Harpenden Town Council withdraws from Rothamsted Park ownership discussions due to ‘financial demands’

Entrance to Rothamsted Park. Picture: Danny Loo

Entrance to Rothamsted Park. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Plans for Harpenden Town Council to take over ownership of a popular park from the district council have been halted due to financial disputes between the two authorities.

The two councils had been in discussions about the transfer of ownership of Rothamsted Park, however the town council claim St Albans District Council’s “financial demands” would put an “unfair burden on Harpenden residents”.

In May this year, HTC committed in principle to funding of over £750,000 to deliver a new vision for the park, including investment in a new children’s play area, redeveloped pavilion for community use and more.

In March 2020, SADC put out a public statement saying the ownership would go to the town council at no cost, having agreed to the change at a meeting on Thursday, March 19.

During the meeting, it also agreed to transfer ownership of open spaces at Wood End, Oakley Road, Parva Close and Roundwood Lane to HTC, which has since come to fruition.

However, the conditions that SADC have now presented conflict with the statements, according to the town council.

The conditions of the transfer set out by SADC state that HTC must pay £25,000 in annual maintenance and repairs, £100,000 to demolish pavillions that are in disrepair, £10,000 for health and safety tree works and £125,000 to a legal committment to improve football facilities.

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Cllr Nicola Linacre, Harpenden town mayor, said: “The town council has decided that it cannot be in the best interests of Harpenden residents to accept SADC’s proposal.

“We have always been aware that by taking on assets from SADC that it would have increased liabilities and may need additional financial commitments in future years. However, we had not anticipated having to cover SADC’s immediate financial and health and safety commitments that they would have if they retained ownership.

“We have not given up hope of owning Park so that we can make improvements for the local community, but to take ownership we do need a change of position from SADC on the financial elements of the transfer.”

In response, a SADC spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with Harpenden Town Council to find a way forward on this matter.”