THE new year began with an encouraging announcement for NHS patients in Halstead.

Bosses at the Elizabeth Courtauld Surgery revealed they were looking into plans to expand the facilities by creating extra consultation rooms on the first floor of the building.

Discussions would go on to take place throughout the year, with town councillors Michael Radley and Dave Gronland assisting with the scheme.

Negotiations over the expansion are expected to continue well into next year.

Elsewhere, long-term business owners Peter and David Heard announced their High Street store, Heard Electrics, was moving away from Halstead after 31 years.

The brothers thanked the public for their support and admitted to seeing a big change in the town during their time working there.

David has continued to run the repairing side of the business from his home in Great Horkesley.

And in a bizarre turn of events, the famous Essex panther was allegedly spotted roaming fields near Sible Hedingham.

Nature lover Michelle Woodall says she spotted the large cat when looking out one of her bedroom windows.

Ms Woodalll described the panther as being jet black and four to five metres long.

She added: “I did not quite believe it at first.”


A MAJOR fire which engulfed a high street building was one of the big talking point in February.

The first floor and roof of Whispers Wine Bar suffered extensive damage after an accidental kitchen fire saw the building go up in flames.

Firefighters were forced to close off High Street and spent several hours tackling the blaze. Hotspots would reignite 24 hours later, forcing fire crews to return and pour yet more water on the already sodden building.

The damage caused by the fire meant Whispers was forced to close. Repair work is expected to begin in the coming months however the future of the popular wine bar remains unclear.

Halstead High Street had also been in the headlines earlier in the month when 11 second-hand cars were stolen from Crossways Garage.

Thieves were alleged to have snatched the CCTV system during the raid before ramming police cars when making their getaway.

Officers were able to locate some of the stolen vehicles in the following days. It is not known if they were all recovered.

Residents in rural parts of the district received a boost with the announcement that church spires would become home to new transmitters.

St Giles Church in Great Maplestead had been used to pilot the scheme and following a successful two year trial, it was agreed to be rolled out across the country to boost broadband access for villages.

Rev Gay Ellis said: “As one of the first churches to install such equipment we are very pleased the recent agreement between the Church of England and the Government will build on our experience and enable other communities to gain access to fast broadband through the use of church towers and spires.”


The start to March saw the entire district battle snow and sub-zero temperatures as the Beast from the East swept across the country.

Many schools were forced to close for several days, while there was also significant delays for commuters, with rail passengers and drivers suffering widespread disruption.

Some residents complained of pipes freezing and emergency water supplier, Water Direct, endured its busiest ever weeks as it sent out more than 200 trucks from its base in Earls Colne to people in need of clean water.

Meanwhile there was another business leaving Halstead High Street.

Dozens of jobs were set to be lost when the town's only chain restaurant, Prezzo, announced it would be closing.

A total of 94 chains across the country were set to be lost, with the store in Market Hill one to face the chop.

Halstead Chamber of Trade said it was confident the loss of Prezzo would not effect business in the town.

A new Turkish restaurant called La Mezze has since opened in place of the Italian eatery.

Former Halstead Town manager and player Shaun Bailey sadly died from a brain tumour aged 54.

The popular figure fought bravely for four years before passing away at his home in the US, surrounded by friends and family.

Tributes poured in for the former, with Halstead Town dedicating their annual fun day to him.

Club secretary Steve Webber said: “He was a big part of the club for many years and was loved by everyone who knew him.

“Shaun was a genuinely nice guy, someone who you could happily say was your best friend."


PLANS to make Halstead and the Colne Valley an area of outstanding natural beauty were unveiled in April.

White Colne Parish Council requested Halstead Town Council begin the application process, which could take as long 20 years to complete.

Should the application be approved, the status would help protect Halstead and Colne Valley from large scale housing developments. It is also hoped it will help to bring in new visitors to the area. Halstead Town Council has begun the application process after agreeing to the pursue the lofty natural beauty status.

Drivers in Halstead were dealt a blow when it was announced roadworks would be set up in Mount Hill for five months.

Bloor Homes revealed it would be closing one side of the road as part of its 183 home development in Oak Road.

The roadworks went on to cause regular delays in the town, and motorists misery was compounded when work overran well into October.

A PUB's long battle to save its new car park ended in defeat.

The White Hart in Great Yeldham was told it's new asphalt surface was out of character with the grade II listed building.

Bosses had removed the old gravel surface in a bid to make the car park more accessible for customers with mobility issues.

But a planning committee rejected a retrospective planning application from the pub. A bounded gravel surface is expected to be installed to resolve the row, providing permission is granted by councillors.


THE very first All England Outdoor Paper Aeroplane Championships was held at The White Hart Inn in Halstead.

The inaugural event drew in 71 people from across north Essex as competitors battled it out to make and then fly their paper aeroplane the furthest.

Pub and competition founder Charles Townsend said: “There is no national championships at all so I thought it was time we got one organised.

“There was a lot of interest and we had people coming from as far Mersea and Harwich. We will certainly be running it again next year so we’ll be hoping it doesn’t rain then as well.”

A STRUGGLING care home threatened with closure was taken over and given a new lease of life.

THE new owner of a struggling care home has promised to make significant investment to help turn around its fortunes.

Stow Healthcare announced it had taken on Attwoods Manor Care home, in Mount Hill, Halstead. The home has since been renamed Halstead Hall and has been shortlisted for regional and national awards.

Plans are also in place to build 25 new bungalows and a new dementia unit.

The success at the home is a stark contrast to last year, when Essex County Council withdrew funding and placed it on the market. CQC inspections had also seen the home rated inadequate.

Halstead's doctors surgery announced a new walk-in scheme, in a bid to ease growing concerns about patient waiting times.

The Elizabeth Courtauld surgery began its new morning clinics on June 4, which allows patients the chance to be seen without booking an appointment.

Practice manager Richard Hartwell said: “Feedback tells us that for some of our patients the current appointment system does not work.

“We’re always looking at alternatives and with the staff we now have in place, our GP partners believe we have the opportunity to try something different which will hopefully be of benefit to all of our patients."


June saw roundabouts across the town painted like the English flag as World Cup fever took hold.

The Three Lions successful run to the semi-finals saw fans paint small roundabouts in Parsonage Street and Trinity Street with red crosses.

Highways bosses urged residents to show their support in alternative ways. The feel good factor was somewhat dampened by unsavoury incidents, which included a brawl in Earls Colne High Street following England's 6-1 thrashing of Panama.

In response to growing concerns about policing in Halstead, the town council agreed funding for three special constables.

An appeal for members of the public was put out, with candidates needing to work a minimum of 16 hours a month and being given the same powers as full-time officers.

Volunteers are not paid for service, but expenses are covered by the town council

The scheme has yet to take off, with the town council issuing a fresh appeal for volunteers in November as no one had signed up.

Plans to revitalise one of Halstead's most iconic buildings were unveiled.

Townsford Mill owner John de Bruyne submitted plans to turn Mill House into a bed and breakfast.

The millionaire businessman also revealed plans to set up a cafe in the Blacksmiths building, as well as build a new footbridge across the River Colne.

He also revealed ambitions to revive the town's market by moving it from the top of High Street, down towards the mill.