Nature reserve to come back under Harpenden control

A CONCERTED effort to return Batford Springs to local control is well on track after criticism that the future quality of the long-term care of the nature reserve was under threat.

Recent discussions between Harpenden Town and St Albans District councils have secured an in-principle agreement for the management of the urban oasis to be transferred to Harpenden. They meet again this month to finalise terms of the transfer.

While a lease and management plan are being developed, Harpenden Town Council will talk to the Upper Lea Valley Group, which currently helps maintain the site, about its aspirations for the future care of the nature reserve.

Harpenden council’s environment committee chairman Bert Pawle explained that St Albans took over management of the reserve, which has chalk streams and supports a variety of wildlife near River Lea, several decades ago.

He said: “We are now trying to get it back. We have some very good expertise on board, from volunteers and from the town council.”

Earlier this year Harpenden East district councillor Dean Russell criticised St Albans council for “blocking” local management of the site in his blog.

“There is a risk to the quality of the long term care for the reserve unless there is more local input and control of the Springs. In the main part, this is because the local Upper Lea Valley Group is being blocked from managing the area by the Lib Dem ruled St Albans District Council. The nature reserve is located along and around the River Lea in Batford and is a highly valued and much enjoyed local asset.”