© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Summer 2016 Newsletter


Litter curse – schools’ vital role

A  recent article in the Herts Advertiser, highlighting the curse of litter in and around St Albans, echoes the same concerns of many Harpenden residents. It was pointed out that although organised ‘litter picking’ is to be commended, the real focus should be on deterring people from dropping their rubbish in the first place.

 It is hard to fathom the mentality of those who discard their fast food containers, drinks cans, cigarette packets, tissues and plastic bags in the street. Would they perhaps be content to live in the middle of a waste landfill site, oblivious to their nauseous surroundings?

 My own observations in Harpenden indicate that a high proportion of the litter we see all around us is dropped by youngsters on their way to or from school. It seems to me that care for the environent should be included in the much-vaunted National Curriculum. Litter is, after all, another form of pollution, deserving of attention, and indeed legislation, in the same way as noxious vehicle exhaust emissions.  By all means let’s get schoolkids organised on litter picking – which they  

won’t enjoy, but with an important accompanying message that the job wouldn’t be necessary if they took their own litter home or disposed of it tidily.


Anyone from the UK visiting Germany, Austria or the Scandinavian countries cannot help noticing their almost entirely litter-free townscapes and countryside, which local inhabitants take for granted. It would never occur to them to drop their detritus willy-nilly on the ground or throw rubbish from their car windows.

    I fully support the suggestion that it is time for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign – which was launched back in 1954 – to be revitalised, possibly by way of posters around the St Albans District, including Harpenden, and that such a campaign should, crucially, involve active participation of local schools.

Alan Bunting  

New Membership Secretary

The Harpenden Society’s new Membership Secretary Jan Smith was born in Yorkshire, though she married John, ‘a mere Southerner’, and moved to Harpenden with two young children in 1977. She was a volunteer librarian at Crabtree Infants’ School for 11 years.

She and John took an active part in the Roundwood Park School team that fought to keep Sir John Lawes School open when the powers-that-be wanted to sell the land for housing.  She taught English as a second language for two years before becoming a full-time teacher for 10 years at Crabtree School, and later a teacher/governor.  

Jan, John and their youngest daughter later moved to Munich, where she made several close friends, both ex-pats and local German ‘natives’ and became active in the International Methodist Church and the International Women’s Club.

Jan wrote a book about living and working in Munich, which ran to three editions and became the editor of a property magazine, recorded language-learning CDs and taught English to local children, students and business people.

After 15 years away Jan and John returned to Harpenden, where they become immersed in numerous activities, including Friends of Alzey and the Computer Friendly group.

The Harpenden Society becomes for Jan a new and happy commitment.

‘Red House’ redevelopment on course for April 2019 opening

‘As indicated in the Spring issue of Harpenden Society News,the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT) board has approved the ‘Strategic Outline’ proposals for the Harpenden Memorial Hospital site to be developed as a ‘Health and Wellbeing Campus’. The plans, spelled out in some detail by David Law, chief executive of Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT), at a packed meeting of the Harpenden Society in late February, are ambitious.  

He emphasised that new buildings were just part of the outline plans for the proposed facility in Carlton Road, while adding that, because of its age and functional unsuitability, the venerable and historic Red House building itself could not be part of the projected development.

The intention was, said Mr Law, that it would be sold, together with other ‘surplus land’ on the site in order to generate much of the funding required to set up the new Health and Wellbeing centre.  He stressed however that none of the surplus land would be sold for housing development, though a care home for the elderly was a distinct possibility.

Outline approval had been given by the HCT board for the scheme to go ahead, though he cautioned that an administratively lengthy process lay ahead before building work could begin. Planning consent had to be obtained from St Albans District Council and a ‘preferred bidder’ selected from contending development companies.

Nevertheless a target date of April 2019 had been set for the opening of the new facility. Answering a question from the audience as to how confident he was that the timescale target would be met, Mr Law said that, as someone with a ‘half full’ rather than a ‘half empty’ disposition, he put his confidence level on the projected timescale at 90%.

A wide range of illness-prevention as well as direct health services would be available at the centre, notably advisory services intended to help residents of Harpenden maintain a healthy lifestyle, in turn helping reduce pressure on already-stretched local hospitals.

One important aim of the project was, said Mr Law, to maintain the present affection felt by many in Harpenden for the Red House, so that they would feel the new health centre, in the same way, ‘belonged to the town’.  There would accordingly be an emphasis on a local ‘rapid response’ to people’s health-related needs when they arose.


Because we were all living longer than ever before – the number of those over 85 expecting to increase by 50% by 2025 – there was, in Mr Law’s words, ‘a rising tide of people needing treatment for long-term conditions’.  He cited ever improving cancer survival rates as well as increasing numbers of elderly diabetes, dementia and arthritis sufferers.

Specific medical services confirmed for the new centre – which, at the time of writing, has yet to be given an official name – include (for adults): treatment for diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s and leg ulcers, as well as bladder and bowel care and retinal (optical) screening. Current well-used Red House services, notably the blood clinic and podiatry (chiropody) and ophthalmology departments, would continue at the new facility.

Provision would be made for a range of children’s – especially baby and post-natal, as well as speech therapy – services. The centre would also be a base for paediatric health visitors.   

There was also potential, said Mr Law, for the centre to provide a physiotherapy service, and some diagnostics currently undertaken only by hospitals. A consultancy for adult as well as child and adolescent mental health problems was also a possibility, supported by provision of cognitive therapies. Those latter services might also be linked to a Citizens Advice Bureau presence at the centre.

A large multi-purpose ‘community space’ was also envisaged, said Mr Law, available in the evening as well as during the day, for keep-fit sessions, including weight management, yoga, pilates and other health-promoting activities. It was intended that the centre’s management would cater for participation by the voluntary sector, whose multi-faceted activities were brought together earlier this year under the ‘Volunteer for Harpenden’ banner.

Mr Law concluded his presentation with a reference to a pilot scheme undertaken in Watford whose aim was to overcome the often ‘disjointed’ medical and health-promoting services provided by different bodies, namely hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries, and social care workers employed by Hertfordshire County Council.  He said he hoped the new healthcare centre on the Red House site would play its part in blending those different services together for the population of Harpenden.