London Colney leisure facilities delayed after Batchwood fire

NEW leisure facilities earmarked for a village could pay the price for the amount of time and money needed to be spent on rebuilding the fire-destroyed Batchwood golf and tennis centre.

St Albans council has gone a long way down the road of providing leisure facilities at Cotlandswick Open Space in London Colney to replace Bricket Wood Sports Centre which closed in February 2010 and the current recreation centre in the village which is coming to the end of its useful life.

But at this week’s meeting of the council’s cabinet, portfolio holders decided in the wake of the fire which destroyed the Batchwood building in St Albans last month to opt for more consultation on developing Cotlandswick even though two tenders have been shortlisted.

The golf and tennis centre is having to be demolished in the wake of the fire, suspected to have been caused by an arson attack, and the cabinet is keen to fast track the rebuilding of the four tennis courts on the existing footprint which would not need planning permission.

The second phase, which would need planning permission and use funds from the Lawn Tennis Association, would provide enclosed courts and better facilities.

Cllr Mike Wakely, portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said a lot of resources and staff time would have to be put into rebuilding Batchwood and the Cotlandswick project might have to be “put on the back burner” for around 12 months during which time officers could take the opportunity to consult on the tenders.

Council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, commented that what the council had got from the tenders for Cotlandswick were “frankly disappointing.”

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He went on: “I put a much higher priority on sorting out Batchwood than something disappointing at Cotlandswick.”

He described the tenders as not “such a wow offer” that he would want to see the redevelopment of Batchwood put at risk.

Planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, added: “Cotlandswick is important but as Batchwood was an ongoing facility serving the whole district we feel it is more important at this time. We do have to get Batchwood up and running as soon as we can.”

In secret session at the cabinet meeting at which councillors discussed the financial issues in the shortlisted tenders, they decided to consult with London Colney parish council and local councillors for their opinions on the Cotlandswick project with a report due to come back to the next cabinet meeting in October.