Review of the year: January

THE New Year dawned as a disaster for Hertfordshire Skip Hire in Leyden Road, Stevenage, when an arsonist caused �68,000 worth of damage. Three lorries and an excavator were destroyed and brothers Robert and Paul Crane posted a �5,000 reward to try and ca

THE New Year dawned as a disaster for Hertfordshire Skip Hire in Leyden Road, Stevenage, when an arsonist caused �68,000 worth of damage.

Three lorries and an excavator were destroyed and brothers Robert and Paul Crane posted a �5,000 reward to try and catch the culprits.

The credit crunch began to bite as the recession took a firm grip and following the demises of Woolworths in Hitchin, Stevenage and Letchworth GC, M&S said it was closing its Simply Food store in Garden Square Shopping Centre, Letchworth GC.

Children's wear retailer Adams also closed its doors in the Westgate Centre, Stevenage, and Bancroft, Hitchin, meaning a total of over 100 jobs had been lost at the start of the year.


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The first snow fell during the first week of the year but it almost brought tragedy when two boys from Marriotts School fell through the ice in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage.

Gary Sanderson, spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service, warned people to stay away from water saying: "I urge anyone who is thinking of skating on frozen rivers or lakes to stay away. It is so dangerous."

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The first baby to be born at the Lister Hospital in 2009 was a daughter for Les and Louise Stanton of Ashdown, Letchworth GC.

The Queen's New Year's Honours List brought an MBE for Stevenage's Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton from Stotfold.

There were also MBEs for Mick Furr who has devoted 44 years working at the Westmill Community Centre in Hitchin and to Robert and Caroline Rejdak of Hexton for their services to children and families. The couple have fostered more than 117 children during the past 32 years.

A CBE went to Professor Leslie Ebdon of Mill Road, Gosmore, a vice-chancellor at Bedfordshire University for services to local and national higher education and an OBE went to Dr Susan Gregory from Hitchin, the former dental public health consultant for Bedfordshire and now deputy chief dental officer at the Department of Health.

Rail commuters were again going to be stung for more cash by train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) who said they were raising parking charges at Knebworth, Hitchin, Arlesey and Baldock stations and Stevenage Borough Council also said it was hiking parking prices at the town's station. FCC also said it would reduce the ticket office opening hours at Baldock, Letchworth GC, Knebworth and Stevenage saying more travellers were buying tickets from machines or online.

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley said: "First we are told that fares are being increased by well above inflation, now the cost of parking is being raised. It's another blow for the hard pressed commuter."

A week after two boys fell through the ice at Fairlands Valley Park one of the boys was hailed a hero by his school. Marriotts pupil Damian Coles, 13, of Archer Road, Stevenage, received a letter from school headteacher Patrick Marshall describing his actions as 'courageous'.

It transpired that Damian had jumped into the lake to save his friend and fellow pupil John Murphy, also 13, who had gone out on to the ice to retrieve his bike that had been thrown on to the lake by two students from the school. One was later excluded and the other sanction with Mr Marshall adding: "Their foolish actions could have cost a life."

The first fears that Letchworth Museum would close surfaced as North Herts District Council (NHDC) tried to close a budget deficit of �620,000. It was estimated that closing the museum would save �50,000 a year causing uproar from museum supporters. It was later given a two-year reprieve.

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