Harpenden residents unite against football club’s Green Belt plan

THE fight to stop Green Belt land in Harpenden being turned into 11 football pitches, a road and car park for 100 vehicles has begun, with locals uniting to launch a public campaign.

More than 50 Roundwood residents met on Monday to discuss a controversial scheme to develop extensive football facilities, and possibly a school, in front of their homes.

Harpenden Colts Football Club hopes to build on agricultural land at New Farm, and have already been given the blessing of Herts county council (HCC) which owns the 13.14 hectare site on Roundwood Lane.

A member of the as yet unnamed campaign group, Heather Bayne, who lives on the lane, said residents were adamant the local road network would not cope with additional traffic generated by the scheme.

Heather said fellow residents had contacted Harpenden county and district councillors to voice their opposition.

However they had been left, “disappointed and angered by the apparent unilateral decision of the local Conservative party to support these proposals in complete denial of the raging local opposition”.

Residents were left fuming after receiving just 48 hours notice of a public exhibition on the scheme last month.

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Heather said: “The whole process of the supposed public consultation is flawed. Copies of the questionnaire from the first exhibition are being circulated to Colts members, the majority of whom don’t live in the Roundwood area, yet there is no opportunity on the questionnaire to indicate if you are a local resident or not.”

The group agreed that the work the Colts carried out for young people in the area was of great benefit to Harpenden, but questioned whether the development was required, “given that no children are prevented from playing due to lack of space”.

Opponents of the scheme are also “extremely concerned” about the future viability of the site, as there is no provision for revenue-generating facilities in the Colts’ scheme.

The campaigners also questioned the proposal to build a car park for 100 vehicles, saying it would be far too small given that the club has a membership of around 750 youngsters, and that parking for up to 300 cars would probably be needed, on both Saturday and Sunday.

A supporter of the scheme, HCC councillor for Harpenden north east Bernard Lloyd, said turning agricultural land into playing fields was an “acceptable use of Green Belt land”. He disputed comments in a letter published in last Thursday’s Herts Advertiser from resident Alan Bunting that it would be a “stepping stone to redesignation by Herts CC for housing”.

Cllr Lloyd described that statement as a, “figment of a wild imagination and has no basis in fact”.

He added: “The county council is supplying the land and the Colts will be responsible for raising the funds to provide the facilities.

“The long lease to the Colts [by HCC] will in fact protect the land from any other development.”

Cllr Lloyd urged people to attend a second public exhibition at Roundwood Park School on Thursday, November 22, from 3.30-8pm.