Harpenden park caf� proposals receive initial support

A MAJOR proposal for a caf�, toilets, dining area and teaching space at Rothamsted Park in Harpenden has been given an initial thumbs-up by residents.

The Harpenden Society has been “pleasantly surprised” by unanimous public support from more than 90 locals and business people attending a recent meeting on the suggested scheme.

Committee member Tim Riley, of Harpenden, said the proposal was “a vision” at present, with the society keen to gauge how popular the idea is with locals before pursuing the scheme.

However he said it was very early days and that the vision would not be pursued if it was not found economically viable.

Tim, director of RCKa Architects in London, said: “At the moment we are putting a business plan together for it, and examining what avenues there are for funding.”

He said that Rothamsted Park was a major asset to Harpenden but insufficiently exploited.

Tim added: “We met with the Mayor and district councillors, and they said that wherever we put it, there will be potential issues.”

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He said the caf� could possibly be located near the playground, for parents to meet for refreshments.

Tim went on: “There is an economic reason to put it there, so it can sustain itself, but [Harpenden town] council said we need to be flexible with its siting, to complement other facilities.

“It’s a really exciting project – you see the same thing happening in other parks. A lot of it comes down to footfall. We have a lot of sporting facilities there that would benefit from a caf�. It’s a question of assessing where it could possibly go.”

Members of Harpenden Society were concerned that public opinion would be polarised, but there has so far been unanimous support across a wide demographic for the idea.

The caf� is just one of several improvements to the town centre the organisation believes can help reinforce Harpenden’s identity and encourage stronger community cohesion.

Tim said that relocating the library and town information point centrally in town “would be of great benefit to everyone”.

Herts county council recently bought the former Argos store in the High Street and intends turning it into a joint library and youth centre, despite objections from local business people concerned at the loss of a large retail unit.

Tim said: “Centralising and improving High Street facilities will improve trade for our local retailers.”

But he said that a parking and vehicular access strategy was needed to encourage shoppers to visit.

The Public Halls were “tired and long overdue for a reappraisal and upgrading,” which Tim said had potential to become a major asset.