Bungle blamed for Harpenden sensory garden highways mix-up

A SENSORY garden enjoyed by blind people on Harpenden’s High Street has been found to contain a small strip of land dedicated for highway use.

The unusual discovery has been described as a possible bureaucratic bungle, as the garden, the site of a former pond, is part of Harpenden’s common and has been maintained at taxpayers’ expense for decades.

A spokesman for Harpenden town council (HTC) said the anomaly had been chanced upon when staff were carrying out routine work, ensuring all of the common, which stretches along the main road, was registered.

He described the glitch as, “coming right out of the blue.”

The town council found that while HTC had the title for the common, there was a 30ftx50ft patch within the island garden, located on Bower’s Parade near the Cross Keys pub, which was not included.

The spokesman said HTC then made an application to register it as part of the common but Herts county council (HCC) objected, saying that the small strip had been earmarked for highway use.

He added: “We thought it was an oversight, so we wanted to ensure it was registered as common land. But the county council said we can’t because it is designated highway, so unfortunately we can’t own the title on that piece of land.”

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HCC told the town council it owned the right to have a highway over the patch.

But the HTC spokesman said: “We maintain it, we are paying for it, so we should own it.”

St Albans district and Harpenden county councillor Teresa Heritage said the problem appeared to be a historic anomaly and that HCC officers were investigating the issue. That included looking into whether there had been an oversight where the strip had been deregulated decades ago but had not been recorded as such.

District and town councillor Bert Pawle said: “It is red tape that needs addressing, just to regularise the position; why should it remain as highway land?”

He added: “We are asking the council to work with us and are pleased with their response to regularise the ownership of that land. It is just the title we are after, to regulate the anomaly. ”

Cllr Pawle said it was unlikely the small strip, located near an old underground air raid shelter within the garden, would ever be used for roading.

The sensory garden was opened in 2008 and has plants that visitors can touch and smell.