Sandridge divided over plans to hold Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II - Credit: Archant

Discussions over a proposal to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday with a gala celebration have fallen apart and left a parish council in disarray.

Sandridge parish council has now dropped plans to hold an event to celebrate the landmark day in May amid claims that the project was scuppered for spurious reasons.

A suggestion that the parish council should consider a royal birthday celebration first arose in October and a working group of seven parish councillors was set up to look at what could be done.

But after a meeting of the working group was held in a Sandridge pub in November which was attended by at least two non parish councillors, chairman Janet Churchard, following advice from the Herts Association of Parish and Town Council (HAPTC), ruled it was unconstitutional.

When the issue went back to the parish council in December, Cllr John Newton-Davies who had spearheaded the project resigned from the working group together with fellow parish councillors Neil Harris and Claudio Duran.

Cllr Harris said that the plan had been to hold a gala event with music at the Jersey Farm Woodland Park with various activities in the arena and the costings had come out at about £10,000 for which money had been budgeted.

When the meeting had been held in the Green Man pub in Sandridge, two Conservative district councillors had been invited to attend because they had been involved in last year’s successful Sandridge 900 celebrations and it was felt that their expertise would be helpful.

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But, he claimed, Lib Dem Cllr Churchard was annoyed at the fact than non parish councillors from another party had been invited and the project was subsequently abandoned.

He said: “Local politics should be about making celebrations like this happen for the local community. Here the opposite has occurred.”

But Cllr Churchard roundly refuted the claims and pointed out that there had only been a lukewarm response to the suggestion that the parish council should hold a royal celebration in the first place.

She had arrived at the Green Man expecting to find a parish council-constituted meeting, only to discover other people had been invited. She had left and contacted HAPTC which had confirmed that the meeting should not have been held in a pub, should not have invited non parish councillors and she was right to leave.

Cllr Churchard said that just days before Christmas, the remaining four members of the working group had spent a couple of hours going through proposals for the royal celebrations and had reluctantly decided it was not viable.

The other three councillors had experience of similar events through the Sandridge 900 Gala last year and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the parish. “I was relying on the other three who had more practical experience,” she said.

She went on: “It had originally been budgeted at about £10,000 and then downsized to £9,200 but we couldn’t see how it could be delivered for that. We were fairly concerned that we would have to lean on schools and volunteers.

“We felt that to make it a good day there was a very strong chance that they would have to come back and ask for more money.”

Stressing that the decision had nothing to do with Conservative district councillors being invited to give their input, she added: “It is quite sad really but there lots of holes in it.”