More concern over state of St Albans’ Verulamium Park lake

VERULAMIUM Lake in St Albans has been branded an environmental health risk that cannot be overlooked by a Lib Dem councillor.

Cllr Geoff Churchard has slammed the Tory party’s refusal to clean the lake despite �50,000 being allocated for the project by the Lib Dems in last year’s budget.

And the environment spokesperson for the local Lib Dems is now calling for a report into the matter which will allow the public to decide whether a clean-up project should be a priority.

His calls follow claims in last week’s Herts Advertiser that the lake in Verulamium Park is polluted and bereft of underwater life.

Cllr Churchard said: “One of the first acts of the Conservative administration on coming to power in 2011 was to cancel our project to clean up the lake in Verulamium Park, for which we had allocated �50,000 in last year’s district council budget.

“We tried once more to get the Conservatives to reinstate the project in this year’s budget debate but both the Conservatives and Labour rejected our fully-costed proposal. Now they ‘angrily’ reject calls to sort the problem out, which are based on expert evidence.”

It is widely believed that the lake has not been cleaned for over 50 years and last week the Herts Advertiser published the results of a survey undertaken by Richard Humphrey, an expert in aquatic habitat management. He found a two feet deep layer of bird faeces and the shells of dead swan mussels, which are susceptible to pollutants, but no frogs, fish or newts. Only worms were thriving in the excrement.

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Cllr Churchard added: “The park is a vital recreational resource for St Albans families and is an important tourist attraction in its own right. The Conservative administration has had three opportunities to respond to this issue. They have let down St Albans residents on each occasion.”

Verulam ward councillor Fred Wartenberg also criticised the Tories for their “laissez-faire attitude” and said action was needed before anyone was made ill.

Unrelated to last week’s report, his fellow Verulam ward Cllr Dursan Altun met with a project coordinator from an established waterside and landscape habitat company at the lake on Tuesday.

The meeting had been set up for some time after Conservative Cllr Altun identified concerns about the lake.

The expert told him that the generally the lake was in “good order” but some areas did need care and attention. He explained that the “unsightly underwater debris” was a result of water currents and material thrown into the lake as a result of vandalism, suggesting a number of proposals to prevent future build up.

Cllr Altun says he will investigate the matter further and went on: “The lake is an important place for many of the city residents and attracts many visitors from outside St Albans. It is important this popular area continues to be regularly maintained and looked after. The attraction of wildlife and plant life is also important, which people of all ages can appreciate and enjoy.”

Richard Shwe, head of community services at St Albans district council, said a report last month from environmental consultants Symbio concluded that the water quality of the lake was within acceptable parameters.

He explained that there was a management plan in place that set out the vision, aims and objectives for the park and the lake over the next five years. That plan, he said, included provision for the reduction of silt, removal of debris and wildelife management.

He added: “There has been no need to revise the management plan as a result of the report at this point in time. The management plan will be reviewed on an annual basis when we will consider pursuing potential external funding for the redevelopment of the lake.”