Playing fields bid for Harpenden allotment site

OBJECTORS to a scheme to build housing on a former allotment site are urging the district council to take up an initiative spearheaded by Prince William.

The heir to the throne is heading up an ambitious �7-million project to protect and create 2,012 playing fields to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 following the loss of more than 6,000 playing fields since 1992.

The campaign has prompted protestors against Harpenden Town Council’s proposal to develop the former Westfield Allotments site at the end of Willoughby Road for housing to press St Albans council, the owners of the adjoining playing fields, to apply for one of the grants.

Leading campaigner Carol Hedges said: “The request is not just pie-in-the-sky – we have seen a letter from the land agent who was engaged by Harpenden town council to sell off the allotment site in 2005 suggesting that once the houses are built, it will be an easy step to sell off the playing fields for more houses.”

The town council wants to build around 20 social/affordable homes on the former allotments site but local residents are opposed to any move to sell it off or access it from the recently-resurfaced Nicky Line cycleway via Hyde Close which is the preferred option.

They are fighting the proposal on a number of fronts including the fact that, from 1897 to 1937, the playing fields and allotments were known as Westfield Common and there is a strong argument for working together with the town council to restore it for common use.

The protesters also argue that although the allotments were underused when the town council first tried to get planning permission, there has now been a resurgence in fruit and vegetable growing.

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A number of local families are involved with the campaign and keen to persuade the district council to apply for a playing field grant. Mum-of-three Elissa Baird said: “It would be great to have a really nice play area for local kids, especially if it could be tied in to community allotments and gardens.

And mother-of-two Judith Wright added: “We are asking the two councils for some joined-up thinking. We want them to look again at the whole green space to make it a more welcoming and safe place for the whole community to enjoy and share.”