Year in Review: The biggest stories of October to December 2021

Liam Gallagher in black hoodie singing into mic on stage.

Here are the biggest local stories from autumn 2021. - Credit: Stefan Brending

From fuel shortages to university protests and the grand return of Mr Gallagher, autumn proved to be another exciting period at the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

In the run-up to Christmas, we took a look back at the biggest stories in Welwyn Garden City, Welwyn, Hatfield and Potters Bar over the last three months. It's been quite a ride!

October

The shocking murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan police officer continued to horrify the nation as Wayne Couzens was sentenced to prison for life at the end of September.

Hertfordshire Chief Constable Charlie Hall.

Hertfordshire Chief Constable Charlie Hall. - Credit: Archant

We asked Chief Constable of Herts Police Charlie Hall for his thoughts on the tragedy. He said we can "still trust the police".

"[Wayne Couzens] is however in no way reflective of policing generally," Constable Hall commented. But for many women and girls in Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar, a feeling of fear and distrust continued to accompany nights out.

A Hatfield police officer was sacked for sending inappropriate messages to an 18-year-old girl interested in doing work experience in the force.

Students at the University of Hertfordshire took matters into their own hands by joining the national 'Girls Night In' protest.

Most Read

Responding to the crisis in confidence, the Home Office agreed to fund £500,000 worth of 'safety upgrades' to make Hatfield's underpasses safer for women and girls. This included new lighting, the removal of overgrown vegetation, additional mirrors and cleaning up graffiti in five underpasses.

Taste of India Curry Awards

Taste of India owner Mofiz Ullah, and his son, executive chef Junayd Ullah, were all smiles after winning the award. - Credit: Kois Miah

Things were also looking up for Hatfield as its curry house, Taste of India, was voted the Nation's Best Curry Restaurant.

However, Lloyds Bank announced it will be closing its Hatfield branch in March 2022. And Halifax was rumoured to be closing soon, which would leave Hatfield with no banks at all. 

October was also the month of fuel shortages. As queues of motorists descended on local petrol stations, Transport Secretary and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps urged drivers to stop panic buying fuel

Grant Shapps cancels meeting

Huge fuel queues filled the car park at Oldings Corner Tesco Extra store. - Credit: Matthew Smith

Like in September, housing debates continued to prove a problem for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The council cancelled meetings to discuss the Local Plan and wrote to Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to clarify what the minister meant by not building on "green fields". Opposition parties feared the Local Plan was on the verge of collapse.

Black History Month was also well underway. Children were invited to take part in an art competition around the theme of 'Proud to Be'. The winners will have their submissions hung in Welwyn Garden City's Howard Centre.

Pictured on August 10, 1996, Liam Gallagher performing with Oasis at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. 

Pictured on August 10, 1996, Liam Gallagher performing with Oasis at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Liam Gallagher fans were ecstatic to learn that the singer will once again be playing at Knebworth, 26 years after Oasis played at the venue.

The former Oasis frontman will return to Knebworth Park on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4, 2022. Both shows have sold out.

November

Stepping in to ease Hatfield's bank crisis, a new post office in the town centre finally opened its doors.

Hatfield Post Office

There were plenty at smiles at the Post Office opening. - Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

People were shocked to learn that Grant Shapps had fallen off his bike, after narrowly colliding with one of his constituents. The MP suffered facial injuries that required stitches. He was treated at the New QEII and Lister hospitals. 

Seriously ill Martin McMullan and his fiancée Lindsay got married at Stevenage's Lister Hospital

Seriously ill Martin McMullan and his fiancée Lindsay got married at Stevenage's Lister Hospital. - Credit: Courtesy of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust

One of our biggest stories of November also involved Lister Hospital. A wedding venue in Radlett refused to offer a full refund to a couple despite the Welwyn Garden City groom being in the last stages of terminal cancer. The bride and groom were married in Lister Hospital instead. 

It was also revealed that ambulances at Lister Hospital can wait up to five hours to hand over patients to the emergency department. On some days, up to 10 ambulances would be waiting at once with patients inside.

November also saw all sections of the community come together to pay their respects to those who lost their lives while serving in military conflict. We sent our photographer to capture the many Remembrance Day services and parades that took place. 

WGC Remembrance Day.
Picture: Karyn Haddon

WGC Remembrance Day. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Karyn Haddon

 

An inquiry to determine whether a quarry should be built on the former Hatfield Aerodrome site also began.

December

The University of Hertfordshire made the news this month as students complained of feeling cold after heating and hot water shortages hit some of their halls of residence - for more than 10 days. In one of those halls, a serious fire also broke out in a flat's kitchen, scorching the ceiling and forcing students to evacuate.

After confusion over building on Green Belt land put a halt to the council's Local Plan, guidelines were finally clarified. And businesses across Welwyn Garden City voted in favour of renewing their status as a Business Improvement District, while also securing £1.4 million worth of funding following a successful ballot.

Welwyn Garden City BID

Welwyn Garden City BID board members celebrated the successful ballot results. - Credit: Mariana Bitonte

One incredible story that touched the hearts of many was how a Welwyn teenager's mental health initiative, Cards of Calm, helped save the life of someone suffering from suicidal thoughts. A simple card that said 'Believe in yourself' was enough to stop the stranger from hurting. 

December was the month of Tory scandal. From drug use in parliament to Christmas parties during lockdown 2020, we asked Grant Shapps for his views on the sleaze.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps is backing the government on Brexit. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps is backing the government on Brexit. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

As the borough geared up for Christmas (and as COVID-19 cases began to rise), we were treated to a lovely festive story of panto triumph. 

On the opening night of Jack & the Beanstalk at Campus West, Jonas Cemm, who plays King Penniless, broke his leg. His teammates frantically rewrote the script, leaving Jonas out of it, so that they could still put the show on the very next day. How's that for a real-life panto?

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter