Crisis in housing homeless

Families living on the breadline will be forced to move into bed and breakfast rooms as homelessness in Watford reaches “crisis point”. For the first time in Watford’s history the council is turning to hotels to house families with nowhere else to go. Only one room is left in the town’s hostels and the council is expecting a flood of applications within the next month. Councillor Gez Kelly, housing chairman, said, “To put it frankly, we have a crisis situation. We don’t want to put people into B&Bs but we can’t avoid it.”

[December 4, 1998]

Fan fined for throwing seat

Football fans visiting Watford’s Vicarage Road ground have been given a clear message – that throwing items onto the pitch will not be tolerated. Watford magistrates were considering banning a fan from several games after he pleaded guilty to tossing part of his chair onto the pitch at a game between Watford and Norwich City. - -, 32, of Norwich, was at the match to support the visitors. The court heard that after a few minutes his team scored a goal which was disallowed. -, who was sitting in the Rookery stand, had risen to his feet in celebration and, having fallen heavily back onto his seat, a piece came off in his hand which he lobbed onto the pitch. Magistrates told him he had escaped a ban but was given a two-year disqualification from the England Football Supporters Club.

[December 11, 1998]

Fire crews warn of strike action

Fire crews in Watford are threatening to strike following a decision to downgrade the emergency service. After a year of heated debate, as many as 52 jobs will be axed across the county, although permission has yet to be granted from the Home Office, Herts Fire and Rescue is well on the way to implementing these cuts, according to the Fire Brigade Union. Watford firefighters face having their station moved and their second fire engine removed and replaced with a part-time unit. The firefighters’ union has warned that staff are already “underfunded, understaffed and under fire”.

[December 11, 1998]

Festive ride boosts charity

Visitors to Cassiobury Park on Saturday donated a small fee to charity in order to enjoy a festive train ride hosted by a gift-bearing Santa. The narrow gauge miniature steam railway has for the past five years been lent out to Watford Ladies Circle for one day in December to raise money for their chosen charity.

[December 11, 1998]

Woodland of the future

More than 1,700 trees were planted by volunteers who want their children to see trees lining the landscape at Merry Hill. On Saturday and Sunday 200 volunteers got their hands dirty to plant trees and hedgerows that will eventually form a woodland to be enjoyed by generations to come. It was the final push by the volunteers who did their bit for National Tree Week. A total of 4,000 trees were planted on the 180 acre site.

[December 11, 1998]

‘Hospital dash saved my life’

Hornets’ boss Graham Taylor has spoken for the first time of his dramatic high-speed dash to Northwick Park Hospital last month in what was a life-threatening scenario as his airways became blocked. Taylor returned to the directors’ box at Vicarage Road on Saturday for the first time since his illness. After watching a 4-2 victory, along with chairman Sir Elton John, Taylor revealed his illness had been far more serious than had been generally known at the time. He said: “I can’t remember being ill before in my life. We have all seen ambulances go by flashing those blue lights. But when you are inside one, believe me, you don’t worry about your team’s position in the Football League.”

[December 18, 1998]

Mayor marks human rights push

A project launched by Watford Council last Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. The day was opened by the Mayor Dorothy Thornhill in a shop in Charter Place, on Thursday. The Community Prosperity Partnership was set up to tackle and highlight the causes of poverty in Watford. The shop was designed as a drop-in for people to come and share their thoughts on how they thought they could help solve the problem of poverty in Watford’s community.

[December 18, 1998]

Eviction looming

The last remaining residents of Clarendon Road, Watford, may have their homes bulldozed to make way for a five-storey office block. They say they have been kept in the dark about an application by Gryphon Developments Plc to demolish the nine flats in Grantchester Court and build hi-tech offices. Grantchester Court is one of the few remaining original Clarendon Road buildings and is the last residential block in a thoroughfare of rebuilt and revamped office blocks. Residents have complained about being continually under threat from the fear of eviction following endless applications to have the site knocked down.

[December 25, 1998]

‘Down under’ proves an irresistible force

The force will not, after all, be returning to Leavesden Studios, following an announcement that the next two Star Wars films will not be filmed there. The management at Leavesden had expected the second and third films in the new sci-fi trilogy to be made at the studios but they have been left disappointed by an announcement from Lucasfilm that the movies will be made in Sydney, Australia. The Phantom Menace – the latest instalment in one of the most lucrative cinema series of all time – was filmed at Leavesden last year and is due for release next summer.

[December 25, 1998]

Driving test centre returns

Learner drivers will be able to take their tests in Watford for the first time in nine years when a new centre opens next year. The new test centre will open at CP House, in Otterspool Way, on February 3. It is a replacement for a current centre in Wealdstone.

[December 25, 1998]

What was happening in the world in December 1998?

• The Space Shuttle Endeavour launches the first American component to the International Space Station (December 4)

• Suzanne Nahuela Jovin is stabbed to death in Connecticut. The crime remains unsolved (December 4)

• Hugo Chávez is elected President of Venezuela (December 6)

• The Panda Bar massacre – a terrorist attack believed to have been carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbian civilians – kills 6 and wounds 15 (December 14)

• US President Bill Clinton orders airstrikes on Iraq (December 16-19)

• The United States House of Representatives forwards articles I and III of impeachment against President Bill Clinton to the Senate, following the Lewinsky scandal (December 19)

• The great Boxing Day storm: severe gale force winds hit Ireland, southern Scotland and northern England (December 26)

• Three British tourists are among those shot during a gun battle to free them from kidnappers in Yemen (December 29)

• Leaders of the Khmer Rouge apologise for the 1970s genocide in Cambodia that claimed over a million people (December 29)