New fight to save Harpenden allotments site

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a former allotment site from being sold for development have made a discovery which could boost their battle.

Harpenden Town Council wants to develop the allotments site off Westfield Road to provide affordable housing but nearby residents have been campaiging against the scheme for some time.

Now they have discovered that before the land became allotments it was a common – and they are inviting the town council to work with them to restore the site to its former use.

Judith Wright, one of the campaigners, said: “We were just looking through some old maps online to see what used to be there before the field and the allotments and we discovered that from 1897 to 1937, the whole area was known as Westfield Common.”

The group was researching the area while preparing a Town Green application. They discovered that the boundary of the old common extended as far as the cemetery in one direction and to the bottom end of Westfield Road in the other. It also enclosed the land the town council wants to sell off.

Judith went on: “We’d been asking around the local community and kept coming up with different names for the green space. Nobody seemed to know what its proper name was. Obviously the allotments came later in the 1960s.

“But it just makes the case even stronger for not building on what historically was land belonging to local people.”

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Local author Carol Hedges, who has campaigned against the scheme ever since the first attempt to develop the land was turned down in 2005, said: “This is a fantastic discovery and something all Harpenden should celebrate. In the light of this, we’d really like to invite our town council to work with local residents to make Westfield Common as special as Harpenden Common or Nomansland Common.”

The campaign to prevent the site being sold has become more urgent since it was discovered that the most likely access road to the site would be from Hyde Close, crossing the Nicky Line cycleway which would be closed while the work was carried out.

Although the town council would prefer access from Beeching Close, the district council owns several “ransom strips” in Hyde Close for which it could charge.

A district council decision on the access is not now expected until a meeting of St Albans Cabinet on June 1.