Neighbours fear development of St Albans’ Clarence Park

Clarence Park

Clarence Park - Credit: Archant

CONCERNED residents fear that proposed changes to a recreation ground trust could open the doors to a multi-million pound scheme on their doorstep.

People living around Clarence Park are coming out fighting against a proposal to update the trust deed for the recreation ground on the northern side of the park which is occupied by St Albans City FC (SACFC) as well as the city’s cricket, bowling and hockey clubs.

The proposed change would include provisional plans to include the public part of the park in the trust to make it easier to manage and consider requests made by existing park users.

Consultation on the proposal was agreed before Christmas by St Albans council cabinet. SACFC’s agreement to use part of the trust land expires in 2014 and it has asked to extend the agreement and explore the possibility of expanding its stand on to land where the recreation ground borders the public park.

That has triggered fears among local residents that the price tag to rebuild the football club would run to millions and that the proposal to update the trust deed is nothing more than a smokescreen hiding a wish for commercial development there.

The council’s cabinet administers the trust as a corporate trustee and has to act in accordance with a deed created in 1894 when most of the park was given to the city by Sir John Blundell Maple for public recreation.

A briefing note to the cabinet meeting on December 20 has fuelled the fears of Clarence Park neighbours.

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It says that a meeting between cabinet portolio holders and the owners of SACFC, Lawrence Levy and John McGowan, discussed options for the redevelopment of Clarence Park “which might include a 3G artificial pitch, a new grandstand, a children’s nursery, restaurant and gym.”

Should that happen, residents maintain, it would be an inappropriate use in conflict with the charitable purposes of the trust as well as opening the door to a large modern grandstand and commercial enterprise, both out of keeping with the park. That, in turn, would lead to significant increases in traffic and parking in and around the park.

But the council’s portfolio holder, Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles, maintained: “The wording of the trust deed needs to be brought up to date to reflect modern day life and sporting activity.

“In addition, including the entire park in the trust will make it easier to manage the park as a whole and protect it for future generations.

“It will also open up the possibility of new funding opportunities that as a council, we are currently unable to access.”

The campaigners are urging as many people as possible to attend a special meeting of the Clarence Park Consultative Forum in the council offices at 6.30pm tonight (Thursday).

n Since the cabinet meeting, the owners of SACFC have unveiled plans to build a new stadium on a site off Colney Heath Lane, St Albans, which they have described as their preferred option.