So, a few hundred people voted for Hemel Hempstead in an internet poll which claimed to establish the most ugly town centre in England.
Of course, everyone realises that this is a bit of a laugh and a fun summer story for the press.
The online poll was hardly scientific, or organised by a reputable organisation, and it only attracted the attention of a miniscule, virtually immeasurable percentage of the population.
So I am disappointed that some lazy national journalists must have been so short of real news that they decided to dig out archive photographs of old stairwells (from the demolished former Royal Mail building), old car park ramps (from the demolished Kodak car park) and a picture of the discus thrower statue in the Water Gardens surrounded by graffiti which has long been removed to illustrate their reports.
However, I was heartened to see many local people rushing to the town’s defence and posting beautiful pictures on the internet. Well done to the Hemel Hempstead Remembered Facebook group!
Of course, any town can be made to look drab and dismal. Many towns have concrete multi-storey car parks, stairwells and acres of flat roofs.
It is true that Hemel Hempstead town centre has plenty of uninspiring 1950s architecture – but it is what it is, a town centre built in a hurry by a country that was just recovering from a world war.
Ask anyone who moved here from bombed-out London and they will tell you that it was heaven on earth compared to what they left behind.
What actually makes a town is the people that live there and it is up to every person to make the most of what’s on offer.
True, if your obsession is surfing, then you are going to find it difficult in Hemel Hempstead, but if you like any one of a multitude of other things then you will find something here for you.
I, for one, thoroughly love living in Hemel Hempstead – I know you would expect me to say that, but I really do!.
We have the best of all worlds as I see it.
We have easy access to the beautiful local countryside, enchanting canal walks, wide green open spaces such as Gadebridge Park and Boxmoor Common, and yet we also have all the advantages of living in a vibrant modern town – a wide range of shops, restaurants and a thriving business area with good transport links.
At times it is all too easy for people to be over critical and negative about our town and community.
I for one am proud to live in Hemel Hempstead and I really believe that it is a wonderful place in which to relax, live, work and raise a family.
To the detractors I would say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
And to be frank, if you don’t like living here, then move away.
Mike Penning is the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead. You can contact him via www.mikepenning.com or on 01442 251126