Review of the year

JANUARY - IN January, we kicked off with the dreary news that vital services were being cut as Cambridgeshire County Council struggled to balance its books. A £10-million budget shortfall meant Council Tax would rise and services would be cut. - S


- IN January, we kicked off with the dreary news that vital services were being cut as Cambridgeshire County Council struggled to balance its books. A £10-million budget shortfall meant Council Tax would rise and services would be cut.

- Severe weather meant a team of 35 gritter lorries were working full-time. A low of minus four degrees was recorded in Littleport as four inches of snow fell.

- A potentially fatal gas explosion was prevented by quick-thinking fire-fighters who used a bar of soap and a potato to stem a leaking pipe after a car crashed into a mains pipe in Ely.

Alan Fish Bar provided the potato and the soap came from the Fortune Garden Chinese Restaurant, both in Broad Street.

"We jammed the soap down the pipe and capped it off with the potato," said fire officer Dave Robertson.

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- Controversial plans to introduce car parking charges in Ely suffered another delay. The scheme took a setback when the district council's Environment and Transport Department decided to put off making a final decision until September.

- Ely businessman John Borland was ordered to smarten up the front of his shop in Market Street or face court action.

The district council slapped an enforcement notice on the shop, which had attracted complaints from local people who were concerned about the appearance of the building.

- Outraged independent traders in the city centre contacted us to say their A-boards had been removed without warning.

The culprits, were, in fact, the council, which now deemed the advertising boards to be a danger to the public.


- Some residents in St John's Road in Ely, opposed to a plan for a new skate park, met MP Jim Paice at the site to discuss their concerns. The St John's Road Playing Field Association were concerned that the facility would attract anti-social behaviour.

- Five pupils were expelled form the King's School in Ely after cannabis was found on the premises. Some parents compared the interviews with pupils to a "Spanish inquisition".

- Home owners in Littleport were told the district and county councils would not be picking up the bill to have their gardens cleaned up from toxic gas contamination. The residents in Old School Close and Ponts Hill, said they were unable to sell their homes after levels of cancer-producing chemicals were discovered in their gardens. The levels were six times higher than Government safe limits.

- A rare cricket bat, signed by Sir Jack Hobbs and the rest of the Ashes-winning England team of 1926 was found in an attic in Sutton. It was later auctioned.

- It was announced that Ely was finally to get its own Chamber of Commerce.

- A giant lizard called Gonzo managed to escape from a home in Columbine Road in Ely. He was found and returned to his tank a few days later.

- We launched our Help Our Hospice campaign with a £1,000 donation. We told readers of the plight facing all children's hospices like the one in Milton which was struggling to meet running costs after it lost its Lottery funding. The Ely Standard launched a fund-raising campaign and a petition to call for more Government funding.

- Steven Mingay, a policeman who risked his life carrying victims of the July 7 bombing to safety, was made an MBE. He ran down a 70-ft tunnel to help rescue people who were trapped after a bomb exploded on an underground train.

- Javelin thrower Goldie Sayers was heading off to the Commonwealth Games with the message "I can win gold". Goldie was jetting off to Australia to compete.


- MARCH got off to a great start when a team of walkers from Soham and Little Downham announced they were going to complete a 10-day 270-mile trek to raise money for our Help Our Hospice campaign.

- Police officer Karen Miles-Holdaway was recognised for her courage after risking her life to help save victims of the July 7 bombings. She had only been on duty for five minutes when the emergency call came in and was sent to Russell Square. She was given a Metropolitan Police Commissioner's Award for bravery.

- East Cambridgeshire District Council announced they were now prepared to foot the bill for remedial work to rid gardens in Littleport of a toxic substance. Residents said it was a "big step forward" but hoped the county council would also help towards the cost.

- Sean Hilton was given a life sentence for killing his girlfriend Kim Fuller. Hilton, of Brook Street, killed Miss Fuller and dumped her body near a disused airfield in Lakenheath.

- Cheques and donations start to flood in for the Help Our Hospice campaign. One reader sent a cheque for £750.

- The Littleport Show organisers announced that the show would not go ahead as not enough people had come forward to help organise the event.

- Retired teacher Betty Wilbraham was asked to leave the city's Hereward pub after she was spotted wearing a hat. Staff told her people wearing hats could not be identified on CCTV at a later date if they caused trouble. Betty, 82, a member of the local WI, was adamant that she could not be seen in public without a hat. Betty became an overnight celebrity.


- APRIL began with a shower of protest after the district council announced plans to oil Muscovy duck eggs by the river in Ely to reduce numbers.

They said it was necessary to halve the population after complaints about the mess.

- Builder Steve Haslam announced plans to buy and refurbish Ely's Cutter inn. He fell in love with the venue after carrying out some work for the brewery.

- Betty Wilbraham starts writing a column called Hats off To Betty for the Standard.

She is now in demand as a public speaker.


- MAY was very merry, for Ely eel catcher Sid Merry who was filmed for a new series of Tarrant's Travels. Chris Tarrant spent time with Sid on the river at Ely.

- Former Standard editor John Ison was named as the city's new mayor. Cllr Ison announced that he intended to arrive at official functions by boat, where possible.

- Betty Wilbraham recommended stuffing a pickled onion into the ear to cure earache in her Hats off to Betty column.


- JUNE saw Friends of the Earth campaigner Mary Edwards join the fight to stop a car park being built on cathedral land in Ely. The cathedral's representatives told Standard readers "you will have to trust us" saying they would not do anything that would have a negative impact on the land around the historic building.

- Football fans started to gear up for the World Cup. A World Cup subbuteo competition took place in the home of football...Southery. A football-mad couple in Stuntney decorated their home in St George cross flags.

- Radio presenter Jeremy Vine was forced to apologise after he broadcast a spoof news item in which he told listeners that Soham murderer Ian Huntley had died in his cell.

- Fordham teenager Michael Simpson became the European clay pigeon shooting champion.

- Plans for a massive new housing development at Highflyer Farm on the outskirts of Ely were announced. 500 new homes, sports facilities and a community centre were included in the plan.


- JULY started well for the Save Cathedral Meadows group when the district council announced it was pulling the plug on plans to build a car park on cathedral-owned land.

- The Standard launched its Baby of The Year competition.

- Aquafest was deemed a huge success by organisers. Sixteen teams, including one from the Ely Standard, took part in the river race. Visitors basked in soaring temperatures.

- The Help Our Hospice campaign reaches £50,000. The Standard says 'thank you' to readers who have made donations, signed the petition and organised fund-raising events.

- Flash floods in the area caused chaos, below. Scores of people battled the elements as raw sewage poured into homes.


- AUGUST saw more flash floods and renewed fears that if house-building in the area continued unabated some parts of East Cambridgeshire would be under water in five years' time.

People told the Standard that the freak weather had exposed weaknesses in the drainage infrastructure. Ely Cathedral was hit by lightning and the King's School flooded.

- The Cutter Inn raised £400 for the Milton Hospice. Plans for a southern bypass around Ely were thrown out by the Government for a second time. Council officials were predicting traffic gridlock.

- Goldie Sayers suffered further injury at the European Championships in Gothenberg, but still managed to finish in 12th place.

- A gang of fake police officers were targeting elderly people in the area and escaped with a quantity of cash.

- Malcolm Moss MP told the Standard that the area was on the "brink of immigration meltdown". The views of the North-East Cambridgeshire MP prompted fierce criticism from those calling for more tolerance towards migrant workers in the area.

- The Ely and District Horticultural Show showed off some prize exhibits.

- GCSE students from around the district were celebrating after clocking up good grades. All the area's schools improved their results on the previous year.


- IT was announced that local beauty spot Roswell Lakes had been sold. The site was bought by Jeremy and Michael Tyrell who run Jalsea Marina in Ely. The brothers said they were keen to retain and support the area's boating community.

- Witchford Village College contacted us when the Home Office blocked the new appointment of a South African cookery teacher who was due to start at the school. After some intervention from the Standard and Jim Paice MP, Tambudzai Choto was told her work permit had been issued.

- A record 608 runners took part in the Grunty Fen half-marathon. The first runner home was Matt Amos in an impressive time of one hour, 12 mins and 12 seconds.

- The winners of the first Ely Standard Baby Of The Year competition were announced. The overall winner was James Ransom.

- The wartime medals of SAS war hero Reg Seekings were sold at auction for £60,000, which was twice the estimated sale price. The collection included the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal which were awarded to Mr Seekings, from Stuntney, who was one of the first to parachute in during the 1944 Normandy landings.


- AN abundance of pumpkins graced the pages of our early October issue as the Soham Pumpkin Fair was hailed "one of the best in recent years". Soham resident Angela Clements grew the heaviest local pumpkin, which weighed in at 68.14kg.

- October 14 marked the 90th anniversary of Cambridgeshire Regiment's efforts at the Battle of the Somme at the Schwaben Redoubt. We remembered the huge sacrifice and loss of life of local men by producing an eight-page special supplement. A service was held at Ely Cathedral and relatives of some of the men who served at that time were invited to attend.

- Local families contacted us to say they had been saving with the gift company Farepak and would be facing a bleak Christmas without their hard-earned cash.

- Thousands of people turned out for Ely's annual Apple Festival. A longest apple peel competition was won with 62 cms of peel.


- NOVEMBER kicked off with a wave of vandalism. A man was stabbed after he confronted two men he believed were slashing tyres in an Ely street. Vandals caused £2,500 of damage to the Soham health centre.

- There was also more delay over Ely's transport plans after new proposals to finally get things underway were sent back to the drawing board. The district council's overview and scrutiny committee decided they wanted more information and sent the plans back to the transport committee for further debate, which meant a new stalemate for the long-awaited proposals.

- The British Legion announced it was facing a bleak future as membership numbers were dwindling. Chairman Raymond Hale said the branch would close within a year if more members did not come forward.

- Jake Jacobs of the tiny village of Wardy Hill was crowned national Scrabble champion. He won the game with the word 'solutive', which describes a substance that can be dissolved.

- Christmas dinner and all the trimmings was guaranteed for 30 Farepak families when Soham's Blue Donkey firm and Budgens stepped in to provide the food. 28 families, who lost £8,000 between them, were given presents and a turkey dinner, courtsey of the two companies.


- IN December, we told the story of brave mum Nicola Jugg who lost her five-year battle with breast cancer. Nicola was desperate to spend Christmas with her three children, but she died at the Arthur Rank Hospice after the cancer returned and spread to her brain.

- Ely mayor John Ison and Standard competition winners Bernadette Crane and Byron Patterson switched on the city's Christmas lights.

- Plans for a massive Glastonbury-style music festival in the tiny village of Lode were announced. Some villagers were unhappy about the influx of pop fans, but others said it could be positive for the village. Organiser Doug Durrant said it was a great opportunity for the local inhabitants, but acknowledged that there would be some problems on the roads.

- Soham youngster Liam Fairhurst announced he was going to swim a mile to raise money for a cancer charity. Liam, who had been fighting cancer himself for 18 months, had already been promised £5,000 from sponsors.

- Shanice and Harvey Fairweather collect some Christmas toys from Blue Donkey operations director Robbie Rouse. The Soham firm collected donations and cash for families hit by the Farepak collapse.