Massive Tesco would be ‘madness’

“Madness” was the way a proposal to double the size of the Tesco superstore in Watford was described this week. At a meeting of Watford Council’s development control committee on Wednesday, Councillor Paul Woodward severely criticised the plans to transform the Lower High Street store into a monster hypermarket. Cllr Woodward said: “It’s absolute madness. I just wonder about where we are going with this shopping thing. It’s getting bigger and bigger and one day, I reckon it will just go boom.” The new Tesco “Extra” development would double the size of the store, enabling it to sell all manner of goods, not just food. It is based on the European hypermarket concept where big is beautiful.

[December 5, 1997]

School plans to weigh girls

Teenagers at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls are to be weighed regularly in a pioneering move to safeguard against eating disorders. 14-year-olds at the top independent school near Elstree will be monitored in a bid to detect tell-tale signs of either the slimmer’s disease, anorexia nervosa, or bulimia. Head teacher Mrs Penelope Penny told members she intended to introduce the weigh-ins as girls’ schools were “more worried about eating disorders than almost any other issue”.

[December 5, 1997]

Planting for the future

A staggering community effort has resulted in a forest springing up in Bushey this week. Hundreds of volunteers and a dozen schools helped plant saplings across a 20-acre section of Merry Hill, Bushey, to coincide with National Tree Week. The drive began on Saturday and continued throughout the week with an estimated 30,000 young trees planted on the former farm that was bought for the community last year.

[December 5, 1997]

Shape of things to come

Controversy over the route of a new road that will take traffic away from the crowded streets of west Watford has marred the unveiling of an ambitious blueprint for the area’s future. The Government has given Watford Council more than £10million to spend on regenerating west Watford, widely regarded as the most deprived part of the borough. But the scheme could put Watford Council on a crash course with Three Rivers District Council, which is likely to oppose the route of the proposed new west Watford relief road. Plans also include the much-debated Croxley rail link, which will join the Metropolitan line underground station at Croxley Green to the main line rail service at Watford Junction.

[December 12, 1997]

Historic house to become flats

A developer looks set to convert one of Rickmansworth’s most historic buildings into flats. Contracts for the sale of The Bury have been exchanged but the identity of the new owner has not been revealed. The sale comes months after Three Rivers District Council issued a compulsory purchase order on the Grade II listed building following concerns over the upkeep of the house. It is understood the new owners intend to apply for planning permission to convert the large building into flats.

[December 12, 1997]

Cold comfort

People had to wrap up warm to keep out the harshest chills of winter this week. Snow fell on Wednesday morning, giving south west Hertfordshire a festive dusting, but disappeared later in the day as milder air washed over the area. Forecasters say more snow could be on the way though the odds are against a white Christmas.

[December 19, 1997]

New computers put pupils online

Pupils at St Clement Danes School have access to the Internet thanks to a £150,000 injection of computer equipment. The state-of-the-art facilities were installed at the Chorleywood school last week. Governors of the school bought 61 new computers for the school. Most of them are housed in a specially-adapted room and the new technology offers access to the Internet. Student James Leno, 14, was one of the students testing out the new computer system last week. “It’s really good because you get the chance to get acquainted with information technology, which is an important part of the world now. It’s going to be even more important in the future.”

[December 19, 1997]

Seasonal setback for traders

Cautious shoppers have kept Watford retailers waiting for their Christmas presents this year as spending in the town has failed to live up to expectations. But there could be more belated cheer as stores are predicting a massive cash windfall when the sales start. Tentative buying mirrors the national trend that saw retail sales figures fall last month for the first time in two years. Despite the bad news, Watford remains a premier shopping location with The Harlequin drawing crowds of up to 400,000 people spending at estimated £10million per week at peak times.

[December 26, 1997]

What was happening in the world in December 1997?

• The 18th James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, premieres in London (December 9)

• Japanese train builders claim the world speed record at 332mph (December 12)

• The Spice World movie premieres in the UK (December 15)

• An episode of the Pokémon TV series is aired in Japan and induces seizures in hundreds of children (December 16)

• Myra Hindley, one of the Moors murderers, loses her High Court appeal against the government’s decision to keep her behind bars for the rest of her life (December 18)

• The film Titanic premieres in the US (December 19)

• The first time a Chanukah candle is officially lit in Vatican City (December 24)

• 50-100 villagers are killed in the Sid El-Antri massacre in Algeria (December 24)

• Protestant paramilitary leader Billy Wright is assassinated inside Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland (December 27)

• Hong Kong begins to kill all the chickens within its territory to stop the spread of a potentially deadly influenza strain (December 29)

• In the worst incident in Algeria’s insurgency, 400 people are killed (December 30)

• Microsoft buys Hotmail email service for $400million and re-launches it as MSN Hotmail (December 31)