Local News                         2022


Scientists breed

designer wheat for

whisky distillers

A team of scientists from Rothamsted Research

have bred a type of wheat specifically to improve

whisky production.

The group’s lead researcher says this new wheat

will reduce the processing problems, higher energy

use, and wear on pumps caused by using current

wheat varieties.

Rothamsted’s Dr Rowan Mitchell said: “At present using wheat grain is a problem for distilleries because it causes sticky residues that mean the whole distillery must be shut down for cleaning.

“Our novel wheat is designed to have grain with low levels of soluble dietary fibre and should greatly decrease these problems. Great for making whisky, but the opposite to what’s required by bakers.”

He added that the development will also make UK grown wheat more desirable for use in whisky compared to imported maize, which is currently easier to process.

This new wheat line is one of the first wheat varieties in the world developed using ‘reverse genetics’ - where scientists start with knowledge of what a gene does, rather than screening for the trait in a plant first and then looking for which of its genes are responsible.

Their non-GM approach, called TILLING, allowed them to rapidly breed their gene of choice into an existing wheat variety – no easy task as wheat has six copies of each of its genes compared to only two copies of each in humans.

The group focused in on genes they discovered that controlled the amount of a chemical found in plant cell walls called arabinoxylan, responsible for soluble fibre levels and what determines its viscosity - whether the liquid extract is ‘thin’ like water, or ‘thick’ like honey.

By using traditional plant breeding methods, they created wheat lines where these genes had stopped working – referred to as ‘knock out’ or loss of function lines.

In these lines, the arabinoxylan molecules where both shorter and fewer in number, leading to a whisky-friendly wheat that produces a liquid extract between 50 and 80% less ‘gloopy’ compared to wheat without the knock-out genes.

Interestingly, the team saw that the plant responded to this change by increasing the bonds between the remaining arabinoxylan molecules, which helped it maintain the size and shape of its cells.

The group have a patent on the use of the gene for this application and are now working with plant breeding company Limagrain to develop a new commercial variety.

Co-author Dr Simon Berry, marker specialist at Limagrain, said: “There is going to be a pilot scale test on about a quarter of a tonne of grain at a distillery this year and we are aiming for an official trials entry within the next 5 years.

“Low viscosity wheat would strengthen the continued use of UK wheat in distilling and offer a solution to those distillers still using maize.”

Scotch production is an extremely important industry to the UK, worth about £5 bn per year.

The project, which also included the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, was funded by UKRI and Innovate UK.


Local help to tackle money worries

Mounting personal debt is an increasing problem as many of us struggle to pay bills because of the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on our finances.  There are high levels of debt on credit cards, and personal loans and not everyone can manage the repayments at the moment.

Help is at hand from Harpenden Money Advice Centre which is a charity providing confidential, non-judgemental and impartial debt and budgeting advice. This free local service from trained advisers, all volunteers, will look at how best to tackle your debts.

Manager of the charity Richard Payne said "Our team are here to help people look at their money problems and work with them to come up with an affordable plan, prioritising the most urgent payments and looking at what they can afford to repay.  Anyone can get into debt, and often it’s no fault of their own doing.  It could be a job loss, relationship breakdown, bereavement or other change in circumstances and it can be very hard to admit there is a problem.  But that is the first step to sorting it out.  We are still open during these strange times and can give help via Zoom or on the phone.  Do get in contact.  We are very friendly and just want to help."

One client told their story:

"Two years ago I felt I was drowning. I was making payments every month but then had no money for the remainder of the month and was then getting further loans to get through each month, increasing my debts and finding myself in a vicious cycle I couldn't get out of. I also needed to find somewhere else to live, as the tenancy on the place I was living in was running out. With your help and support not only did you arrange an affordable monthly plan with my creditors, but you also found me a new place to live.

I was at a point two years ago where I felt almost suicidal but thanks to you, I now see a light at the end of the tunnel and emotionally and mentally I have emerged from that black hole I was in. Thank you, without your help, I dread to think where I would now be."

To find out more contact Richard Payne on www.hmac.uk or call 07954 276281 email info@hmac.uk

Harpenden Money Advice Centre is a local charity supported by churches across Harpenden. All advisers are volunteers who freely give their time and are trained to the CMA Level 3 Award in Generalist Debt Advice, which has been "Money Advice Service" accredited at Advice Level.

Photo above of the HMAC team (Richard Payne is in the centre with the purple jumper)

THE HUB is more than a “cafe” to

Redbourn, its a “social” centre. 

By Simon Barnes.

Started 9 years ago, we hadn’t clue about Coffee

or Retail but Lindy & I agreed if we were going to

invest a lot of time and money in a new venture

we wanted it to be “special’.

We both enjoy sharing our passion and a good

chat with customers which led us to a coffee bar

for cyclists.

We took a short lease on a c1600 year building

to give it a go.

And it WENT !!

We soon discovered how much there was to learn, what fun it was and the thrill of offering a really good quality coffee.

We took advice to ensure our coffee offering would be the best ever and opted for Allpress coffee, a NZ roasters with a roasterry in East London AND have all our Barritas trained by them in London.

We broadened customer base to anyone enjoying our style and coffee, added some REAL “homemade cakes “, Redbournbury Mill bread [including Zuckermaus) !

Only being able to serve one customer at a time has been challenging but staff have risen to the task and customers. We are still very pleased to still gain comfort from their favourite coffee and cakes.

Lindy and I, (below) although being in our 70s, love the venture, introducing us to so many people, many becoming friends. Our staff are all local people and we are dog friendly.

We’d like to thank all our customers who have continued to support us during the year

NEW & unique in Harpenden

BRAD & DILLS Coffee & Bagels

Takeaway Bar

The best tasting coffee and bagels in town.


Coffee blends selected from a London roaster to

give smooth rich flavours

Bagels made by an artisan baker and filled with

exquisite fillings to order

Even a speciality milk for a creamier flavour.


Brad & Dills are two Harpenden based

entrepreneurs with ‘on trend’ experience in the

hospitality business, having worked in London

and European bars and restaurants. It all started

in Harpenden with a mobile at The Skew Bridge back in March...testing the reactions of Harpenden coffee lovers with their food and drinks concept.

It didn’t take long for them to realise that everyone loved it.

They found the perfect location at the north end of Town next to Loveweds Jewellers.

NOW OPEN 7 days a week for Takeaway

Coffee & Bagels

Mon -Fri. 7.30am - 4pm

Sat & Sun.  8.30am - 4pm

Bagels available 9am - 2pm.

There’s even a few seats should you wish to

stay awhile.

Once tried never forgotten!

Feb 9. 2022 Half of the shared ownership homes already sold off plan. The remaining 5 are still available. Register your interest here...shared ownership homes

Being delivered in partnership with appointed contractor Taylor French Developments Ltd, Roan Place will bring twelve homes for social rent, two for affordable rent and ten for shared ownership set in a quiet, landscaped cul-de-sac.


The homes include one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom houses for shared ownership helping local people get on the housing ladder, and two- and three-bedroom houses for those on the housing register helping local families stay in the area. All homes have access to outdoor space with a garden or balcony along with parking for residents, visitors and for the neighboring allotments.


Councillor Lisa Scriven, Deputy Mayor of Harpenden, said:

‘I very much enjoyed the tour of Roan Place and it is really exciting to see this project nearing completion after many years of planning. My thanks go to Town Council staff, Councillors, Catalyst and Taylor French for their collaboration and hard work to reach this



Catalyst and Harpenden Local History Society name new road in tribute to local WWI fallen soldier

Working with Harpenden & District Local History Society and Harpenden Town Council, Catalyst has named a new road ‘Rolt Close’ after a local man who lost his life in the First World War.

Herbert Robert Rolt was born in Harpenden in 1898 and lived in the town with his parents. He went on to serve as a private in the 2nd Battalion Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment and was wounded in battle in Italy and was repatriated but sadly died of his wounds at the tender age of 20. He is buried in St Nicholas churchyard in the town.

Scroll down to see how the development has progressed and learn more about Herbert Robert Rolt.


Catalyst and Harpenden Local History Society name new road in tribute to local WWI fallen soldier

Working with Harpenden & District Local History Society and Harpenden Town Council, Catalyst has named a new road ‘Rolt Close’ after a local man who lost his life in the First World War.

Rolt Close will be the residential road on housing association Catalyst’s development of 24 affordable new homes at Roan Place, next to Westfield Recreation Ground in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, which is due to complete in December.

Herbert Robert Rolt was born in Harpenden in 1898 and lived in the town with his parents. He went on to serve as a private in the 2nd Battalion Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment and was wounded in battle in Italy and was repatriated but sadly died of his wounds at the tender age of 20. He is buried in St Nicholas churchyard in the town.

Also reflecting the town’s history, Catalyst has named the development Roan Place after the town’s link with horseracing. The 24 new homes at Roan Place will provide much-needed affordable high-quality new homes for social and affordable rent and shared ownership. The new homes will help local families on the housing register, and help people get on the housing ladder. The development will also provide allocated parking and an attractive landscaped environment.

Joe Marshall, Catalyst’s Managing Director for New Homes (Counties), said:

‘Reflecting an area’s history and people in the names of our developments is something that’s particularly important to us, and we’re honoured to be able to pay tribute to local hero Herbert Rolt through naming Rolt Close after him. As custodians of the new communities we build, incorporating and promoting local heritage into these plans is our responsibility and privilege, and provides a legacy for future generations.’

The Town Mayor of Harpenden, Councillor Paul Cousin, told us:

‘I am very pleased to see a new road named after Herbert Rolt. This is an excellent opportunity to commemorate a brave local man who lost his life at such a young age in the First World War.

‘It is also great to see new affordable housing being built in our town. The naming of Rolt Close in this development ensures we both remember the past and provides much needed housing for our future community.’

Sept. The Harpenden Society celebrates

the successful completion of the

Red House redevelopment.

Harpenden residents will be pleased  to know that the

Society efforts to save the Red House as a medical centre

in Harpenden have proved successful.

Ron Taylor was invited by Central London Community

Healthcare NHS Trust to see how this has been achieved.

The visit took place on Tuesday August 10th 2021.

The team who showed me round were:

Glenda Esmond - Clinical Adviser, CLCH

Tim Pullen - Estates, CLCH

Sarah Camplin - Herts Valley CCG


I have been involved with the development concepts of the

Red House for many years. The Harpenden Society together

with County Councillor Teresa Heritage formed a ‘ginger’ group known as the Red House Forum to lobby for rejuvenation of the local services on the site then owned by the NHS. Ownership was transferred to Hertfordshire NHS Community Trust  (HCT) on April 1st 2015.

Over the next 4 years  a number of initiatives were developed with positive progress likely.  Optimism waned with the change of ownership on Oct 1st 2019 when CLCH took charge.

Andrew Ridley, CEO at CLCH said: "It’s an opportunity to deliver an integrated model of care that builds on our experience as an established healthcare provider in Hertfordshire , where we already provide  both  sexual health and respiratory  services  and adds to our significant expertise in delivering community services across eleven London Boroughs.

Kathryn Magson CEO at Herts Valley CCG said “CLCH are a well-established NHS organisation and already familiar with West Hertfordshire, as providers of integrated community respiratory care.

The Tour

So moving forward almost 2 years I wondered whether there would be another false dawn.

It was with some trepidation that I made my way along Carlton Road.

Arriving outside the imposing doorway I was greeted by Glenda Esmond who took me up the steps and into the entrance hall.

It was an amazing transformation, much more than I had expected. New flooring and lighting, freshly painted walls all leading to the reception area behind which was the outstanding stained glass window and at the side the original wooded staircase leading to the first floor. The architects had managed to maintain and integrate many of the classical features of the building with the new high tech design creating a satisfying balance between old and new.

I was introduced to the other team members (Tim Pullen - Estates, CLCH

Sarah Camplin - Herts Valley CCG) who continued the tour round all the individual rooms explaining what had been done and what services would be offered.

I was surprised to see several rooms being occupied with staff who were already engaging  with their work across the ground floor, first and second floors. It is a deceptively large building inside and will eventually have 50+ permanent staff.

The Stewarts unit  (on the right hand side of the site) previously owned by the HCT is now owned by a NHS Mental Trust, so that will be another story to unfold.

My tour concluded with an introduction to Leanne Fishwick the  Deputy Divisional Director who is working there.

I was more than impressed by the scale and quality of the redevelopment which will give Harpenden more medical facilities and services than those proposed by HCT with the Health and Wellbeing Centre. Plus the Red House building and it’s grounds have been protected from a housing development programme.

All in all a win win situation. Thank you CLCH

The essential work

New roof to extension; New fire alarm system; New boiler installed; New electrics

Development of Outpatients

Upgraded & increased number of clinic rooms in Red House & Hally Stewart Building from 4 to10

Red House - Podiatry, Heart Failure, Bladder & Bowel, Parkinson's Disease, Speech & Language, Frailty, Diabetes, Retinal screening, Acupuncture

Hally Stewart - ENT, Phlebotomy

Upgraded Friends Room to support clinical group activities

Cardiac Rehabilitation, Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Alcoholics Anonymous

CLCH Hertfordshire Corporate Staff Base

Development of 1st & 2nd floor of The Red House

Moved from Hemel One to Harpenden in November 2020

CLCH Neuro Rehabilitation Unit

Development of a purpose built Neuro Rehabilitation Unit for West Hertfordshire

Large Gym

5 clinic rooms to support outpatient services for patients with long term neurological conditions provided by Nurses, Therapists & Psychologists

Moved from Langley House in May 2021

Next Phase

Improve Car Park: Resurfacing and Maximise space

Maintain & improve Green space

ONGOING involvement by The Harpenden Society. They will continue to monitor progress as we expect them to have a long term realistic plan for the whole site, including knitting together all the rather bitty clinical services into a well being hub.

Feb 2022. Urgent care hub for St Albans City Hospital delayed till Autumn 2022.

Subject to the provider (not yet appointed) being able to complete the work in a short time

The CCG has brought in expert help from NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) to oversee work to go out to market for a provider to run the new service. During November and December SBS held meetings with potential providers to further shape the CCG’s proposals for an integrated urgent care hub, looking at areas such as numbers of patients likely to use the new service, costs of delivering it, and the length of the contract. These initial, informal conversations are helping the CCG to be confident that the specification for the integrated care hub is reasonable, deliverable and of interest to providers.

All this work is feeding into the development of a business case which will be finalised over the coming weeks. The business case is due to go to the CCG board at the end of March for final approval. At that point the CCG will launch the procurement to invite providers to bid to run the new service.

Patient representatives will be involved in the procurement, ensuring their voices are heard when choosing a provider for the new service.

We expect that the new provider will be appointed in the summer and would then work to get the new service fully up and running over the autumn.

This being the creation of an integrated urgent care hub, allowing the centre to provide minor illness and injury services and same day access to urgent care.

It would be led by senior experienced nurses, with the support of GPs, integrated with existing GP extended access and out of hours services. The hub  would be open for 9 hours a day offering access to diagnostic services, such as blood and urine testing, electrocardiogram (ECG) and X-ray. These services will operate from the same location within St Albans City Hospital, and will not need further building work.

The research also found that minor illness, rather than injury, was the most common reason for people seeking urgent care, with hopes the new service could take pressure off other parts of the system including GPs.


March. Barclays Bank update.

Reduced opening hours and reduced staffing levels suggest Barclays have already reviewed their presence in Harpenden (despite reassuring words from their Head of Corporate Relations South West-below).

The obvious conclusion being that they do have plans to close their Harpenden branch.

That’s bad news for their customers who will lose the personal service they have enjoyed for many years.

The good news for the High Street is that the planning application granted to the property owner has been approved for 3 retail units in the space occupied by Barclays. Demand for retail space in the town is still high and it is expected that new tenants will soon be advised.

Harpendia will keep you updated.

New affordable Homes in Harpenden adjacent to Westfield Recreation Ground. Work started in 2021.

Jan 24. Barclays Bank to stay in Harpenden.

Barclays head office responded last week (Jan 21st) with:

A Barclays spokesperson said: “Although we do review our branches on an ongoing basis, we can confirm that we have no current plans to close Barclays Harpenden branch.”

 Best wishes,

Julia Husband | Head of Corporate Relations South West | Barclays

Planning permission also allows the owners to change the use of part of the first and second floors to provide five additional flats, bringing the total number of flats to nine.

The Harpenden Trust thanks the community for another record-breaking Appeal total


The Harpenden Trust has announced a record-breaking total for its 2021 annual fundraising appeal, of over £68,000. The Christmas Appeal is the Harpenden Trust’s main revenue driver for its Care Fund and this year’s total surpasses that of any year previously.


Donations to the Harpenden Trust have a big impact and enable its Care Fund to provide financial and practical support to local families and residents, with over 660 visits annually to assist with aspects including food costs, school uniforms and essential appliances.


With issues of isolation and loneliness increasing throughout the pandemic, the Harpenden Trust has also enabled befriending for over 70 local residents, 3 outings for 122 seniors annually and runs coffee mornings twice a week for those wishing to socialise. It has also provided utility grants for 80 local residents per year on low incomes, providing much needed support.


In addition, alongside MIND and local GP surgeries, the Trust has established the Harpenden Wellbeing Hub, running initiatives to support local residents with their wellbeing, including running and supporting the “Frazzled Café", currently running at the Eric Morecambe Centre. The Trust also arranges family outings to support over 80 local families a year, who may not be in a position to go on them otherwise.


Richard Nichols, (below) Chairman of the Harpenden Trust, said:


“We would not be able to deliver the fantastic work that goes on across the Harpenden Trust without the valued support of our local community who give so much, both in volunteering with us and donations. The fact that our Appeal total has yet again broken previous record amounts highlights the kindness and compassion we have for our neighbours here in Harpenden and we are thankful for the generosity of all who were able to donate.”


To see more on the fantastic work happening across the Harpenden Trust, please see the Harpenden Trust Film, showcasing the many ways we are helping people in need in Harpenden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCdmnmFuAro

Harpenden’s new Mayor, Cllr Lisa Scriven

inaugurated at Town Council’s Annual

Meeting on May 9th.

Paul Cousin’s final duty as Mayor for 2021/22 was to

hand the chain of office to Harpenden’s new mayor

Lisa Scriven. This took place in Park House as part of

Harpenden Town Council’s Annual Meeting which Lisa

then conducted. Followed by refreshments and a

chance for guests to chat personally with Lisa.

May Wipe - Out for Conservatives as

Lib Dems triumph in District Council


The results in last week's elections saw an

amazing 50 Liberal Democrat councillors elected

out of a total of 56 - leaving the Conservatives

with just four members, plus one Green and one Independent. A testament to the Government’s mishandling of events and immoral behaviour.

With ultimate power comes consequences. There’s no hiding place now for Lib Dem policies. Can they use this power to develop the new Local Plan? Work with the Health Authorities to improve local services inc changes to all local hospitals and manage the introduction of the Integrated Care Service for the benefit of all residents. Implement policies to grow the local economy in conjunction with business leaders. They may have the motivations for all these actions but do they have the practical and professional experience?


Local District Council from

May 25th

Who you need to contact:

Councillor Chris White (right) has been

re-elected as Leader of St Albans

City and District Council for the

coming year.

Seven other Lead Councillors,

who have prime responsibility

for a number of Council services and activities, were also appointed.

Chris White – Leader and Chair of the Policy Committee: climate emergency, tree strategy, air quality, electric vehicle strategy, planning, building control and relations with other public bodies in Hertfordshire.

Helen Campbell – Deputy Leader and Chair of the Public Realm Committee: parks and open spaces, car parks and parking, sport and leisure contracts, cemeteries, playgrounds and street cleaning.

Allison Wren – Vice-Chair of the Public Realm Committee: waste management and recycling, museums and public toilets.

Paul De Kort – Vice-Chair of the Policy Committee: Council Tax and Business Rates, the budget, financial strategy, customer services and IT.

Jacqui Taylor – Chair of the Housing Committee: social housing, homeless strategy, sheltered accommodation and emergency planning.

Sarwar Shamser – Vice-Chair of the Housing Committee: equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, asylum seekers and refugees, welfare benefits, community grants, the community lottery and the Access Forum.

Robert Donald – Chair of the Regeneration and Business Committee and Vice-Chair of the City Neighbourhoods Committee: commercial and development strategy, large capital projects, infrastructure and property and asset management.

Danny Clare – Vice-Chair of the Regeneration and Business Committee: economic development, the night-time economy, relations with St Albans BID, the visitor partnership, culture strategy, licensing and markets.

As reported in the Herts Advertiser below:

St Albans district council leader Chris White now has a huge majority.

Accountability and humility will be at the heart of the district council's new administration -

"The results of the district council elections, as always with such elections, reflected a number of factors. There was clear support on the doorsteps for what we were doing at the council and a rejection of the alternatives.

"There were also astonishing levels of anger with the Conservatives at a national level as well as huge support for [St Albans MP] Daisy Cooper, even outside her own constituency.

"The Lib Dem group is now larger than it has ever been and this immediately calls for humility. Many did not vote for us and we will not overlook them. There are also massive challenges ahead of us, not least the inflation levels which will provide yet more challenges to local government finance.

"We will be looking to set up new ways of being accountable to the voters. We believe that politics in the district can now be more constructive and civilised with the departure of some of the key players and the rejection of Trump-style politics.

Among the casualties of the election were Tory leader Mary Maynard and long-term councillor Richard Curthoys, who offered his thoughts on the result.

"For the Lib Dems to delude themselves that they are on their way to serious national political power is laughable. All governments experience mid-term unpopularity and in England people were rightly upset with events well beyond the control of local politicians and chose to express that with a protest vote.

"We now have a council with no scrutiny and no local planning committees both of which were scrapped by the Lib Dems with the blessings of the current Green and Independent councillor who effectively shored up the last administration. I am sure they will be rewarded for their loyalty by Cllr White in this administration. 

Richard Curthoys is one of several Tory councillors to have lost their seat. "As for the good people of St Albans City and District, I say brace yourselves for city centre road closures, hikes in council tax charges and the very real prospect of a journey towards council insolvency, which due to their obsession with secrecy will no doubt not be made public until they can find someone else to blame. I'm sure a well-meaning council officer may have the sense to 'blow the whistle.'

"For the new Lib Dem councillors, I hope your shelf life is longer than previous Liberal Democrats who have found that evening meetings and events at week-ends are all too much effort and either constantly leave meetings early or resign. You signed up to do it, you got elected, It’s an honour to serve your community as a councillor, so make sure you do."

The new leader of the Conservative opposition group Cllr Brian Ellis responded to the change in status quo: "From a governance perspective the situation looks unhealthy. The normal controls will not work, for example on the audit committee the Liberal Democrats will be marking their own homework.

"The administration can do what they like, unchecked. Nevertheless we intend to provide an intelligent opposition. Whist there are only four of us, several of our former councillors with deep knowledge of the council's operations will remain engaged and will support us. This will be useful as most of the senior staff have left the council."

His predecessor Mary Maynard (below) had her own thoughts on why things went so terribly wrong.

"Clearly, the election results were deeply disappointing to all Conservative candidates. They stood to make a difference and help their communities. Some had been councillors for decades, were totally dedicated to helping people in their wards and had made significant contributions to the district. The district has lost a massive amount of experience and expertise with their departure.

"The results were not a surprise though. Conservatives talked to thousands of local people in the months running up to the election and these doorstep conversations told us two things.

"The first was that people liked the local Conservative agenda and appreciated what we had achieved locally.

"The second was that irrespective of this, they were unhappy about what was happening nationally, wanted to send a ‘message’ to the Conservative government and intended to vote against us to do so.

"Even lifelong Conservative voters told us this. They did not ‘lend’ their vote to anyone. They do not really support other parties. They voted to send a warning to government. Most of these people told us that they would come back to us if we listened. We know that this happened in many areas of the south east.

"Looking forward, it is clear the government is listening and is changing policy as a result.  For example, they have just announced that in districts like ours with a high proportion of Green Belt, councils can make a case not to build in their Local Plans and do not have to meet their housing targets. 

"The consequence of the election locally is that we are now living in a one party state, with an administration that has shown time and time again over the last three years that it does not tolerate opposition or dissent and will ruthlessly try to stamp it out.

"They cannot evade responsibility or accountability for their actions now.

"However, there are only four Conservative Opposition councillors ranged against 50 from one party. These councillors, ably led by Cllr Brian Ellis will scrutinise what is happening, make sure that people are kept informed and that their voices are heard.  Local Conservatives will continue to listen and to campaign on behalf of local people.’

The Town Council elections take place in 12 months time...what will be the outcome then?