Comment: Local Newspaper Week 2014 - How the Herts Ad has been making a real difference in the district for 159 years

PUBLISHED: 11:34 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:34 16 May 2014

Herts Advertiser front pages

Herts Advertiser front pages

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Local newspapers have a vital role to play in their communities – and it is a responsibility we at the Herts Advertiser take very seriously.

This year the annual Local Newspapers Week initiative is based around the theme of Making a Difference, something we at the Herts Ad believe this newspaper does week-in, week-out, on behalf of our readers across the district.

For example, over the past year, we have continued lobbying against the hated Hatfield incinerator and unwanted Park Street rail freight depot, campaigned to save the Gardens of the Rose and helped spearhead an awareness drive to support our local market.

We exclusively revealed plans by Welwyn Hatfield borough council to build thousands of homes and a new travellers’ site on green fields within the district, helped support street traders in their bid to review inflexible council fees, and highlighted problems with new speed humps on cycle paths through Verulamium Park in St Albans.

The Herts Ad has been actively involved in warning about the lack of a Strategic Local Plan for the district, and the planning decisions made at appeal as a result, and has been instrumental in highlighting the implications of the Luton Airport expansion bid.

This newspaper was the first to reveal secret plans for a new secondary school on farmland in Batford, identified potential areas of housing development earmarked by an independent Green Belt review, and explored the massive cost to taxpayers caused by repeat applications for the development of the Sewell Park site off Harpenden Road.

Throughout the year we have held the local NHS Trust to account for delays in ambulance call-outs, and publicised passengers’ problems arising from changes to bus service routes. We drew attention to the plague of pound shops blighting St Albans city centre, and the latest bid to open yet another coffee shop chain there.

One of the most contentious stories we published this year was a bid by St Albans School to introduce a one-way route for coaches dropping off pupils in Romeland, effectively turning the historic gardens into a traffic island, proposals which have since been abandoned.

We have a proud tradition of informing our readers and holding people in power to account, no matter who they are, and our stories about the crisis surrounding the St Albans Food and Drink Awards resulted in the council launching a major review of the event in response.

The Herts Advertiser also revealed plans by the Royal British Legion to sell-off its St Albans branch, campaigned for increased safety measures on the Redbourn Road following the tragic death of cyclist Mark Greenwood, told our readers exactly what was going on following the shock closure of the popular Veer Dhara restaurant, and announced the news that Harpenden House Hotel was to be sold for redevelopment as housing.

We have remained vigilant about the apparently temporary closure of St Albans Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool, the future of Harpenden’s former Westfield allotments site, and the always volatile issue of school places.

We also actively support local events, ensuring they have the publicity they need to succeed, including in this year alone: St Albans Charity Cycle Ride, Grove House Midnight Walk, the Herts County Show, the Herts 10K, the Mayor’s Pride Awards, Harpenden Carnival, the Alban Weekend, Harpenden Lions Highland Gathering, Classics on the Common, Magna Carta 800, St Albans Fashion Week, Harpenden Christmas Carnival, St Albans Film Festival, Residents First Weekend and many, many more.

The Herts Advertiser is also taking an instrumental role in setting up St Albans’ inaugural Literary Festival, with support from key volunteers and other sections of the community.

Our #SuperStAlbans Twitter campaign, aimed at highlighting why the district is such a great place to live, has become a viral sensation across social media, with residents and businesses alike backing the initiative.

We have also supported hundreds of local residents in their charity efforts over the past few months, whether they have been cycling from London to Paris or spending 24 hours underwater, helping raise thousands of pounds for good causes both locally and nationally.

In so many ways, for so many different people, the Herts Advertiser makes more than just a difference, it actually changes lives. We break stories that really have an impact, we help change local policy and we provide the perfect platform for our community’s everyday heroes to get the recognition they deserve. Long may it continue.

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CountryPhile

Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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