Herts FA back Harpenden Colts pitches plan

HERTFORDSHIRE Football Association has voiced its support for an ambitious scheme to turn Green Belt land into 11 football pitches in Harpenden.

Following residents’ criticism of Harpenden Colts Football Club’s plan to develop extensive facilities on a 13.14 hectare agricultural site at New Farm, Roundwood Lane, Herts FA has said a proper base is needed for members.

Nick Perchard, Herts FA chief executive, said the “positive aspects” of the Colts’ proposal far outweighed locals’ concerns.

More than 50 Roundwood residents recently met to discuss the controversial proposal to develop the facilities in front of their homes.

They decided to launch a campaign to save the Green Belt site (pictured) from being turned into 11 pitches, road, car park for 100 vehicles and pavilion/changing rooms.

However Nick said: “It is our view that without significant financial investment there is a danger that the club may struggle to meet the future demands of the town’s growing population.

“Allowing Harpenden Colts to move to this base would be a major step forward in the club’s development.

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“We have seen in other parts of St Albans district that if clubs have a proper home they can expand their provision to include, for example, female and disabled players.”

Nick said the Colts approached Herts FA, the governing body for football in Herts since 1885, last year for advice on the project.

The organisation said it would support the club in securing funding from sports charity the Football Foundation, should planning permission be granted.

Nick said the cost of travel and hiring of pitches and training facilities “has a major knock-on effect on the club, parents and players”.

However Roundwood resident Nigel Tuppen said the proposal and the way it has been presented to locals, particularly by Herts county council which owns the New Farm site, has caused “alienation, distrust and contempt”.

He blasted the council for its “apparent secretive behaviour in this whole process”.

Nigel added: “Councillors appear unprepared and somewhat shocked at the level of local opposition.”

He said residents had protested at an initial public exhibition on the scheme against the “way public money appears to be used for such a high-cost proposal process for football pitches, which [the Colts] say is planned to be only partially used on weekends”.

Nigel said residents fear HCC has a “secret agenda” to eventually build a major development on the site.

A spokeswoman for the council said part of the site has been earmarked for possible future education use, should the town’s population increase in coming years.

She added: “There are no specific proposals at the current time. This is HCC land which we are letting the Colts use. We have been working closely with the Colts to ensure our needs match.”

A second public exhibition is being held on the scheme on Thursday, November 22, from 3.30-8pm at Roundwood Park School in Harpenden.

The information and display material is the same as that shown at an initial exhibition last month.