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O


ur house is full of papers, from the attic to the cellar. I must confess that most of them


are mine and relate to Three Rivers – its problems, its events, its challenges and its people. These are not just papers that came in last


week, last month or even last year. They go back several decades. But the moment arrived recently when I felt I


must reduce the piles. It is very probable that I have the only remaining copies of many of these papers so I felt obliged, and enjoyed, going through to identify what must be kept rather than binned. I was amazed, informed and entertained by what I unearthed. We all remember major schemes like the M25


but I have been reminded of such events as the closure of Leavesden Hospital and the tragic records of people incarcerated there for most of their lives for very little reason. Who now remembers the threat of the


Southern Relief Road which was to be driven through Rickmansworth town centre? Or the pipeline scheme through Chorleywood, the impact of the 1980s flooding and the foot and mouth outbreak on the district? I read about local outrage at the proposed


extension of flying hours at Leavesden Aerodrome, the conversion of Scotsbridge Mill, the possibility that Basing House be demolished rather than repaired, whether there should be a nuclear bunker under Moor Park Mansion, or an animal crematorium in Bedmond. And there was more. The rats kept at the


Chorleywood Baking Research Labs caused local fury . When the Alliance (Liberals and SDP) became


the administration in 1986 there were numerous challenges. The council became one of the first councils to get a large lottery grant to fund community leisure facilities, using CPOs to preserve the Bury and the Withey Beds. I was entertained to be reminded that when


we introduced allowing members of the public to speak at committees it was regarded as an outrage by some people, denounced as a revolutionary idea and a threat to democracy.


Remember a time before the M25?


Now everyone takes it for granted. Among these papers were many, many letters,


some critical or abusive, others supportive, very few about the level of council tax but dozens about small but vital local issues. Forgive me looking back – history is my


subject. We have many problems and issues today, but it was encouraging to see how many things did turn out well. The courage of local people in supporting their


community has not changed. Often the problems we face represent the challenges and opportunities if we can recognise them. Learning from the past can prepare us for the future. I have enjoyed this self indulgence, thank


goodness for the recycling service which will take most of it away.


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