Arson attacks in St Albans forces prevention rethink

Rebuilding of Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre may be fast-tracked

THE HAVOC wreaked by recent arson attacks on public sports centres in St Albans has forced the district council to examine its fire and intruder prevention systems to lessen the risk of another “catastrophe.”

Current systems are to be reviewed in the wake of a suspected arson attack which devastated Batchwood Golf and Tennis Centre in August, four months after a storage shed housing sports equipment at London Colney Adventure World was destroyed by arson.

St Albans district council portfolio holder for sports, Cllr Mike Wakely, said a review was overdue and urgently needed to lessen the risk of, “another catastrophe in a council property.”

He added: “I have asked officers to conduct an assessment of fire and intruder prevention systems across the council’s estate.”

The storage facility destroyed in the London Colney arson attack has since been replaced.

At last Wednesday’s full council meeting, Cllr Wakely said the floor of the Batchwood centre was made out of materials including recycled tyres.

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He explained that meant the floor burned, “very hot and melted the cladding” in the August 10 blaze.

Thus a priority when rebuilding the facility will be to ensure it does not have a combustible floor.

The council will shortly appoint a project management and design team to rebuild Batchwood and have the damaged bowling green repaired.

Council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly said: “I would like to get this thing up and running as fast as possible.”

He went on: “It is really important to get the bowls club up and running quickly or it will disintegrate; it is really important to keep the golf club together or it will disintegrate.

“And it’s really important that we keep the tennis coaches together as a core, capable of delivering both elite and entry level tennis.”

• Council officers have been asked to consider fast-tracking the rebuilding of the bowls club, golf club and original four courts for the first phase of bringing back Batchwood. Phase two, the enhancement of existing tennis provision, could then be progressed with support from the Lawn Tennis Association.