Radlett residents roar… and the Red Lion listens

Red Lion Radlett

The arrival of new garden chairs and tables outside the Red Lion in Radlett on Thursday caused a reaction from residents almost as colourful as the furniture. Radlett’s response has resulted in the chairs and tables being removed and Youngs tweeting:

The metal chairs and tables, which were in bright yellow, orange and green and placed at the front of the Red Lion, became the subject of lively discussion online both on Twitter and the Facebook Radlett Village page. Many expressed surprise at seeing the new layout:

I drove past today and saw these! Thought there must have been some event and they were temporary! Not a good look!
Marcia Devine

It looks so cheap and nasty and totally un-inviting. Not somewhere you’d like to sit and relax!
Alana Riedl

People wondered if the chairs were in keeping with Radlett’s general appearance:

They look awful. Whatever possessed them to go and get outdoor furniture that would look better in a playground than a pub?? Maybe they need to go specsavers?
Sandra Beale

Whilst I am all for stylish modernisation, I do think the selection are simply bad taste and better suited to a beach bar. I think the neon would look a lot more attractive through the lens of my sunglasses.
Monique Spevock

And although not everyone disliked them they still weren’t convinced they were a good fit for the village:

I love them!!!! Granted they don’t suit the pub but I love the colours!
Susan Grace Farran

I’m not so bothered by the look of them although Youngs should have thought about whether a “one size fits all” approach would work-Putney this isn’t! I’m more bothered by the fact that the seats look exceedingly uncomfortable and the tables look too small for everyone to have space to eat!
Katie Lavan

A lively discussion developed about why such colours were chosen:

Perhaps this Operations Manager is hoping for his own version of the Turner Prize..?(!)
Phil Wye

Do they glow in the dark?!
Emma Kilkenny

Yeah maybe they are trying to counter the energy saving lighting regime that switches off half the streetlights at 12am!
Nick Robinson.

On Twitter, the Area Manager of Youngs, Andy Turner, was pleased with the results posting pictures saying “wow”. However responses were less ‘wow’ and more ‘why?’.

The discussion on social media was, on the whole very good humoured, as Radlett folk had fun likening the chairs to highlighter pens, playground furniture and even the Teletubbies. Someone suggested patrons should wear hi-viz clothing to match the chairs, others that perhaps rave culture had come to the village.

Youngs reacted very quickly to the feedback and by Sunday the chairs were gone. The Red Lion is now seeking suggestions on the patio furniture:

What do you think the front of the Radlett Red Lion should look like? Leave a comment here or join us on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s what we know about Radlett’s new bookshop

Segrue Books logoNews that a new shop is opening in Radlett doesn’t usually cause much of a stir. But when we heard that David and Amanda Segrue were planning to open a bookshop right here in Radlett, we really were excited. I spoke to David about the project:

Tell us what kind of bookshop you’re planning, David. What will it be called?

“We thought long and hard about the name and talked about successful bookshops. They’re all named after their founders so we came up with the name Segrue Books of Radlett. It took some time to get used to a bookshop having our name on it! We put Radlett in the name as we want the bookshop to be part of the community and for the people of Radlett to feel the shop belongs to the village. The shop will have a good range of fiction – mid-market and literary. Non-fiction will range from history and politics through to popular psychology, science and travel. We’ll also stock illustrated books including cookery, design and practical art, plus a good selection of children’s books.”

Radlett’s well within range of Amazon’s same-day delivery service. What makes you think there’s still a place for physical bookshops in 2016?

“Amazon provides an online shopping service that suits some consumers, but there are many book buyers who want to browse in a good bookshop. They want to touch a book and get a feel for it before they buy it. It’s very hard to really get a feel for a book on a screen. The other key to success in bookselling is the way the shop presents its books and gifts, the knowledge of the booksellers and their customer service. We can order almost 500,000 books for next-day delivery too.”

What’s your background? Have you run bookshops before?

“I’ve worked in the industry for 24 years as a sales agent for independent publishers, I supply everyone from Waterstones and WHSmith to museums, galleries and independent bookshops. I advise publishers on packaging of books and cover design. Amanda started life working in the city and for the last 14 years has managed finance for our sales agency. Neither of us have run a bookshop but have the trade experience. We’ll be employing an experienced bookshop manager and booksellers.”

We hear that 30% of your shop will be children’s books. Why are kids’ books so important?

“Children’s books have grown in sales for the last three to four years and the quality goes from strength to strength. Children are continually distracted by screens from phones and tablets to televisions. Books are a beautiful, tactile object that can help focus children’s minds, help calm children and inspire creativity.”

Will your shop reflect your own interests?

Amanda will bring a sense of calm to the shop with her interest in interior design, she has a flair for it. The key to success in bookselling is to build a shop’s stock around the local market, we’ll build the opening stock based on our knowledge of the local area. We’ll buy a small amount of gift product to sell and Amanda and I will do this to suit the taste of the locals.”

There’s the exciting prospect of ‘locally-made cakes’. Tell me more about the café.

“Amanda’s a tea drinker and has picked Tea Pigs as our supplier for tea, it will be served in pots with tea cups the way tea should be. I’m a coffee drinker and am insistent that you can’t serve coffee unless it is the best coffee. All the staff will be trained as baristas as well as being expert booksellers. Amanda is currently tasting cakes from a number of local bakers that make cakes at home, when we say home-made we mean home-made.”

Will you put on events, readings and meet-the-authors?

“There’s great excitement in the book trade for the shop opening, publishers are always keen to find new bookshops to promote authors. We’ll be looking for author signings and meet-the-author talks. We’ll look to run a bookclub which can also attract authors to meet bookclub members. We’re also looking to run children’s events tied in with authors and activity books. Our 11 year-old son wants to read to children on a Saturday and during the holidays.”

I hear you’ve taken the location of the old Wine Rack. Will you retain the parking spaces in front?

“The parking spaces are owned by the shops along the parade and so the 4 spaces in front of the shop are owned by Segrue Books of Radlett. We love the idea people can park outside, pop in for a coffee and a book and not have to worry about parking.”

You can sign up for email updates about the new bookshop on the Segrue Books web site.

Everything we know about the Harperbury free school disaster

UPDATE 19 March. New data from Hertfordshire. Although local authorities can non longer build or even commission schools, they still have to keep track of the need for school places. Hertfordshire’s latest report (PDF) shows real and growing need for secondary places across almost the whole county in the next ten years. In Radlett and Bushey, the shortage peaks in 2022/23 when there’s a projected shortage of 181 places. That’s enough children to fill six whole school forms without places. It’s no wonder that the report prominently notes that the Harperbury Free School project has been cancelled. The area needs a new secondary school – and soon.

UPDATE 29 February. Harperbury vice chair Clive Glover has set up a petition. He wants Minster for Education Nicky Morgan to override Lord Nash’s decision and open Harperbury Free School. Sign the petition here. There are 303 signatories so far.

THE STORY SO FAR: It’s all over. The Harperbury Free School that aimed to provide 120 places per year for 11-19s from Shenley, London Colney, Radlett, Bricket Wood and Borehamwood & Elstree, has been thrown out by the Department for Education.

Clive Glover, one of the project’s founders and vice chair of governors, has written a Facebook post about it, which is well worth reading. I spoke to him at the weekend. Here’s the latest:

  1. It’s the minister’s decision. Schools Minister Lord Nash has decided that planning permission for the school is unlikely to be granted by St Albans City and District Council because the site is too small so he’s cancelled the whole scheme.
  2. It’s an EFA cock-up. The Education Funding Agency, the executive agency that dispenses £54 billion (yes, billion) per year on 3-19 education and is responsible for the Academy and Free School programmes, was responsible for launching the school. They didn’t understand the requirements and planned a project that could never have won planning permission. In an answer to a series of written Parliamentary questions from St Albans MP Anne Main, schools minister Edward Timpson vaguely blames the site’s green belt location for the cancellation but doesn’t acknowledge the EFA’s error.
  3. It’s final. There’s no formal way for the decision to be reversed and there’s no appeal process. The Harperbury group haven’t given up, though, and we may see a new or revised application, for this site or another one.
  4. It’s already cost a lot of money. Schools Minister Edward Timpson says “the combined capital and revenue cost of the project to date is £1,919,000”. Clive Glover says this almost certainly understates the actual cost.
  5. The problem hasn’t gone away. The local authority says that, by next year, there will be a shortage of places in secondary schools in the area. Bernadette John, an advisor at the Good Schools Guide, calculates around 90,000 children won’t be allocated their first choice of school nationally. Children from schools in the Radlett area are already dispersed to 57 different secondary schools – from Berkhamsted to Northwood. The council says they’ll need 500 new school places by 2022.
  6. The decision has big implications. The minister’s decision ominously suggests that he thinks it unlikely that any suitable site exists in the area. If that’s true, councils are going to have to look hard at their plans. How will the extra school places, doctor’s surgeries and leisure centres that are needed be provided if there’s no room? The Harperbury group commissioned research that identified over 60 sites in the area – from farmers’ fields to brownfield sites. Is none viable? And remember, councils can’t build their own schools any more, even when the need is evident. They must first seek proposals from academies and free schools.
  7. No children are affected and no one loses their job. After the plan was deferred for the second time last year, the Harperbury team decided not to recruit for 2016 and the headteacher and senior leadership team signed up for the second push were let go.

The core of three governors who have been looking after the project since the last deferral – Clive Glover, Sarah L’efquihi and Nick Eaves, have not given up but have not decided how they’ll respond yet. Hertsmere’s MP, Oliver Dowden, is meeting with the minister this week.

I’ll keep this blog post up to date as I learn more – and if you have any questions you’d like answered, leave them in a comment here or visit the Harperbury Facebook page.

Transport for London and Thameslink – oh dear

A couple of weeks ago we learnt, from an Evening Standard article, of Department for Transport plans to hand control of London’s suburban railways to Transport for London. According to the report, this would include Thameslink and all the other London commuter lines. We all got a bit excited about this.

Whatever you think of Transport for London, handing responsibility for the commuter lines to London’s strategic transport authority makes perfect sense. An integrated urban transport network for Europe’s biggest city – underground, buses, overground, river boats, bikes and roads – ought to include the suburban railways. Even if we did have to wait for the current Thameslink contract to expire in 2021, it looked like a change to be welcomed.

Sadly, the Evening Standard got it wrong.

Thameslink’s press office weren’t able to confirm the story but Transport for London gave me the bad news:

Rail services that are already contracted by TfL include a number of destinations outside the London boundary, such as Watford, Cheshunt and Shenfield. The Thameslink line to Bedford is not part of the scope for the inner suburban routes.

(my highlight)

So the plans don’t cover any of the outer suburban lines. It seems implausible, but the haphazard patchwork of franchises that serves London’s suburbs is somehow still thought to be viable for a 21st Century city and will persist. Sorry.

There may be some hope, though. This press release, from the Mayor, says:

The proposals – on which views are being sought – would see the transfer of rail services that operate mostly or wholly within the Greater London boundary to TfL when the current franchises are due for renewal.

(my highlight)

If ‘on which views are being sought’ means there’s a consultation planned, then I’d anticipate a torrent of contributions from suburban rail users asking for their lines to be included. The consultation hasn’t begun. Watch this space.

Mrs Patel has made a big decision

Rekha Patel in her kiosk on platform 1 at Radlett StationRekha Patel, who runs the invaluable newspaper kiosk on platform 1 at the station, has told me that she’s going to close up for good on 20 February. Her last day in the kiosk will be Friday 19 February.

She’s not retiring: she’ll still be working full-time in her other job and will have much else to keep her busy, so I’m glad she’s decided to close the kiosk – it must have been very hard, taking on the business on her own, after Vinu’s death a year ago, even with the help of Sejal and Beejal and everyone else who’s contributed.

So if you’re passing in the next week or so, do stop by and wish Mrs Patel the best of luck. Radlett’s commuters are going to miss her very much.

Music on the Farm is tomorrow – have you bought your tickets?

logo for Music on the Farm event at Battlers Green Farm, Radlett, 5 September 2015


The mini festival at Battler’s Green Farm is tomorrow (5 September) and we hear there are still a few tickets left. The line-up looks great. Confirmed artists, performing on three stages, include: Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates, rock ‘n’ roll band Dixie, Kingsland Road singer Joe Conaboy and Ben Thapa from G4. The full list is here. Tickets for the day are £21.40 for adults, £11 for kids (children under 5 are free). Buy online here. Better still, the weather forecast isn’t too bad. No rain at least!

How you voted

Screenshot of Hertsmere general election result from BBC web site, 8 May 2015It was never going to be the most exciting of elections for us in Hertsmere. No earthquake for us. It’s a Conservative hold, of course (as it is across Hertfordshire). And the Hertsmere numbers tell the national story pretty well. Conservative, Labour and Ukip all saw increases, both in absolute numbers and in share of the vote. And the source of those extra votes? The Lib Dems, by and large (an increased turn-out also helped – it was 65% in 2010). Share of the vote for the party whose candidate was reportedly too busy to campaign fell by a wapping 11.8% to 5.5% (2,777 votes – she’s just retained her deposit) The biggest gainer was Ukip, whose share jumped by 9.1%. Ukip candidate Frank Ward polled more than twice as many votes as Sophie Bowler (6,383). For Hertsmere, there’s the story.

Stay tuned for the Hertsmere borough and Aldenham parish election results, which we should have from about 4pm today.

So what’s going to get you voting?

Less that 24 hours to go. Which Radlett issues will influence your vote in the election? We asked and you answered (you can still complete the survey here).

So, in order of importance to local voters, here are the issues that will motivate the Radlett electorate in the polling booth Thursday (number of votes for each issue in brackets).

1. The Freight terminal and the green belt (158)
2. Development in Radlett (156)
3. The NHS (150)
4. Crime and policing (148)
5. Local amenities (139)
6. Transport and commuting (136)
7. Local business (127)
8. Schools (125)
9. Young people (124)
10. Environment (123)
11. Elder care (115)
12. Housing (115)

You can see the full survey questions on the survey page and the detailed results here.

It probably won’t surprise you that the top scoring issue relates to the planned freight terminal on the old Radlett airfield in Park Street. Likewise, the pressures caused by development in Radlett were bound to be high on the list. Some of you added narrative responses. Here’s a few of them:

Give more teeth to planning officers who seem incapable of stopping overdevelopment at the expense of the greenness of the area. Stop concreting over front gardens. Plant more trees. The state of verges is appalling with thoughtless drivers parking on them with impunity.

NHS Free at the point of care. No privatization not even sneaky its not really privatization privatization.

Potential mansion tax, inheritance tax.

No Free Schools to be built. Rather schools built where they are actually needed not as some form of vanity project or special interest group intent on avoiding national governance or indeed national curriculum.

Rail Freight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to all of you who completed the survey. Don’t forget to vote!

The manifestos are in

So we now have manifestos from all the major parties. Here, for your convenience, are the manifestos of the four parties standing in Hertsmere:

Conservative – Strong leadership, a clear economic plan, a brighter, more secure future (here’s the downloadable version).

Labour – Britain only succeeds when working people succeed (downloadable version).

Liberal Democrats – Stronger economy, fairer society, opportunity for everyone (downloadable version). The Lib Dems provide their manifesto in several different versions, including this ‘easy read’ version (PDF) and an audio version.

Ukip – Believe in Britain (downloadable version). Ukip’s manifesto is also accompanied by a 20-page ‘economic review of policy proposals‘ prepared by consultancy CEBR.

We’ll leave it to you to evaluate the various parties’ commitment to the issues that are important here in Radlett. But don’t forget to complete our survey about those issues, which will be live until the election.

Leaflets from Hertsmere candidates, summarising party positions on local and national issues, are being circulated now (although we haven’t seen one from the Lib Dems, yet). You can see all of them on the volunteer-run Election Leaflets web site.

And, of course, there are other players in this exceptional election. Although you can’t vote for any of them, you’ll want to take a look at the manifestos of the Green Party (PDF), the SNP, the DUP (PDF) and Plaid Cymru (PDF). They could all influence the outcome on 7 May.