Year in Review: Looking back on September to December

A facial reconstruction of John of Wheathampstead. Picture: Liverpool John Moores University and Fac

A facial reconstruction of John of Wheathampstead. Picture: Liverpool John Moores University and Facelab - Credit: Archant

The changes in coronavirus restrictions at the

Anna Bassil, 41, rose to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, claiming it was "a piece of cake!"

Anna Bassil, 41, rose to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, claiming it was "a piece of cake!" - Credit: Archant

Soggy bottom: Flood water didn't stop Anna Bassil, 41, from running 26.2 miles for Save the Children

Soggy bottom: Flood water didn't stop Anna Bassil, 41, from running 26.2 miles for Save the Children on Sunday. Picture: Anna Bassil - Credit: Archant

of September saw all schools re-open for teaching after months of closure.

Pubs and restaurants from across the district joined forces to raise awareness of the challenges they are facing in the wake of the pandemic, and commuters were warned that train fares could rise by 1.6 per cent in 2021 despite a massive drop in the number of passengers.

Colney Heath councillor Chris Brazier celebrated the end of a long-running battle for safety improvements at the notorious A414 accident blackspot known as the longabout, which coincided with the formation of campaign group 20’s Plenty for St Albans District, which was calling for urgent action to reduce the speed limit in many local roads.

A grim warning that St Albans could be heading for a Covid crisis if people continued flouting government guidelines was issued by councillors troubled by repeated breaches of social distancing, and just a few weeks later the city received a ‘red flag’ due to a spike in infection rates.


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State-of-the-art modern technology reconstructed the face of the 15th century Abbot John of Wheathampstead, whose chapel was unexpectedly uncovered during excavations at St Albans Cathedral in 2017. He looked a bit like an elderly Wayne Rooney.

Government planning inspectors offered a damning indictment of the St Albans Local Plan, with councillors told to either withdraw the plan from examination of they would recommend it was not adopted. They said this was because of a failure to cooperate with neighbouring local authorities over strategic matters and whether they could accommodate some of the district’s housing target of 14,608 new homes.

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A £500,000 fundraising campaign to help save the life of Redbourn student Alviar Cohen, who is suffering from “the bad kind of leukaemia”, smashed its target in days, St Albans Lib Dem MP Daisy Cooper was appointed as the party’s new deputy leader, and it was warned that more than 60,000 jobs could be lost across Herts in the wake of the pandemic.

The annual St Albans Chamber of Commerce Business Awards returned for their 11th year with an online ceremony, the Herts Ad joined forces with St Albans Cathedral to support a campaign to reimagine the city’s annual fireworks display as a free public event residents could see from their doorstep, back garden or balcony, and a Harpenden PE teacher invented a new rugby ball design to help players perfect the art of the spin pass.

The start of October saw residents who had fought for four years to prevent a quarry at Ellenbrook Fields, between St Albans and Hatfield, celebrating the news that the county council had rejected the application, and Lib Dem leader Ed Davey started his Christmas shopping in the city ahead of the party’s virtual conference.

Runner Anna Bassil ran the equivalent of the London Marathon around the city while dressed as a massive cake, and local hero Mike Izzard came to the rescue in a kayak to help ferry other runners who were stranded by floodwater on the Alban Way.

Inspired and supported by MP Daisy Cooper, Save St Albans Pubs devised the #KeepTheLightsOn campaign to raise awareness of the impact the Government’s latest Covid restrictions were having on businesses nationwide, and St Albans vicar Canon Tony Hurle hung up his dog collar after seving for more than 28 years at St Paul’s Church in Fleetville.

New findings by Affinity Water revealed that water consumption in the district was higher than almost anywhere else in the UK, putting a massive drain on rare local chalk streams, prompting the launch of a drive to encourage every household to save 10 litres of water a day, and the ninth hole on Batchwood Golf Course was reviewed due to wayward golf balls landing in neighbouring gardens.

We launched our #ShopLocal campaign as independent retailers heralded a make-or-break Christmas in the wake of pandemic pressures biting home. This put the focus on dozens of local businesses to highlight how they were coping during the pandemic, raise awareness of their online offering, and generally encourage people to spend their money on their doorstep, and won the support of Ed Davey during a return visit to the city.

Meanwhile, St Columba’s College announced it was moving into co-education and welcoming girls into the school for the first time since it was founded in 1939, and pubs, chip shops, cafés and restaurants across the district stepped up to offer free meals to children in need over the autumn half term following a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Moving into November, and the Look Up Together fireworks campaign hit its fundraising target, allowing for a spectacular display over the city centre even as we entered a second lockdown.

After months of anticipation, the new £250,000 children’s playground at Verulamium Park opened to the public, and the winning design for the refurbishment of Clarence Park play area was revealed.

The restrictions forced a different approach to this year’s Remembrance Day commemorations, but communities across the district still managed to honour our fallen heroes, and St Albans’ charity Christmas card shop reinvented itself to deal with the challenges.

Wheathampstead couple Naomi Sakai and Dominic Gilbert managed to re-arrange their wedding within a matter of hours as the original big day faced cancellation due to new pandemic restrictions.

A partnership of St Albans Independent Hospitality and Retail Association, Save St Albans Pubs, the St Albans BID, the Herts Advertiser and district councillors urged local residents to mask up, follow social distancing guidelines and stay safe over the festive period to avoid the district being placed into a higher Tier ahead of Christmas. Unfortunately it wasn't to prove enough.

The draft St Albans Local Plan was finally withdrawn after months of speculation, and the district council announced it would start afresh on a new plan focusing on climate change and sustainability.

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami gave his full support to Home Secretary Priti Patel despite an independent review finding she had breached the ministerial code by bullying staff, and the Abbeyfield St Albans Society celebrated its diamond anniversary.

As we reached the end of what was unlike any other year in the newspaper’s 165-year history, we revealed that the water vole was set to return to the River Ver after an absence of decades, and St Albans’ much-loved postbox toppers were also back for a third Christmas.

War hero and industrial negotiator Norman McGlynn celebrated his 101st birthday with an appearance on BBC TV, St Albans Museum glowed orange to raise awareness of domestic violence, and OAP Maureen Sivyer marked the end of a petition she had been running since 2012 for a permanent bench outside the same location.

Six schools across the district were included in a Sunday Times guide highlighting the nation’s top secondary schools. They were Beaumont, Sandringham, St Albans Girls’ School, Loreto College and St George’s and Roundwood Park in Harpenden.

Photographer Nic Madge has spent the past few months creating a living record of a year under the pandemic by snapping portraits of people from all walks of life, and we revealed how his work will be displayed on digital screens in the museum next month.

Possible locations for residents to receive the coronavirus vaccination were highlighted, we focused on Christmas lights competitions taking place in neighbourhoods across the district, and announced the news that the Dean of St Albans Cathedral - the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John - was leaving after 17 years of service.

With the Prime Minister having promised citizens we could celebrate a "small but safe" Christmas, the imposition of tough new lockdown measures on December 19 came like a blow to the hearts of many, with family festivities cancelled.

We end the year in Tier 4 status, prevented from seeing anyone outside our immediate household, with New Year celebrations looking very limited as a result. It's a depressing conclusion to what has been a dark year by any standards, but the ongoing vaccination programme at least promises a ray of light in 2021.

The Herts Advertiser would like to wish all of our readers and advertisers hope for a happy and joyous New Year, and please, let's all stay safe.
 

Anna Bassil, 41, rose to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, claiming it was "a piece of cake!"

Anna Bassil, 41, rose to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, claiming it was "a piece of cake!" - Credit: Archant

Soggy bottom: Flood water didn't stop Anna Bassil, 41, from running 26.2 miles for Save the Children

Soggy bottom: Flood water didn't stop Anna Bassil, 41, from running 26.2 miles for Save the Children on Sunday. Picture: Anna Bassil - Credit: Archant


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