile Bank at Forge Car Park, Tring
    Article: Aug 1, 2020
    Yes, it is - and it's important we do recycle these materials.

    Many textiles are mixes which include artificial fibres and these are (to oversimplify a bit) essentially plastics. It's important that we remove them from the environment, and the best ways to do that are to re-use any wearable garments or to recycle the fabrics.

    Obviously, reuse is the best of all and charity shops are very good at rescuing lots of clothing for re-use. There's even a classification of sorted waste called "Charity Rags", but don't be misled by the name - this is the most valuable non-metal waste stream and clean, good quality "Charity Rags" can fetch £400 a ton if delivered direct to the trader.

  • Traffic at Eaton on Eaton Street at the busy junction with Bluebell Road to the left, and Church Lane to the right. Picture: Denise Bradley (http://images.archant.co.uk/polopoly_fs/1.5513395.1525976163!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/image.jpg)
    Article: Jul 31, 2020

    The Hertfordshire Liberal Democrat Councillors, who are the Opposition at County, Hall have slammed a decision by the Conservative-run administration to spend an extra £11m that the council has been given for road and footway repairs on new roads instead.

    A few months ago, the government provided increased funding for highways maintenance, raising it for this year for England from £1bn to £1.5bn. Hertfordshire County Council's additional funding is just over £11m.

    The Tory Council Cabinet has decided that instead of using it for what was intended by the government, the money will be spent to cover the cost of new roads at the A120, A602 and at Essex Road Bridge in East Herts. This is despite the fact that the council has over £300m in contingency funds for the major schemes like these.

    This information became public during a question at Full Council last week when the Executive Member for Highways, Conservative Councillor Phil Bibby, admitted that the money was not going to be used for the purpose for which the government had allocated it.

    Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, who found out the facts, hit out, "This is a disgrace and an insult to both the government and residents. The government rightly understood that more needed to be spent on highway and footway maintenance and to not do so from what is claimed to be a flagship Conservative authority is an insult to ministers and to all of us who have lobbied for this extra cash."

    "This money should be used to improve uneven and unsafe footways, cut back overgrown paths and cycleways and improve maintenance on our side streets. This was the government's intention. The County council has millions in reserves that it could use to support any extra road building costs - instead, it is saving it for its election year. By all means, ask the government to meet increased costs but we must put our residents first and not new roads. As usual, the Conservatives have got their priorities wrong in the green agenda."

    Nick Hollinghurst, Herts County Councillor for Tring and the Villages, commented,
    "In 2013, in response to the government's emphasis on encouraging Active Travel, Herts County Council drew up an Active Travel Strategy. In 2018 this became part of Hertdordshire's Local Transport Plan (LTP4). It is also as important in terms of the County's Public Health responsibilities as it is in terms of its requirement to plan for the development of our local tranport network."

    "The Exec Member for Highways is seriously off message here. He is ignoring the government's request for Transport Authorities to develop Active Travel Strategies, he is undermining his own administration by deciding not to repair cycleways and footways and, more seriously, he has taken money that the government gave for one specific purpose but is defiantly deciding to spend it on another."

    "Added to which," Nick concluded, "he is acting clean counter to both the spirit and intentions in the Climate Emergency Motion passed unanimously by the Council last year!"

  • Bright Green Plastics Recycling at Castleford (Let's Recycle)
    Article: Jul 27, 2020

    While everyone is in favour of a greater proportion of plastic being recycled, not everyone is aware of the cost and complexity of the processes needed to achieve this. Dirty and/or mixed waste plastic has hardly any value at all and is fit only for the waste stream feed into an Energy from Waste Unit which will cost you about £90 a tonne (you pay them). At least this is cheaper than £113.15 a tonne at a landfill site (includes the Landfill Tax). On the other hand if you had clean, baled mixed bottles strapped on a pallet you might be paid £70 a tonne - and if you had clear, light blue PET bottles you might get as much as £240 a tonne.

    However between the dirty mixed plastics and the clean sorted bottles lies a lot of expensive technology. The first step is to keep the bottles out of the dirty waste stream and the second is to sort that stream to give a pure product suitable to go for granulation and pass the standards for re-use for food and pharmaceutical packaging.

    Governments around the world are responding to calls to increase the proportion of recycled material in plastic products. In the UK there will be a tax of £200 a tonne on plastic produced with less than 30% recycled content and in the EU there will be a tax of €800 per tonne levied per gramme on the weight of unrecycled plastic used to make the product. The EU system gives manufacturers an incentive to get as close as possible to 100% recycled, whereas the UK system just incentifies manufacturers to get over a modest threshold - thogh this will be slowly increased each year.

    Where however does this recycled plastic come from? Well, the answer is that it must come from the municipal and commercial waste stream, and this is the problem.

    Although there is a Norwegian company TOMRA Recycling offering a high tech system that first breaks the waste plastic into flakes. These flakes contain high amounts of PP and PE (which comes mostly from the bottle caps), PET, HDPE, LDPE, pieces of metal, PVC from remaining labels and small quantities of other contaminants.

  • Gooseberries
    Article: Jul 24, 2020

    Growing soft fruit is not easy. The plants need sunshine to grow and ripen - making sugars to provide sweetness needs lots of energy in the form of sunlight. On the other hand they need lots of water, i.e. lots of rain, so all in all that's a bit of a contradiction.

    Fortunately there were alternating sunny and wet periods this year combined with relatively high temperatures. This means it has been quite a good year for soft fruit, and of course natural soft fruits in hedgerows and in the woods have also been plentiful. This of course means less predation by hungry birds - but this doesn't mean you be relaxed. You still need to defend your crops from avian thieves. In previous years we've never managed to get more than a handful of gooseberries for ourselves - the rest being stolen by the local pigeons who stripped the bushes almost bare.

    So this year, because of the favourable weather - but mainly because of a birdproof cage built around the bush using wooden posts and netting left over from earlier years - we were delighted to get a crop of gooseberries weighing 12 pounds!

    That's it for 2020, but today saw some quick work to dismantle the fruit cage and use the materials to go over the top of several dozen cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprout seedlings which have now been planted out. Not a moment too soon either! The seedlings had already been pecked and torn and the have to survive until Christmas time or later if we are to get a decent amount of food from them.

  • Vivarail Class 230 for Wrexham to Bidston Borders Line (Dee Times and Vivarail)
    Article: Jul 24, 2020

    This Monday, 20th July, 2020, the first trainset in an order of 5 battery hybrid passenger trains was delivered to rail and bus operator Trafnidiaeth Cymru in Wrexham to run on their Borders Line service between Wrexham in North Wales and Bidston on the Wirrall. At Bidston an easy change to Merseyrail makes for a fast and frequent service to Birkenhead and Liverpool.

    In the five-step hierarchy of waste management options, immediately after Waste Prevention - the preferred option - comes Reuse, and this is what we see in action here. Reuse of rail rolling stock, especially of locomotives, is not new. However Vivarail, an engineering company now based in Southam, near Stratford-on-Avon, was set up in 2015 with the main objective of apecialising in producing and supplying economic and low-emission rebuilt passenger trainsets.

    South West Railway has chosen Vivarail's Class 484 trainsets to be the basis of improved rail services on the Island Line on the Isle of Wight. These are refurbished London Underground D78 trains originally built in the 1970s and previously used on Transport for London's Northern Line. They will continue to use the existing 750 volt DC third-rail system on the island and the first of the 5 train order is expected to be delivered in September 2020 for testing.

    Vivarail is now producing its Class 230 trainsets also based on London Underground D78 but from stock manufactured in the 1980s. They can be configured as battery-only with a 40 mile range, or as diesel-electric with diesel motors to keep the batteries charged and also able to supply additional motive power in addition to electric traction. Three 2-car diesel-electric trainsets have been running on the Marston Vale Line between Bletchley and Bedford, with the first having been delivered in April 2019.

    The trainsets being supplied to Trafnidiaeth Cymru will be geo-fenced to ensure electric-only operation in intermediate stations and will be fitted with fully accessible toilets, power sockets, electronic passenger information, Wi-Fi, bike racks and air conditioning. The Borders Line a hilly and demanding route and winning this order this is a significant achievement for Vivarail. It is expected that this type of refurbished and refitted passenger train will provide a cost-effective way to retain and extend branch line and lightly-used routes as part of the "reverse Beeching" aspiration in so many localities across the UK.

    Partly based on an article in the Deeside.com to whom acknowledgement for the picture is also due.

  • Fibre-optic due to be installed in Cranbrook this Autumn
    Article: Jul 20, 2020

    Yes, folks, when I stood for Parliament for the Hemel Hempstead constituency for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in 1983 rolling out fibre broadband across the country was one of our flagship policies. Shirley Williams espoused it as her personal crusade and got a detailed three-page article in the Economist, a business affairs weekly established in London in1843. The Financial Times was similarly enthusiastic.

    Shortly before that I had visited the big BT telecommunications research establishment at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk to help discuss optical fibre manufacture quality control - everybody there was very proud of the way they were leading in the technical implementation of fibre optic signalling and communications.

    But alas, UK declared war on Argentina and the Conservatives won the election of 1983 on a wave of patriotic fervour and among a great many other things, BT, which had been made independent of the Post Office in 1981, was privatised in the following year in 1984.

    The Conservative government, then as now, failed to see the potential, decided to leave whatever fibre optics were to "the market", and the UK lead in this field was lost. Only large specialist customers were sought and for the next decade the fastest method of tranmitting large quantities of dater remained a courier driving along the motorway network with a large hard disk strapped to his back.

  • Tring Market
    Article: Jul 19, 2020

    Despite the hard times of the covid-19 pandemic, Tring's Friday Charter Market, first established under a Royal Charter from Edward II in 1315, has kept going.

    Tring was, apparently, also granted the right to hold a Fair every year lasting 10 days and starting on 29th June, the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.

    This 10-Day Fair, seems at some time to have fallen into abeyance, which is not surprising considering the amount of stamina you would need to keep a fair going for 10 days. What with all the drinking and naughtiness which was customary at mediaeval fairs, agricultural productivity would have been seriously compromised, with a corresponding dent made in the profits of the Lord of the Manor.

    It would appear then, that good manorial fiscal governance made common cause with the advocacy of piety and the upholding of moral virtues leading to the 10-Day Fair being more honored in the breach than in its observance. High Summer in Tring calmed down and 29th June is now celebrated in a more wholesome manner as the Patronal Day of the Parish Church.

    However, be that as it may (or may not) have been, the Charter Market on Fridays proved a steady earner down the centuries and stood the test of time.

    And it was certainly in full swing a couple of days ago, now in its 705th year.

    Business was brisk, with well-separated queues, social distancing respected and in a tenth of the time that shopping now takes in a big supermarket.

    So don't let our good market and hardworking traders down - shop at the Friday Market, save time, support small businesses and help get our local economy back on its feet!

    And that's not all, on every second and fourth Saturday of the month we also have the Tring Farmers Market. Next one on 25th July, 2020.

  • Article: Jul 17, 2020

    Every Principal Council should set up structures to ensure the actions and decisions of the Council Executive and the policies of the Council itself are able to be scrutinised by councillors and by members of the public.

    Dacorum Borough Council has set up three Scrutiny Committees to enable this process this be implemented. The Membership of the Committees must be politically proportionate but the Chairs and Vice-Chairs can be from any political party among the members.

    Since May 2019 the compostion of Dacorum Borough Council has been 19 Liberal Democrats (the Opposition) and 32 Conservatives (the Administration). The Committees all have 13 members and the composition by party is 5 Lib Dems and 8 Conservatives (there are no DBC councillors from any other parties). This is the correct proportion of 37% Liberal Democrats. However across these three Committees there are 6 Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs - and here is the problem. Of the 6 only one (a Vice-Chair) is a Liberal Democrat i.e. only 17%.

    All Councillors have to agree to abide by the 7 "Nolan Principles" of Conduct in Public Life. The two most relevant are as below
    4. Accountability