Behind our backs

PUBLISHED: 18:15 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

SIR, — A couple of weeks ago, residents will have noticed tree works on the Batford Springs Reserve in Harpenden including the felling of several white poplars on Batford Green opposite the Gibraltar Castle which had long been a feature of this area and a

SIR, - A couple of weeks ago, residents will have noticed tree works on the Batford Springs Reserve in Harpenden including the felling of several white poplars on Batford Green opposite the Gibraltar Castle which had long been a feature of this area and a popular "adventure playground" for children. As chairman of the management committee, which was set up by St Albans District Council (SADC) in 1995 to look after this small reserve, I wish to make clear that these works were implemented by SADC officers without consultation with the management committee, who only found out by chance that these works were being put out to contract. I should note that the SADC Parks and Green Spaces officer is a member of this committee.

My requests for discussion on these matters have been ignored, and the SADC portfolio holder has been unable or unwilling to ensure that proper procedures are followed.

The excuse will be Health and Safety, but no case has been made for this. And it sits ill with the fact that we spent over two years trying - finally successfully - to get a truly dangerous dead willow adjacent to a well-used path removed.

Residents may also have seen that the two large white willows by the children's play area, which were magnificent until they were butchered three years ago, have been pollarded while in full leaf which is hardly best arboricultural practice.

The management committee, led by Harpenden Town Council and involving also local lay people including members of the Upper Lea Valley Group who have done so much for the Reserve over the years, cannot function effectively if major decisions are made and implemented behind its back. The simplest solution is to return areas such as Batford Springs to local ownership and control by Harpenden Town Council, as was the case before the local-government re-organisation of 1974, as this will remove a layer of inertia and bureaucracy inherent in the present system. As I walked around the Reserve last week, a buzzard soared over and a kingfisher flew downriver from the ford; let us ensure that the local people feel that they have ownership of this valuable recreational area.

RICHARD BROMILOW,

Chairman, Batford Springs Local Nature Reserve.

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