Voice Of The Paper: Lidl row raises big issues for Dacorum

David O'Neill
David O'Neill

There is one word on everyone’s lips in Berkhamsted at the moment, and that word is Lidl.

Who’d have thought the prospect of a bit of discount shopping could cause so much trouble?

As I write this article, 342 people have signed a petition against the opening of the Gossoms End Lidl – while 655 have signed one in favour of it. The other 16,000 or so people who live in the area, one can assume, are indifferent one way or the other about whether a Lidl opens in the town.

But when I wrote an article a month ago about the petitions, The Daily Mail picked it up… sat on it for about two weeks, then ran it themselves.

Before you could say Lidl, there were TV cameras everywhere you looked in Berkhamsted, pestering people for their thoughts on the discount supermarket chain.

And all because pensioner John Waller, 71, of the town’s Cobb Road, grabbed people’s attention by saying the anti lobby is made up of ‘stuck-up, toffee-nosed twits’.

As the debate on the Everything Berko Facebook page about whether or not they were snobs raged onwards, Mr Waller enraged them further by repeating his comments on TV.

And just when you thought the mud-slinging between the pro and anti lobby couldn’t get any worse, he blasted snobby outsiders for ‘invading’ the town.

He said the area needs a Lidl – and the 10 affordable homes due to be built above it – for all the ‘poor people’.

Though extreme and hopefully a little tongue-in-cheek, I can definitely see where he is coming from.

Berkhamsted, Tring and even Hemel Hempstead have become largely unaffordable to people who have grown up in the area who cannot rely on the bank of mum and dad.

The close proximity to London and good reputation of Hertfordshire have driven property prices through the roof, making it difficult for many to get on the housing ladder.

A quick Zoopla search shows that there are four properties on the market for less than £200,000 in Berkhamsted – compared to more than 50 in Dunstable.

Housing prices in the Dacorum area have been driven up by people who work in London.

We are at risk of being left with a collection of dormitory towns where city workers sleep, unless more social housing can be provided.