© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Winter 2016 Newsletter

New chairman-in-waiting for the society

The Harpenden Society has a newly installed vice-chairman, in the person of Phil Waters, (above) who will be proposed as society chairman next April, to succeed Chris Marsden, who will step down after fulfilling the role with distinction for six years.  

Phil moved to Harpenden from London nearly 25 years ago. His children attended primary and secondary schools in the town and, perhaps appropriately, much of his working life has been associated with education. At the University of Southampton in the early 1970s, he focussed on politics and international studies, before joining the GLC’s Inner London Education Authority as a graduate trainee, leading to his appointment as an administration officer at two ILEA further and higher education colleges.

He then became senior administrator of first a teacher training college and then a London polytechnic, in due course leading to his appointment in 1989 as deputy registrar and, in 2001, registrar and secretary, of Hatfield Polytechnic – by when it had become the University of Hertfordshire.



Following his retirement from the university in 2013, Phil continues some part-time consultancy work for the university and, in a voluntary role, he chairs the society of retired university staff.  

Beyond his academic roles, Phil Waters has, for over 20 years, maintained a keen interest in matters relating to transport, which has included helping establish bus quality partnerships in St Albans and elsewhere in the county. He was the founding director and remains the chairman of University Bus Ltd, whose UNO pink- and purple-liveried buses are a familiar sight on routes 610 and 657 in Harpenden and beyond.  

He is also a strong supporter of efforts to improve and enhance the environment, as a director of Groundwork Hertfordshire, a Hatfield-based charity ‘with a green heart’, set up 27 years ago to encourage young people, mainly in the 16 to 25 age group, to get involved in projects aimed at making the areas in which they live and work more attractive and more ‘environment friendly’.

 Lastly, but by no means least, as a board member of the County Sports Partnership, Phil takes a keen interest in the provision of sporting facilities locally, as evidenced by his Q&A contributions at the Harpenden Society’s sport-focussed evening in September.  He is secretary and a trustee of Harpenden Cricket Club and continues to play for the county’s ‘mid-week veterans’.  

He was the founding chairman of the Harpenden Secondary Schools Trust, which promotes co-operation between the town’s secondary schools. That has led to his appointment as chairman of the Harpenden Secondary Education Trust (HSET), the trust behind the fourth secondary school planned for the town.  

Inspectorate meeting leaves SLP and Green Belt plans in limbo

 Development on such a scale would, she pointed out, also intensify the need for additional school places – an issue on which SADC’s planners had failed to work constructively with Herts County Council.

At the end of the meeting it was clear that Mr Hogger – who has the power to throw out the draft SLP – took on board a massive amount of new information. He will accordingly require further time to consider its technical and legal ramifications. He indicated that he may be ready with a ‘verdict’ on the plan some time before the end of the year or in January.

The future of St Albans District Council’s Strategic Local Plan (SLP) – and its contentious proposals to allow building of up to 1400 homes on Green Belt land around Harpenden – remains in limbo following a crucial meeting in late October convened by the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

During the course of a four-hour meeting in a packed SADC council chamber David Hogger, the appointed Planning Inspector, listened to evidence from eight neighbouring local authorities, including Hertfordshire County Council, as well as from individuals, on the issue of the District Council’s ‘duty to co-operate’ with its neighbours.

In what proved to be a captivating 25-minute presentation, Harpenden Society member and practising QC Joanne Whitehead criticised SADC’s evident short-sightedness, in preparing the draft SLP. She highlighted in particular its failure to liaise with the highways authorities on projected traffic growth on the town’s roads, resulting from the planned scale of Green Belt housing development.

Secondary school funding approved

An opening date of September 2018 has been set for the new secondary school to be built on farmland on the corner of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane, following the approval of funding from the Department of Education (DfE).

Despite being a year later than originally hoped, Hertfordshire County Council and the Harpenden Secondary School Trust (HSST), a partnership of local education providers, described the approval decision as a ‘key milestone’ in a town where the three existing secondary schools are greatly over-subscribed.  

County Cllr David Williams said provision had been made for the 12 month delay in the project, arrangements having been made with other schools in St Albans district to accommodate additional pupils if needed.  The HSST’s chair Phil Waters (who is also chairman-in-waiting of the Harpenden Society), thanked Harpenden Parents Group and others in the town for their patience and continued support.

Hotel site gets green light

Plans for the redevelopment by Fairview Homes of the Harpenden House Hotel site have been finally approved by St Albans District Council. They provide for the demolition of ‘outbuildings’ and the creation of 37 homes, including five flats in the 17th/18th Century Grade II* listed hotel building on the 2.7 acre site.

 The go-ahead was nevertheless met with criticism, notably from Harpenden Town Council. Cllr David Williams said the council was concerned that, while many thousands of pounds had been spent on architect and planning consultant fees, the development, in a prime Harpenden location, merited a ‘trifling’ £495,000 offsite cash contribution from Fairview towards the provision of affordable homes.

Fairview spokesman Mike Walker replied that because of high build costs, including the restoration of the listed building, the development could not viably deliver really affordable housing on the site. But the alternative course was to do nothing, leaving the site derelict for an indeterminate period. In addition to the £495,000 contribution, Fairview has agreed to give £88,821 towards the projected new sports and leisure complex planned for Rothamsted Park