Harpenden shortlists community schemes for funding

NEARLY 40 community schemes have been shortlisted for funding thanks to a ground-breaking scheme in Harpenden – but the group behind one of the projects is unhappy that only part of its submission is being put to the vote.

Harpenden Town Council is inviting people in the town to Voice Your Choice and vote for four prioritised projects that they would like money to go to.

The money will either be allocated to one project costing the entire sum or distributed among a number of smaller projects.

The shortlisted schemes range from an outdoor gym in Rothamsted Park to club nights for teenagers, the formation of an astronomical society in Harpenden and a defibrillator in the town centre.

Also among the 37 schemes is improvements to the Westfield Recreational Area but the action group WAG, which was formed to fight the town council’s desire to build affordable housing on allotment land on their doorstep, is unhappy that only part of its scheme has been shortlisted.

Originally WAG had put in for a complete Westfield Transformation Scheme with allotments, an orchard and the renewal of play equipment but the town council decided that only the proposals for the two recreational areas could be submitted.

Last week St Albans council’s cabinet reiterated its support for the site to be restored to allotment use and agreed not to allow access from its land for the town council to build affordable housing there.

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Carol Hedges of WAG said that they had pointed out that the town council’s actions in accepting only part of the scheme ran contrary to the spirit and word of the Voice for Choice project. She maintained that the council had ignored WAG’s choice and wishes for the area.

She added: “We have been treated extremely unfairly here as other organisations have not had their projects changed or tampered with.”

Harpenden clerk, John Bagshaw, explained that �26,000 had been been available to the town council from central government to spend on virtually any initiative it wanted to support and the community had been invited to come up with suggestions. He went on: “We got a significant number of expressions of interest from repairs to clocks, skateboarding and children’s facilities. What mattered was that local people decided what they wanted.

“We drew up a shortlist and took out those we couldn’t do because we wouldn’t have the money and the other criteria was did it fit with council policy.

“Council policy is for the former allotments at Westfield to be the plot for affordable housing and I told Mrs Hedges that we couldn’t do it.”

Mr Bagshaw said the scheme, which emanated from Brazil originally, was the first in the district and was a bigger exercise in Harpenden than in any area he had come across.