A snapshot of life in September 1983

Town centre blaze

Fire swept through a Watford town centre television and video rental shop causing up to £20,000 damage on Wednesday. The fire, at Granada Rentals, raged for 45 minutes, as firemen from three stations fought to contain the blaze. Firemen donned breathing apparatus and braved the choking black smoke to get into the building and check that no one was inside. Granada’s district manager Mrs Anne-Marie Miller said: “The fire seems to have started after an electrical fault in a small cupboard. It was nothing to do with any of the televisions or videos on show but they were all ruined.”

[September 2, 1983]

Maxwell’s store plan rejected

Print tycoon Mr Robert Maxwell has lost the first round in his bid to bring a giant hypermarket to North Watford. Planning councillors this week took under three minutes to reject the plan for a SavaCentre, which would be run jointly by Sainsbury’s and British Home Stores, on the Odhams site. Councillors on the Development Control Sub-committee argued that the 175,000 sq ft SavaCentre would harm town centre trade and more jobs could be provided if the 18-acre site was turned over to industry. This week Mr Maxwell’s property advisers were preparing to appeal against the planning decision to do battle at a public inquiry.

[September 16, 1983]

Why we went to Novgorod

Watford’s Labour-run council will be urged to press ahead with its controversial link with a Russian town despite growing criticism over the proposed twinning. Council leader Cllr Fred Hodgson – who was one of the Watford delegation to arrive back from Novgorod on Sunday – will push for the Russians to be invited back to Watford for the second part of the forming of the link. Last week the council’s Tory group lashed the Labour leaders for going ahead with the trip so soon after the shooting down of the South Korean airliner. But Cllr Hodgson said: “The Tories have shown gross irresponsibility in talking about this without knowing the facts.”

[September 16, 1983]

Pool complex welcomed

Plans for a new paddling pool complex in Cassiobury Park, Watford, which could cost up to a quarter of a million pounds, met with the approval of councillors this week. The new-look complex has three separate pools all at different depths. These will be enclosed by a four-feet-high circular fence. In-keeping with the circular design, plans show a handful of hut-like buildings at one end of the complex. These will house a kiosk, shelters, stores, first-aid post and toilets. Limited funds mean that the complex would have to be built in stages, to stagger the cost. The first stage, costing £150,000, would be the building of the pools with a concrete surround. The wooden fence would also have to be included to solve the problem of wandering dogs, which have plagued the park’s existing pool.

[September 23, 1983]

Charter Place debate

Plans for the revamping of the Charter Place shopping centre in Watford were discussed behind closed doors at a special meeting last week. It is known that councillors have been looking at two sets of plans, which would give the complex a space-age look. The proposals include roofing in the Charter Place shopping area and providing more facilities for the public. Councillors are now set to visit a completed shopping centre scheme at the invitation of consultants.

[September 30, 1983]

What was happening in the world in September 1983?

• A Korean Air Lines flight is shot down by a Soviet Union pilot when the commercial aircraft enters Soviet airspace (September 1)

• Six men walk underwater across Sydney Harbour, covering 82.9km in 48 hours (September 4)

• President Ronald Reagan announces that the Global Positioning System (GPS) will be made available for civilian use (September 16)

• Heavy metal band Kiss appear in public without makeup for the first time on MTV (September 18)

• St Kitts and Nevis declares independence from the UK (September 19)

• 38 Provisional IRA prisoners hijack a prison lorry and smash their way out of HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland (September 25)

• Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov averts a worldwide nuclear war by correctly identifying a warning of attack by US missiles as a false alarm as the Emergency Broadcast System goes off on multiple television and radio stations in the US (September 26)