© 2017 The Harpenden Society
Christmas came early for The Harpenden Society when, within a few days in autumn, two announcements were made which raised realistic hopes that two objectives for which The Society had been campaigning for over two years might come to fruition.
.'A vibrant hub for people to manage their health and wellbeing' is how the business plan describes its vision for transforming the Harpenden Memorial Hospital site. The Herts Community NHS Trust has issued its plan Developing a Health and Wellbeing Campus at Harpenden Memorial Hospital – Integrating Health and Social Care, an ambitious programme to offer the town a range of clinical and treatment services in a welcoming setting, alongside partnership with a charity or other health agency – MENCAP is one likely possibility – who would fund and run a residential care component on the site.
This project, likely to be one of the biggest public service ventures of its kind in Harpenden, could be started as early as 2016.
The Red House Forum is the ginger group established by The Society and by County Councillor Teresa Heritage, who has played a major role in this campaign. With members from both professional ranks and local opinion, it has been to the forefront in campaigning for this outcome and will stay in business as a local monitor of the scheme. The business plan includes a paragraph that reads:
'The people living in Harpenden are extremely interested in the provision of healthcare for the future in Harpenden, none more so than the 'Red House Forum'...The group has been actively seeking a solution for Harpenden Memorial Hospital...This Forum is an effective working group to provide public oversight of the redevelopment of Harpenden Memorial Hospital and will be able to provide a public 'sense check' during the development.
On Thursday 24 October The Society's public meeting was addressed by David Law, Chief Executive of the Herts Community NHS Trust, with Mark Carman, Project Manager for the plan, also much involved. A packed Park Hall, with almost as many standing as sitting, listened intently and appreciatively to this clear-cut outline and responded with concise, useful questions.
A New Beginning for The Red House
Rather more controversially, The Harpenden Society welcomed the Herts County Council plan for a new secondary school to be built on the Lower Luton Road. Chris Marsden, our chairman, following a vigorous committee discussion, sent to County Councillor David Williams, who has been in the van of promoting the new school, a resounding message of support. 'We see this', he claimed, 'as a positive result of our work with the Harpenden Parents Group and others alongside the powerful efforts of local councillors.' His request that The Society be included in future discussions about encouraging 'the school to become a key part of the local community' has been met with a pleasing affirmative reply from county councillors.
For two years The Society's Education and Leisure Working Group, in concert with the 400- strong Harpenden Parents Group, has campaigned for new schools in Harpenden. We were heartened to find that the figures supplied by the county demographers were much the same as those calculated by the Harpenden Parents.Group analysts. Peaking in 2019 the shortfall in secondary school places means that Harpenden is critically in need of a fourth secondary school, recruiting six classes of about thirty children for each year, some 1260 in total.
How perilous it would be to try to second-guess or reject this once-in-a-generation proposal. One of the first messages of support we received was from a mightily relieved parent with children at the Lea Primary School:
'Really great news about the secondary school – it is without doubt that The Harpenden Society and the Harpenden Parents Group have played a key role in getting to this position.'
The Society has taken a strong line in the ongoing discussion by stressing the need to begin a public conversation about what sort of school is required, how it should be integrated into the local community and whether, for example, it should develop specialisms like the other three secondary schools in the town. This approach has been broadly welcomed. Eric Midwinter, education spokesman for The Society said, 'it is imperative that the new school gets off to a flying start, enjoying proper parity with the other schools. It must be fourth equal, not fourth best.'
A New Initiative in Secondary Education
There is plenty of work to do before these two fine schemes become reality but, at least, we have momentum and may look positively ahead. Please go to our website where you will find guides to on-line petitions calling for support for both the Red House and the new school plan.
Above left to right. Eric Midwinter, The Harpenden Society; David Law, chief executive of the Herts Community NHS Trust; Mark Carman project manager, County Councillor Teresa Heritage, co-organiser of the Red House Forum with Eric Midwinter
Colleagues from the Harpenden Parents Group shared The Harpenden Society stand at Harpenden’s Discovery Day in June 2012