Council lodges application for controversial Harpenden Colts site

Signs opposing proposed playing fields on land at New Farm, Roundwood Lane, Harpenden

Signs opposing proposed playing fields on land at New Farm, Roundwood Lane, Harpenden - Credit: Archant

CONCERNS about the future financing of an ambitious £2-million scheme to turn farmland into football facilities in Harpenden continue to be voiced as a planning application has been lodged with the district council.

Bob Trevor, chairman of Harpenden Colts Football Club, has confirmed that Herts county council (HCC) has recently asked for approval to develop its land, New Farm, Roundwood Lane, into a combination of pitches, pavilion and car park.

HCC is seeking agreement from St Albans district council (SADC) for a change of use from agricultural land to playing fields.

While exact details were unavailable at the time of going to press, as SADC was still validating the application, it is understood that the Colts want to build 11 pitches altogether.

This includes one senior, two 11-a-side and two nine-a-side junior pitches, along with a training pitch and a further junior 11-a-side pitch for a reserve primary school site earmarked for New Farm.

However one of the Colts’ 750 members has questioned how the local club will fund the facility, which is expected to cost between £1.5-£2million.

Elaine Norwood, of Roundwood Park, said that she had “begged” for clarification over the financing of the project.

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She added: “I can confirm that we as parents/members haven’t seen the financial proposals, nor has Robert Trevor given us a chance to vote on them.”

Elaine said that while the non-profit club was “fantastic” she was concerned that “unless this discussion is open to the wider membership of Colts this is a deal being done behind closed doors”.

She said better communication was vital given that such a “mammoth decision and financial commitment on behalf of the club” was being made.

Elaine has called on Bob to be more transparent about the project’s financing and to stop “stonewalling” her by responding that such information was commercially sensitive.

She asked: “How can you go to planning if you do not even have a business plan in place to show that you can afford the facility?”

Elaine said she had asked Bob to confirm that subscriptions would not go up in order to pay ongoing costs for the new facility, “but he refuses to be drawn. I cannot see how else the club is going to be able to pay their costs for the new facility”.

Bob said he was aware of concerns about funding.

He said: “Once the planning application has gone through the council process, the club will be able to engage with the Football Foundation [the UK’s largest sports charity] to ask for funding, but not before we receive approval.

“If it is approved, the next stage will be for the Colts to ask for funding.”

Bob said that questions raised by Elaine were being dealt with internally.

However the club has been in ongoing talks with Herts FA, which has been a vocal supporter of the scheme, about future funding.

Bob said: “They gave an indication that schemes of this nature have been funded in the past by organisations such as the Football Foundation.

“Our club has been managing its finances in a competent manner, and there is no reason to believe we will find ourselves in financial difficulties.”