Contorversy over cross-over proposal for Harpenden green space

HARPENDEN residents have been assured there is no intention to “build the M1” on a local park after they complained about a proposal to build a vehicle cross-over on the green space.

Judith Wright and Carol Hedges of Westfield Action Group were alarmed to see a public notice advertising a planning application to provide new vehicular access from Willoughby Road to Westfield Recreation Ground.

Harpenden town council (HTC) says in the advert that it needs to provide access for maintenance vehicles and allotment holders.

But Judith said: “I smell an enormous rat. You can’t just create a road. People want to preserve it as a green area.

“This isn’t a posh part of Harpenden, we don’t back on to a golf course, the common or Rothamsted; there isn’t much green space here. It should be preserved as a lovely community park.”

Both Judith and Carol are concerned that an application for the cross-over has been lodged with St Albans district council (SADC) before a public inquiry into a request for the playing fields to acquire town green status is held in December.

Carol said HTC was being “provocative and jumping the gun” with the application, and that it should be looking at providing access elsewhere, which did not impact on the green space.

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She labelled HTC as being “sneaky” for not consulting residents on the proposal, which she feared could be part of plans to build at the site.

But a spokesman for HTC denied there was any ulterior motive. He explained that when SADC transferred ownership of the playing fields to the town council in May this year, one of the conditions was that the rights of both vehicular and pedestrian access from Beeching Close to the field would be extinguished.

The spokesman said HTC was seeking the owner of a piece of land between Willoughby Road and the recreational ground, explaining, “There is a track in front of Gilbert Court which has unknown ownership.”

The spokesman added: “We are not building the M1. It would be a graded track. Some bushes would have to be dug out and playground equipment relocated.

“It will not be a road. It’s a track for maintenance vehicles and allotment holders. There is no other agenda.

“There are no plans to build on the recreational ground – the contract with district council prohibits development on that site, because it is open space.

“The planning application has no bearing on the town green inquiry.”