I first became a Parish Councillor replacing my father when he died in 1966, which means I have been a councillor for 50 years. So, this is not quite an annual report but more like a look back in History.
St Margarets was one of the smallest Parishes with a population of about 100. It consisted of Hoddesdon Road from the bottom of St Margarets Road northwards to Station Road, then eastwards towards the River Lea.
In the early 70’s Fred Eva was Chairman and he received a letter from the Boundaries Commission asking if we were satisfied with our boundaries. I said if they are considering changing the boundaries we can’t get much smaller, so we should ask for an increase to include ‘St Margarets Road and St Margarets Station. To our surprise they agreed to St Margarets Road and the fields northwards up to Amwell Cross Roads (as it was then). They would not accept our request for the Station but agreed to define a boundary down the middle of the road between Great Amwell and St Margarets down to the River Lea. The river would then separate St Margarets from Stanstead Abbotts replacing a wavy line on the map which nobody could follow.
Some time later the industrial village of Stanstead Abbotts was getting very difficult for the residents. With many thousand vehicles including juggernauts blocking the High Street every day when the railway gates were closed, flood wardens were needed to warn when the High Street and low-lying houses were likely to flood. When two young children were killed, one in the High Street and one in Roydon Road trying to cross the road, a group of responsible people decided to form an amenity society to try and improve life in the village and get a bypass. They called themselves the Ashlea Society.
Mr Eva raised this idea and said “We don’t want a lot of ‘hotheads’ from Stanstead Abbotts telling us what we should do in St Margarets. Nigel will you go and keep an eye on them”.
When I meet them, I was amazed how sincere they were. They organised dances in the village, a shop window display competition – best kept from gardens & hanging baskets – and an annual fun day in St Margaretsbury where all charities could have a stall to raise funds. They commented on every planning application received in the village. These were so well respected that they were included in the agendas of East Herts Planning Committees.
In 1982 I became an East Herts District Councillor where I worked with the Director of Planning, David Beales. When the paint factory closed with the loss of about 100 jobs, unwelcome guests began using the empty sheds. I approached the Director of Planning and he said the buildings should be demolished and suggested they be replaced with houses. So, Lawrence Avenue was born with the name suggested by the Parish Council taken from one of the plaques in the floor of the church dated 1657.
The County Council eventually decided to build a bypass. Councillors, officers and Ashlea members worked together on the details.
The amenity society wanted to organise a fun day to celebrate a grand opening on the bypass itself. Before anybody had actually seen it, the officers joined in the preparations with us and we attracted 10,000 people on the day.
Once the bypass was opened cash was made available to redesign the High Street from Roydon Road to the River Lea. David Beales then found £40,000 to complete the job down to the station while cleaning up the area left with closing of the Buntingford Line.
Since then the industrial village has completely changed. Starting with the tomato nursery, now under the bypass. Then Smiths Farm selling large lorryloads of hay and straw was replaced by the Granary housing development. Westcliff Engineering rented the Manor Barn, which has now been reverted back to residential premises.
A large builders yard, The Spinney no houses 43-69 Hoddesdon Road. The nursery growing flowers for Covent Garden Market is now 1-87 Sanville Gardens. Stockers coal yard is now Louisville Close, while the petrol station has been replaced by Springwell Court.
All this has been completed in a village Conservation area where the planning officers consider the general massing detailed design, use of materials, and a landscaping has been pleasantly executed, to create a rural village atmosphere.
Our most valuable asset now is the area of green belt north of St Margarets Road down to Amwell Roundabout, the last bit of rural East Herts. Any development in that area would connect us to Hoddesdon, which is within the Greater London sprawl.
With ever increasing traffic on the roads Great Amwell roundabout has always been a problem. It has now reached the stage where any increase in traffic will make access nothing short of a gamble for motorists from Stanstead Abbotts and St Margarets.
Mr RN Copping
Chairman for Stanstead St Margarets Parish Council