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29 October 2014

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    Film crew in Worley Road, St. Albans
    Film crew in Worley Road, St. Albans

    Life begins at 6.00am

    The filming of a TV drama series in St Albans suburbia has been met with a mixed reaction. A film crew has brought an air of excitment with it, but traffic problems have upset some residents.

    Life Begins in St Albans

    The first series of the popular comedy drama series 'Life Begins' was also filmed in St Albans.

    Starring Caroline Quentin and Alexander Armstrong as husband and wife, Maggie and Phil, the programme follows what happens when Phil announces he's leaving Maggie.

    Shoppers in Market Place, pupils at Francis Bacon School and various local landmarks were all caught on camera for the series, written by Mike Bullen.

    Property consultants Aitchinson Rafferty also tasted fame after leasing out two properties to the production company - the building that used to be the Tabard premises in George Street and the old Barnardo's shop in Chequer Street.

    Residents in Worley Road and Christchurch Close in the city say they've not been able to get into their own home because the comedy drama 'Life Begins, starring Caroline Quentin and Alexander Armstrong, is being filmed in the city.

    And the initial excitement of having a film crew arrive on their doorstep has worn off with the reality of having to put up with blocked driveways, stationary traffic queues and clogged up roads on a daily basis.

    Julia Rhodes lives in Christchurch Close and she says that she wasn't consulted about the filming.

    "We got no notice whatsoever that there were going to be all these trucks parked up Worley Road" she says, "which is a narrow enough road as it is.

    "It's made crossing the road and exiting from Christchurch Close a real hazard and I've no idea how long they are going to be there for."

    Julia says that the first indication she got of the filming was when she was coming home from work on Friday and there was a policeman blocking the road.

    "We were held up for about 20 minutes trying to get back up the road to my house" she explains.

    "I asked the policeman how long they were going to be there for and he just said 'I don't know, I'm only here for the day'.


    The production company Granada are actually under no legal obligation to let the people who live in the area know about the filming schedule, but Julia feels that it is a matter of common courtesy.

    "It would just have been nice to have been told about it and to know what's going on in your own area. At least you would be able to plan then, and maybe leave 15 minutes earlier" she says.

    Film crew in Worley Road, St. Albans
    St Albans houses star in Life Begins

    The filming of this story has caused controversy in the city before. Last August, the production company spent time in St Stephen's Avenue where residents experienced similar disruption, but the particular nature of Worley Road has compounded the problem. It is a very narrow road, with street parking on both sides.

    Resident Lyn Johnson says that this has caused chaos in the street.

    "When you live in a town centre you do expect a certain amount of traffic and general mayhem in the rush hours" she says.

    "But this is all day. They are here at 6.00am and last Friday they were here until 9.00pm, so people coming home from work were having difficulty parking.

    "We had half a dozen trucks here yesterday, plus the cars or people coming and going to the filming site. They [the film crew] are very polite and considerate but they can't manufacture parking spaces out of thin air."


    However, not all the residents are unhappy with the situation and have nothing but praise for the way that the film crew have behaved.

    "I understand there have been complaints about the filming and problems caused" Worley Road resident John de Marris told BBC Three Counties Radio.

    "It would just have been nice to have been told about it and to know what's going on in your own area. At least you would be able to plan then."
    Julia Rhodes, resident of Christchurch Close

    "But I would like to say that where I live is in the middle of the area and I have had nothing but kindness, courtesy and help from all the people concerned.

    "A neighbour was locked out and the crew ran around to find a ladder to let him get access to his house.

    "I understand the people complaining don't even live in the road" he adds.

    For those who are unhappy, it appears that there is little that they can do, although the Council can assure them that they did everything that they could to ensure minimal disruption.


    Melvyn Teare is the Liberal Democrat Councillor reponsible for Heritage, Arts and Tourism and is also the former city centre manager.

    He says that the production companies don't have to have permission to film in St Albans because it is a commercial operation where the companies have a particular agreement with a householder. However, he reveals that the Council do like to make sure that they have consulted with both them and the police before they start.

    "We do allow filming to take place across the whole of the city and district" he explains. "But we try to talk through with the film and TV companies just what they are looking to achieve, and we try to draw up with them a policy as to how they deal with the locations.

    "If they have an agreement with a particular householder then they can proceed as long as we are happy with the arrangements that they have made to inform residents and to cover any particular traffic problems that there may be" he says.

    However, Councillor Teare does accept that there appear to have been some communication breakdowns in this case and is meeting with the production company to try and resolve the issues.

    "About 80-100 letters were sent out to residents" he says. "But I am aware of a problem with Christchurch Close which is a gated residency.

    Film crew in Worley Road, St. Albans
    The exit from Christchurch Close on to Worley Road

    "When they tried to deliver them they couldn't get in as they had no code to enter the place. They gave some letters to a resident who promised to distribute them but there was no way of checking that this had been done.

    "This is a slip-up on behalf of the production company" he continues. "I'm meeting up with them later on this morning in order to find out how they will resolve such an issue.

    "I would like to apologise to the residents" he adds. "They should have been informed."


    Meanwhile, production company Granada claim that they have a very good relationship with the council and the police over the filming of "Life Begins" in St. Albans as they have returned to film the second series there.

    In a statement given to BBC Three Counties Radio they say that the Producer and Location Manager advise the council, police and local residents that the filming is to take place.

    "They do not ask permission, but always inform the council, police and local residents in advance in case anyone wishes to protest against the filming" reads the statement.

    "Residents are informed by letter and are told that the production company will not need to close roads."

    last updated: 26/10/04
    Have Your Say
    Is it exciting when film crews arrive on your doorstep? Or have you experienced disruption in your area when this has happened? Tell us your views.
    Your name: 
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    The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

    yes deffiently and what made it better was that my boyfriend was in life begins

    Resident of Worley Road!
    I too have found the crew to be polite and helpful although placing the 'no parking' traffic cones in designated spots so the lorrys can get there the next day seems a bit off! Residents of Worley Road pay good money to park their cars in their own street which is busy at the best of times. There is a multi storey round the corner after all!

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