Local News                         2023/22


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)

Improvements planned at Harpenden’s Station, Harding Parade and Station Road.

Herts County Council in conjunction with Rail Industry partners are planning significant improvements to this area. A full consultation will be issued for feed back on the proposals.

What improvement worksare proposed?

The main interventions proposed are:

• A redesigned station forecourt providing a

new pedestrianised square with trees and

space for resting

• A new bike hub with increased number of

cycle storage spaces

• Relocated taxi rank with dedicated pick-up/

drop-off area with sheltered waiting space.

• Redesigned public realm at Harding Parade

Figure 1 Introduction

with flush planters, mature trees, benches and bike


• Relocated bus stops on Station Road, closer to the

railway station

• Two redesigned junctions on raised table, first

between Station Approach and Station road with four

pedestrian crossings, the second between Station Road and Arden Grove.

OCT 2023. Citizens Advice is back in Harpenden.

Every Monday from 10am - 1pm at the Salvation Army headquarters in Leyton Green (close to Waitrose)

Free and confidential advice across a wide range of issues.

Contact the web site for more details: www.citizensadvicestalbans.org.uk

The Harpenden Society, a long term opponent to this development said:

The September 29 exhibition about Legal & General’s plans for 550 homes in North West Harpenden had 2 key objectives. Firstly to announce their proposals and secondly to listen to issues and  concerns raised by the local community.

Well they certainly didn’t pay any attention to the Harpenden Society’s detailed analysis of the issues.

So the announcement on March 2nd that an outline planning application has been submitted to St Albans City and District Council shows a total lack of understanding of the whole community’s feelings about this subject and ignores the points the Society have raised. These have not changed and are listed below in order of importance.

Excess traffic would be generated on an already crowded A1081, especially at peak times

The alternative options of travelling into town via bus, walking & cycling would be impractical

There would be a loss of valuable green belt land

There was a lack of infrastructure development to support this growing population.

Jeff Phillips. Chair, The Harpenden Society

Harpenden’s Green Belt Association views:

L&G and the Future of Harpenden

    The  attached leaflet has recently been distributed in Harpenden by Legal and General (L&G).The text is simply breathtaking in its selective coverage.
It completely fails to deal with the impact that building 550 houses alongside the A1081 just north of Harpenden will have on the whole of our town and wider afield. For some detail on the impact of what L&G are going to do to Harpenden:
See Legal & General puts Harpenden on the rack. (mailchi.mp) and the link to ‘Cramming a quart into a pint pot’.
The Harpenden Green Belt Association is working with the ‘Stop L&G ‘ group and I am enclosing below their latest newsletter which we have contributed to and agree with.
See  https://mailchi.mp/89abe5c0f0fe/lg-public-exhibition-damning-verdict-6263823
  Please circulate this email to residents in Harpenden whom you know and who may want to join with us in mounting a challenge to L&G’s planning application.
David Rankin, Chairman, The Harpenden Green Belt Association


June 1. Town Council gives a resounding NO to the L&G 550 homes in North West Harpenden

May 30th. 2023/ Harpenden Town Council EXTRAORDINARY MEETING to review


Within the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan the North-West Infrastructure Zone states that significant development proposals in the North-West must:

Demonstrate how impact of new development on the A1081 and local roads will be mitigated.

Demonstrate provision for appropriate education facilities in close proximity to new development to meet the need for school places arising from the proposed development.

Demonstrate sufficient convenience shopping within a close proximity to new development.

Demonstrate sufficient open space, including recreational space in line with local community needs, within a close proximity to new development.
Having reviewed the applicant’s evidence it appears that these requirements have not been met in full.

A1081 and local roads - The development is likely to have an additional significant negative impact on the local road network. The A1081 adjacent to the development is already heavily congested and the neighbouring residential streets are tight and already subject to much ‘rat running’. The constraints in that area make it very difficult for any effective mitigating measures to be put in place therefore there is little surprise that the applicant appears to have not been able to demonstrate realistic mitigations.

Education facilities - The previous draft Local Plan required the site to provide a primary school. A primary school is no longer proposed by the applicant as the modelling suggests that it is not needed. However, having reviewed contributions to the consultation from Hertfordshire County Council it appears that they suggest that a primary school provision may still be needed.

Convenience shopping - The proposal appears to rely upon the existing parade of shops along the A1081. It is not clear if this is sufficient to support the needs of the new development.

Open Space - There is a sufficient level of recreation and open space included within the proposals. The proposals could be strengthened by replacing one of the grass sports pitches to an all-weather facility. There remains additional demand for this type of facility in the area.

Proposals Affecting the A1081, B653 and B652

The Application does set out highways improvements measures however; these are based upon the inaccuracies of the transport assessment mentioned above. Therefore, it appears that the measures will not ease traffic congestion on the A1081, nor will they minimise the disruption to traffic flow both of which are key requirements of this Policy.

Travel Plans

This focuses on the requirement for applicants to maximise the use of sustainable travel modes. The proposal sets out a number of suggestions relating to sustainable travel modes and we would make the following observations:

The proposed cycle path infrastructure measures appear entirely inappropriate and ineffective.

The on-road cycle route is unsafe and does nothing to address the most challenging aspect of the route which is when it reaches the Nickey Line bridge. The ‘quietway’ route encompasses narrow country lanes and residential streets with significant on-street parking. The applicant refers to the need for additional surveys to be undertaken and so it appears that the feasibility and deliverability of these proposals is unclear.


Welcome to the Harpendia team. Journalist Charlotte Bateman will be writing stories  of interest going forward.

I am a 21-year-old journalist who has lived in Harpenden all my life. After completing A-levels at Roundwood Park, I did an apprenticeship with Sky News, followed by a reporter role at the website MyLondon. I am now freelance and enjoy writing about a range of topics from food and lifestyle to politics.

OCT. New affordable homes for priciest postcode outside London 

Housing association Peabody, Harpenden Town Council and Homes England are celebrating the completion of 24 new affordable homes at Roan Place in Harpenden. 


Photos above, Credit Tidywork Studio

The milestone was celebrated with an event, attended by Harpenden’s mayor, Cllr Fiona Gaskell. 


Homes England supported Peabody to help build a mix of affordable homes for local people in one of the most expensive places to live outside London. These include twelve social rent, two affordable rent, and ten shared ownership homes.  


Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac, mature woodland surrounds Roan Place, and all homes have access to a garden or balcony.  


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.  


To reflect the area’s history and heritage, the development has been named Roan Place after the town’s link with horse racing.  


The road name Rolt Close was chosen in partnership with the town council and local history society to commemorate a fallen WWI soldier who lived in the town. The development’s branding also incorporates a weaved design representing Harpenden’s straw-weaving industry in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 


Located one mile away from Harpenden’s town centre, residents can travel by train to London in a little over thirty minutes, or vibrant St Albans in five minutes. Travelling further afield, Luton airport is just a 15-minute drive away.  


Elena Brodetsky, Delivery Director at Peabody, said: “With demand for affordable homes growing 10 times faster in rural areas than in towns and cities, these high-quality homes are great news for local people wanting to get on the housing ladder or off the housing register.  


“Roan Place offers people a peaceful, suburban neighbourhood with fantastic transport links to London and beyond, in what is one of the most sought-after areas outside London. We welcome new residents as they settle in and remain

committed to providing more much-needed homes.” 


Cllr Fiona Gaskell, Mayor of Harpenden, said:

“The new development offers homes in Harpenden to people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to live here. The Town Council has delivered the development within an attractive landscaped environment, situated between the Westfield Recreation Ground and

neighbouring allotment site. All homes have access to outdoor space with a garden or balcony and the wider area improvements makes this an attractive, yet affordable option for many local people.” 


Jacqui Taylor, Lead Councillor for Housing for St Albans City and District Council, said: “Providing more social and affordable housing is one of our priorities as a Council, so we are delighted to see Peabody providing high-quality

homes in Harpenden.  

“There are twelve social rent homes included in this development and these will go to families on our housing register who have been waiting for a permanent home of their own. They will be able to put roots down in an outstanding

location where house prices are unaffordable for most people.” 


A spokesperson for Homes England, said: “Despite the current challenges affecting the country, accelerating housebuilding remains our number one priority. We are committed to supporting Peabody, who have ambitions to build new homes, and our investment through affordable housing grant allows us to do that. We’re delighted that this funding has enabled Peabody to deliver much needed new homes in Harpenden.” 

Below. Photos at the rear of the development by Harpendia


OCT. Rotary of Harpenden present cheques to three main charities from Classic on the Common, one of Britain’s biggest mid-week classic car shows which raised £34,000 at this year’s event in July.

Liz Jack, event manager, said: ‘The amount raised was down on last year as rain, starting at 5.30pm, reduced the number of spectators visiting us. Yet the £34,000 raised was still among the best results we’ve had.’

The three main charities to benefit were St Luke’s School, Redbourn; Wheathampstead Community Group and PumpAid.

At a dinner at Aldwickbury Golf Club, cheques were presented to Stephen Hoult-Allen, executive head of St Luke’s, which is a Special Educational Needs school. The money from Classics will be put towards a new quad building for use by pupils up to age seven, he said.

David Johnston, chair of the Wheathampstead Community Group, accepted the cheque which, he explained, would help the group raise the £28,000 they need to run a local bus service.

PumpAid seeks to raise £1 million a year to install water pumps in communities and especially schools in Malawi. Former CEO David Chuter said the money from Classics will be put towards providing clean water and hygiene education at pre-school nurseries.

As usual, Rotary in Harpenden will retain a share of the funds to support other charities and causes during the year.

Pictured below:David Johnston, chair of Wheathampstead Community Group, receives the cheque from Classics on the Common event manager Liz Jack

Nov 2. Harpenden Station Ticket Office saved from closure. As confirmed by Bim Afolami MP.

I am pleased to be able to let you know that the Government have informed train operating companies that their proposals to close ticket offices should not proceed. So many local

people have told me all about the positive

impact that our local ticket offices have had on their travel experience and I am delighted that the rail operators have now been told to stop their planned closures.

NOV. Compassionate Café launches in Harpenden.

in partnership with Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care

The Harpenden Trust and Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care are delighted to announce the launch of a new Compassionate Café, at the Harpenden Trust’s Well Bean Café, Harpenden Trust Halls (above the Co-op), 130 Southdown Road, Harpenden, AL5 1PU.

The Compassionate Cafés will take place on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, starting on Tuesday 7 November 2023, from 2.00pm to 3.30pm.

The Compassionate Café, which will be open to people from the AL5 area, will provide a space for local people who have been affected by bereavement or any kind of loss to meet others by coming together for a cuppa and a chat. Each session will be run by volunteers who are on hand to welcome and speak to attendees. Each session will be informal in structure, guided by the needs of the people attending.

Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care have been running a number of successful Compassionate Cafés in Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere areas since December 2021 and are delighted to be bringing the model to Harpenden area. The hospice charity is working in partnership with Harpenden Trust and their volunteers have been trained up by the hospice to help provide a welcoming space.

Sara, one of the volunteers at the Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care Compassionate Café says:

“The cafes are a friendly and safe environment for people to meet others and have a chat. They are a great way of making friends or being signposted to local events of interest. I find that the sessions give people an opportunity to talk about their loss or bereavement and how they are coping. People really benefit from the peer support of sharing with others who are going through something similar. Compassionate Cafés are open to everybody – you don’t need to be referred to them or book a space in advance - you can just come when you want, stay for as long as you need and go when you want.”

Sarah Holmes, the Head of Wellbeing at Harpenden Trust, is excited about the launching the Compassionate Café and said:

“The Harpenden Trust is delighted to partner with Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care to open our Well Bean Café as a Compassionate Café twice per month. Anyone experiencing loss, bereavement or affected by life limiting illness themselves is welcome to chat over a cup of tea and cake. Our trained volunteers aren’t there to give official advice, but offer support, company and a friendly ear. The Trust works with Harpenden Health Primary Care Network and Mind in Mid Herts on a range of initiatives across Harpenden supporting the wellbeing of AL5 residents of all ages. Partnering with charities working in specific health sectors works well for the Harpenden Trust. It ensures our volunteers are equipped with the right skills and reassures anyone attending a partnership activity that it is a safe and understanding place for them to come”.

Alison May, Community Engagement Manager at Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care, says:

“It has been wonderful to see the impact our Compassionate Cafés have had on both volunteers and attendees in our existing locations, so we’re really looking forward to bringing this to Harpenden. The cafés are very informal in structure – they're not a support group or counselling session – but people who come along tell us that they get a huge amount out of the peer support, and the chance to meet other people who understand their loss. I’d encourage anybody in the area who has experienced any type of bereavement or loss to come along to the sessions and see what they can take away from them