Mega motorway plans unveiled

Watford could find itself staring down the barrel of a 14-lane mega-motorway if plans to widen the M1 and M25 get Government backing. The new generation of motorways are likely to be recommended by transport studies next year as a way of tackling the worst congestion in Europe and cutting pollution. The idea was welcomed by the AA and greeted with horror by environmental and public transport groups. If the Government does accept the report’s recommended actions when they are published next year, it will mean expensive, large-scale road projets are back on the agenda after being ruled out by the deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in 1997.

[December 7, 2001]

Grand designs

Two of television’s most infamous designers came to The Harlequin shopping centre last Friday for a book signing. The flamboyant interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and garden designer Diarmund Gavin were at WH Smith to sign copies of their book Home Front Inside Out derived from their BBC2 series.

[December 7, 2001]

Pubs’ licence for ‘mayhem’

All pubs and clubs in Watford have been given permission to stay open for 36 hours over the New Year’s Eve period, following a Government announcement this week. All drinking establishments in the country will be able to serve alcohol continuously from 11am on New Year’s Eve until 11pm New Year’s Day and Watford MP Claire Ward has welcomed the news. She said: “These are sensible measures that build on the similar arrangements around the time of the Millennium celebrations.” However, not everyone welcomed the news. Mrs Irene Adams from the Town Centre Residents Association said she thought residents would not be happy about the news. She said: “I don’t think anyone is going to like this. It could cause mayhem. If people behaved themselves and had respect they would stay out as long as they like but they don’t.”

[December 14, 2001]

New centre opens

Its colour and shape may be a topic of controversy in Watford but no one at the opening of the Peace Children’s Centre on Wednesday could argue against the work carried out within its green walls. The centre, up and running since April, was opened this week by chairman of the Hertfordshire Partnership Trust, Ms Hattie Llewelyn-Davies. The centre provides a range of services to able-bodied and disabled children and their families under one roof, including child and family clinics, baby clinics, dental services, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

[December 14, 2001]

Date set for Sun demolition

The horror story of the dilapidated Sun Printers site may be starting a new chapter after Watford Council announced this week that the buildings are to be demolished. The council said it had reached a deal with the site’s administrators, Andersen, which would mean the majority of the buildings on the site in Whippendell Road would be demolished by August 2002. The news should be welcome relief to residents in west Watford who have had to look at the eyesore for about 12 years.

[December 21, 2001]

‘Our worst Christmas ever’

Anti-mast campaigners say they have been given the worst Christmas present ever after a controversial phone mast finally went up. More than 2,000 residents living in the Cassiobury estate area objected to the Orange mast at the junction of Cassiobury Drive and Stratford Road. But, despite the vehemently fought campaign, it went up on Wednesday. Opponents say they will continue to lobby Watford Council and Orange until the mast is moved and are seeking legal advice. The mast will be switched on in two weeks.

[December 21, 2001]

Santa makes flying visit

The reindeer had been given the weekend off, so Father Christmas decided to use a panther to make some early deliveries. Wearing his traditional red suit, he arrived at Elstree Aerodrome in a twin engine Navaho Panther light aircraft. Children waved as the plane did a low fly past, before coming in to land. Santa clambered down the steps carrying a bag full of gifts, which were given out in the Aerodrome club room.

[December 21, 2001]

New retail park

The vibrancy and character of the High Street may suffer from a decision to change planning rules controlling Waterfield Retail Park, according to the manager of The Harlequin shopping centre. The retail park, which lies in an obscure location off the Lower High Street, behind Tesco Extra, has been empty since its completion about two years ago. But this unused space may now be filled. When Watford Council gave permission for the 75,000 sq ft of shop space to be built, it was on the understanding no clothes, shoes, food or confectionary stores could move in. Owners of the development, Pillar Property, appealed against this rule to a Government planning inspector. He has found in their favour and forced the council to drop its conditions.

[December 28, 2001]

What was happening in the world in December 2001?

• The last Trans World Airlines flight lands at St Louis International Airport, following TWA’s purchase by American Airlines (December 1)

• Enron files for bankruptcy protection, the largest bankruptcy in US history (December 2)

• The Argentinian government effectively freezes all bank accounts for 12 months, leading to riots in Buenos Aires (December 2)

• The first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, premieres in London (December 10)

• The People’s Republic of China joins the World Trade Organisation (December 11)

• Winona Ryder is arrested on shoplifting charges in Beverly Hills (December 12)

• An Islamic terrorist attack at the Parliament of India in New Delhi results in 14 deaths (December 13)

• President George W. Bush announces the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (December 13)

• The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to fortify it (December 15)

• Argentinian president Fernando de la Rúa is forced out of office (December 20)

• Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard an American Airlines flight (December 22)

• A fire at a shopping centre in Lima, Peru, kills at least 291 (December 29)