Review of the year: July

It was revealed that North Herts District Council had spent �700,000 of tax payers money on a shopping centre that was no nearer to completion, with costs set to predicted to escalate to �800,000 before a brick was laid. The money spent by North Herts D

It was revealed that North Herts District Council had spent �700,000 of tax payers' money on a shopping centre that was no nearer to completion, with costs set to predicted to escalate to �800,000 before a brick was laid.

The money spent by North Herts District Council on choosing a developer for the troubled Churchgate area of Hitchin had ballooned as the eight-year project dragged on. Two bidders remained in secret talks with the council.

A plan to introduce car parking charges in Stevenage High Street raised anger among retailers who said the fees would hurt businesses.

One businesswoman said the proposals, due to be implemented by Stevenage Borough Council in April 2010, would cost companies �400 a year per car for a permit, while driving shoppers away.


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"With the economy the way it is at the moment, why hit the local small businesses which are struggling to survive as it is?" She said.

Staff at an animal shelter were shocked after one of the worst cases of animal neglect they had seen.

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Vets at Wood Green Animal Shelter in Cambridgeshire were dismayed when a starving dog was brought to them after being found wandering the streets of Baldock.

Named Rusty by staff, the mongrel had lost all his hair and was extremely emaciated and dehydrated.

An appeal was made through The Comet to help finance his recovery leading to a flood of support from generous readers.

Big cat fever hit the area as reports of large mystery felines poured into Comet HQ.

We were inundated with readers claiming to have seen a beast, perhaps a panther or a puma, in such places as Ashwell, Lower Stondon, Great Ashby and Great Wymondley.

Two videos were sent in by eagle-eyed readers showing what appeared to be a large black cat near Datchworth and a large animal crossing the car park of a pub in Steeple Morden.

A fisherman described his close encounter while at Sandon village pond. "Something moved and caught my eye," he said. "As I looked up I saw the cat standing on the opposite bank no more than 30 feet from us. My friend and I stood up and it looked directly at us and moved away slowly.

"It was clearly visible and there is no way that either of us could mistake it for a normal cat, dog, cow, sheep or anything else."

The rock world rolled into Comet country as the mighty Sonisphere Festival finished its European tour in Knebworth Park.

Thousands of revellers descended on the home of rock to hear Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica shake the foundations of the ancient house during the two day event which allowed camping for the first time for many years.

Room for over 100 gipsy and traveller families must be found by 2011, councils in Comet country were told.

The news came as communities secretary John Denham announced the final figures for accommodating gipsies, travellers and travelling show people in the region.

Ten new plots were earmarked for Stevenage, 15 for North Herts and 80 in Central Beds.

The government suggested creating 'rural exception sites' and altering Green Belt boundaries if necessary.

Stevenage MP Barbara Follett said it was a positive step towards addressing the serious disadvantages experienced by members of travelling communities, who have a life expectancy 10 to 12 years below the regional average and huge challenges accessing education and health services.

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