Local News                         2021


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 And with the vaccination programmes now under way we hope to open up our regular service in the Spring.

Harpenden Leisure Centre 

“The number of visitors has exceeded

our expectations with the new gym

and the children’s swim school being

the most popular activities.” said

Tony Marmo, the Council’s Head of Commercial and Development.

Reopening Hours

The centre will now open from

April 12 as follows:

Monday - Tuesday 7am - 8pm

Wednesday             7am - 9pm

Thursday - Friday   7am - 8pm

Saturday                  8am - 2pm

Sunday                    8am - 3pm

Gym and Swimming

The new centre, on the edge of

Rothamsted Park, has a

25-metre-long swimming pool,

a learner pool, a state-of-the-art gym,

a spin room and sports hall,

There is also a cafe and a changing village.  Two exercise studios, a sauna and steam room are due to open next month when there is a further easing of COVID restrictions

Owned by St Albans City and District Council, the Leisure Centre is managed on its behalf by contractors 1Life.

Contact: membership@1life.co.uk (for membership queries) - GMHarpenden@1life.co.uk (any other enquiries)

The Eric Morecambe Centre

(EMC) official opening

October 16.

*A theatre with 511 seats, some of

which are retractable to leave a large

exhibition area.

*Green room and dressing rooms.

*Large entrance with a coffee shop

*One large function room

*A smaller function room

*A museum for the Harpenden History Society with its own store room

*Two bars

Looking forward to 2022 the local Arts and Culture groups will have a fabulous venue to showcase all their talents and attract the support of local residents.

The Theatre should become a sought after venue for both small and large scale production companies with plays, cinema screenings, popular music, choirs and classical concerts. PLUS stage related events and large scale meetings.

View the web site for more bookings:


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!

Film Night at Rothamsted Conference Centre

Further information about our events can be found here:



Official Secrets (15), 26 Nov, 7.30pm


Our modern and comfortable auditorium becomes

a cinema for the evening, showing a selection of

films from classics to the latest releases. Our

licensed bar is open for refreshments during the show.


Doors open at 6.30pm
Film starts at 7.30pm


Adults £10. Children £6.

A special discount of 20% if you buy 4 or more tickets for the same show.

Free parking
Follow the signs to Rothamsted Conference Centre, and continue to our visitors parking area. Enter the building from the front of the Conference Centre where our friendly staff will direct you.



Richard Young has been elected president of Harpenden Village Rotary Club in succession to John Murray.

Richard and his wife Mary have lived in Harpenden since 1989. Before then, they lived in several overseas countries through Richard's work in international banking. They have two daughters, one living in Wheathamstead, and three grandchildren.

‘During Covid lockdown club members continued to meet weekly via Zoom,’ Richard said, ‘listening to speakers and socialising with guests from all over the country. Although, thankfully, we are now moving back to face-to-face meetings we’ll still have some via Zoom to take advantage of its country-wide access.

‘My main task will be to lead the club’s re-energising with a wide range of social and fun activities.

‘We’ll also put greater effort into making the club’s activities better known. By capturing Harpenden’s interest in our club, we hope to encourage more local residents to join in the fun of membership.’

August 11.

  1. Q.Why is the Rothamsted Park football pitch still railed off?

A. I spoke to Harpenden Town Council who advised that the pitch is still owned by St Albans Council and  work on it has not yet been finalised. We await details with anticipation.

24 Affordable Homes in Harpenden scheduled for completion in 2022

The affordable homes development adjacent to Westfield Recreation Ground is moving ahead as planned as you can see from the recent images. As the lead developer on the project Catalyst are working with appointed contractor Taylor French Developments as well as Harpenden Town Council and Homes England to deliver Roan Place.


Roan Place will be a 100% affordable development; with Shared Ownership, social rent, and affordable rent. It will not be made available for speculative purchasers.


There will be a range of one and two bedroom homes. The build should be completed by Summer 2022

They will be available through Shared Ownership which is due to launch Autumn 2021.

The computer generated images below give a clear impression of how they will look.


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.

Urgent care hub for St Albans City Hospital to be up and running mid 2022

Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group commissioned a consultation  during June and August to shape the future of the service, and received 3,205 responses in total.

There were four options. While the highest level urgent treatment centre was the most popular option with 91 percent support, 83 percent of people supported the trust’s preferred integrated urgent care hub. 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.


Mr Evans (The Trust managing director) explained that the findings of the research would be presented to the Integrated Care System Board  with an outline business case on the chosen option . Subject to board approval and funding the CCG will go out to market for a provider to run the new service.

Work on implementing any changes to the service is expected to take place early next year. 

Barclays Bank could be closing?

A planning application has been raised by the freeholder with SADC. The application has been submitted to convert the ground floor banking hall into 3 shops and convert the first and second floors into 9 flats.

Harpenden’s Derek French, is a longstanding campaigner for how banking services are maintained on the high street – against a backdrop of a steep decline in the number of bank branches and free-to-use cash machines shared branches, he has kept meticulous records of branch closures over the years as head of the now disbanded Campaign for Community Banking Services. 

Derek, a former executive of NatWest and founder of the Campaign for Community Banking Services, believes that backing for the launch of an initial 50 such shared branches should be a priority for the banking industry. 

He says their roll-out should begin in 'months rather than years' and in the next five years, their number should increase to a 'minimum' of 200. 

Read the article in the  Mail on Sunday  in which he provided consultation.


EMC was officially opened on Saturday 16 October by the Mayor of the City and District of St Albans, Councillor Edgar Hill,(far left)  Harpenden Mayor Councillor Paul Cousin, Eric’s daughter Gail and Councillor Robert Donald.(far right) who said: “We are very grateful to his family for allowing us to name the new centre after Eric and for donating a portrait of him which we are displaying in pride of place in the EMC’s foyer to celebrate his life.” Also “The EMC will be a fitting and living memorial to generations to come of one of Harpenden’s funniest comedians, most loved residents and famous stars.”

Eric’s portrait is by George Anthony Roe and was presented to him in 1970. It has been loaned by his family for display in the EMC.

Classics on the Common raises over £33,300 for charitable causes from the September 2021 event.

This was despite attendances being

down, although less than expected.

The weather Gods look kindly on

Classics and a wonderful day was

enjoyed by all.

Of particular pleasure we raised nearly

£16,500 on the day, which is a

recognition of the generosity of

Harpenden people.

2022 will see a return to our usual spot

on the final Wednesday in July the 27th.