A HIGH-SECURITY lab in Sandridge normally closed to members of the public has at last flung open its doors to reveal some of the vital work carried out there.

The Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) may only be known to people who live in the area as the 'place on the hill with a mast'.

However, in scientific circles it has an international reputation for conducting investigations which help the police to catch criminals, terrorists and keep the public safe.

As the lab remains extremely secluded due to the sensitive nature of the research undertaken there, it tends to get forgotten about.

But last week leader of St Albans District Council Robert Donald and councillor Chris Oxley were given a guided tour of the secure facility to discover more about its fundamental role in helping to cut crime.

The centre is currently developing a revolutionary finger print system to aid police in catching criminals as well as anti-terrorism equipment which can detect weapons or explosive devices in public spaces such as airports and railway stations.

It also develops standards for police body armour, ensuring that bullet-proof vests have been thoroughly tested to meet exacting standards, among many other things.

Councillor Oxley said: “I have lived in sight of the mast for over 30 years and had not been aware of the superb work being done by such a dedicated team of highly skilled scientists.

"I consider it a real privilege to be shown just a sample of how HOSDB helps us live in a civilised and reduced crime environment.

"I now realise that HOSDB is yet another world class facility in our city and district, together with Rothamstead Research Establishment.

"I have a better understanding as to why we have more graduates in the district than any other part of the eastern region, apart from Cambridge itself.”

Alan Pratt of HOSDB said: “Not many people in St Albans realise that they have a world class facility on their doorstep. Advances in science and technology are happening more and more quickly and our work helps the UK to keep ahead of criminals and potential terrorists.

"Our objective is to use our scientific expertise to help protect the public and help the police to reduce crime.

"We employ some very talented scientists and engineers whose work is little-known outside the law-enforcement world.”