New Chiswell Green sports hub plan presses forwards

A MAJOR French sports goods retailer is in discussion with local clubs to help formulate plans for a sports and recreation hub opposite Butterfly World in Chiswell Green.

Oxylane Group, which has sport centres, events, activities and retail outlets in 17 countries and employs more than 45,000 people worldwide, hopes to submit its planning application to St Albans district council by next summer.

Luke Fillingham, project manager for Oxylane Group, confirmed to the Herts Advertiser that he has been talking to representatives of local cycling, football, tennis, cricket and other sports organisations to gauge how best to complement and integrate with existing facilities.

He said: “We are [also] going through a consultation process with the county council and Herts Highways in regards to any potential impact on the road network.”

Oxylane owns a chunk of Green Belt land off Noke Lane, partly bounded by the A405 – a 100-acre-plus site it describes as, “low grade agricultural land.”

In September 2009 it asked the district council through its planning framework, the draft core strategy, to pave the way for a multi-purpose sports and recreation facility, with complementary commercial, health and educational facilities at the site to help address sporting provision “deficiencies” and tackle the problems of obesity.

Luke said: “We are talking to national, regional and local [sport and recreational] parties to refine plans. This project is a community project.

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Sporting needs

“We are quantifying what the community sporting needs are. We want a sustainable project that grows participation in sport... at a grassroots level.

“There are some very well run clubs in St Albans and we are looking forward to working with these clubs, to make them better than ever. We want to hear from them.”

While Oxylane’s initial submission to the council outlined its preference for a facility to serve both St Albans’ and regional recreational needs, it is now “more focused on local provision.”

Should the council approve the centre Oxylane hopes that it would kickstart a network of similar sports and recreational hubs throughout the UK.

Luke added: “St Albans has the opportunity to deliver this for the first time.

“This will be the first of its kind in the UK, so it’s a massive opportunity. The site is perfect for an Oxylane Village in terms of accessibility – it’s a great site.”

While the application is still in its infancy, Luke confirmed that large parts of the site would be dedicated to informal sport and recreation, such as flying a kite.

He said: “We don’t want to exclude anyone. Should our proposal go ahead the vast majority of the site would remain as open space. People won’t be charged to enter the site.”

He maintained the proposed multi-sports hub would aim to preserve green space and would “fit in perfectly” with Butterfly World as both were family-friendly centres which complemented the natural environment.

The council’s portfolio holder for planning, Chris Brazier, said that if its plans were approved Oxylane would be the largest sports provider in the county.

He recommended that local residents had their say on such proposals through the draft core strategy, to be released shortly for public consultation.