© 2017 The Harpenden Society
What an outcome! The Society's public meeting on Thursday 25 September offered an opportunity to several of Harpenden's voluntary organisations to inform a general gathering about their activities.
That exercise in itself was well-received but it led to the proposal from the meeting that The Harpenden Society should act as the focus for a closer and more unified approach. This was agreed and a smaller working group, led by Society Chairman Chris Marsden was quickly formed to plan ahead. Ideas suggested include a joint website linked to The Society's website and a bright and breezy stall at each of the monthly Farmers' Markets starting early 2015.
The provisional title for this new body is 'Volunteering Harpenden', the suggestion of County Councillor Teresa Heritage who is a keen supporter of this initiative. It was good to see the co-operative spirit alive and well. In volunteering, as in life, you can get much more done by working heartily together than by steering a lonesome path.
Here is the list of the pioneering First XV, the organisations that began this welcome project. Long may they reign and in ever larger numbers:
Harpenden Helping Hand;
Harpenden and District Local History Society;
Probus Club of Harpenden;
The Harpenden Trust;
Harpenden Village Rotary;
Harpenden Village Inner Wheel;
Luton, South Beds and Harpenden Samaritans; Harpenden Seniors Forum;
Harpenden Parents Group;
Harpenden Film Society.
What one of our correspondents John Kneale termed our 'tabloid scare presentation' on the housing crisis (but he confessed to enjoying it) evoked several vigorous responses by letter and email. John went on to draw especial attention to the 'shortage of affordable and available homes for the less well-off', some of whom have 'been forced out of Harpenden' and he did find 'the usual incantation of the holy Green Belt mantra', on the whole 'depressing'.
Then there was Robert Hill – 'from my eyrie on East Common I do not feel threatened' – but he did enter a strenuous attack on our 'Infrastructure Inspected' column, levelling seven challenging queries on that subject.
David Cumming raised several telling points and concluded 'whilst Harpenden residents may wish to fight any expansion into the Green belt, I think we should in fact be looking to see where we can identify areas of Green Belt that can be released with least impact. Otherwise I suppose the inevitable pressure will have to be confronted in a five-ten year time scale and we could end up with a short-term fix.'
Finally, Bryan Fewell performed a noble civic duty in checking that the costly 'Housing Needs Assessment Report' had been properly and legally obtained via tenders and council approval. As he says, 'it's always worth asking the question to keep these characters on their toes.'
And the fact that it was all above board fails to explain the excessive cost – over £40,000 – for what turned out to be a mediocre piece of work that was scarcely value for all that money.
Penny Ayres tells us what a marvellous Summer Outing was enjoyed at Annables Farm on 25 June 2014. On a lovely summer evening, 40 Harpenden Society members gathered at Annables Farm which has recently been renovated to create a hi-tech learning centre together with a kitchen and other up to date facilities.
After a welcoming cup of tea or coffee Ian Pigott, the farmer and owner, gave us a presentation in which he explained about his 'Farmschool' where he welcomes adults and children from 'town' backgrounds to explain modern farming practices and the source of our food. On his farm he grows wheat, barley, linseed and oilseed rape - and more. He has no livestock. We then had a ride on a tractor with a trailer to see the farm and were given an interesting commentary on the fields and countryside which we passed. Members showed their interest with a wide variety of questions which Ian was pleased to answer.
We then came back to the farm where we enjoyed some excellent wine and nibbles - and a fine time was had by all.
The likely effect of the national housing crisis on Harpenden causes all serious minded citizens furiously to think. The furrowed brow rather than the cheery grin was thus the main feature on the countenance of the audience that attended The Harpenden Society hosting of a meeting to discuss this subject. Over 300 people crammed into the public hall on Monday 20 October to listen attentively to a long explanation by Councillor Julian Daly, leader of the St Albans and District Council and its planning portfolio holder, on why it is being proposed in the draft Strategic Plan to build 9000 housing units in the district over the next twenty years, 5000 on brown field sites and 4000 on green belt locations. It amounts to an average of 436 new homes every year. Councillor Daly was accompanied by Chris Briggs, a senior council officer.
For fully an hour and a half under the expert and fair-minded control of The Society’s chairman, Chris Marsden, members of the audience raised a battery of wide-ranging questions and comments, from the knotty legal, techical and demographic intricacies to more heartfelt pleas about the town’s capacity to cope with so heavy a building programme. Appropriate to the mood of the evening these points were made quietly, courteously and without rancour. Councillor Daly replied in like tones, although there was a derisory and incredulous flavour about the reaction to his assertion that the traffic on the main road through Harpenden had slackened of late. However, as Councillor Daly constantly reiterated, the draft plan may only be amended by the provision of strong evidence, not anecdotal or emotional sentiment.
And this the Chairman of The Society promised to do.