St Albans’ Batchwood club houses rebild plans unveiled

BOWLERS and golfers in St Albans have welcomed a scheme to replace members’ fire-ravaged clubhouses at Batchwood, but queried their “shed-like” appearance.

St Albans district council (SADC) has submitted planning applications for new bowls and golf pavilions on the hilltop site, with the rebuilding of both clubhouses going to tender shortly.

That means the resurrection of the pavilions has inched one step further, after the council was accused of “dithering” over the rebuild one year after the blaze ripped through the clubhouses and Batchwood Tennis Centre during the London riots.

A separate planning application for the tennis centre will be submitted later in the autumn.

The schemes have to meet strict development criteria, as the sports pavilions are to be built on Green Belt land.

However a former captain of Batchwood Hall Golf Club, Michael Waldron of Harpenden, said while an artist’s impression of the bowls club, “looks in keeping with bowls, the golf club building looks like a shed”.

“It’s not in keeping with the surroundings.”

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Michael said it appeared the tennis centre was being given priority over bowls and golf, with the latter being treated like it was “second class”.

While insurers have said they will only fund a like-for-like replacement of the tennis centre, SADC is applying for external funding for an enhanced mixed-use facility.

The council hopes to include six indoor tennis courts, viewing gallery and two gyms.

It also wants to provide a combat zone for judo, fencing, boxing, wrestling and taekwondo.

Jeremy Gardiner-Brown, the golf club’s honorary secretary, said members were, “delighted that finally after such a long time the planning application has at last been submitted.”

He added: “The club took a 99-year lease on a plot of land abutting the old tennis centre in the late 1980s and built a modest clubhouse with club funds for its 250 or so members.”

Jeremy said that last October the club had recommended the location of the new pavilion and prepared a plan that, “would be the simplest of constructions.

“The preference then was for a discreet single story brick building that would blend in with the brickwork and style of the magnificent Batchwood Hall and nearby dwellings.

“While the exterior of the proposed modern wooden-clad building is not particularly to the club’s preferred traditional taste, it is happy that whatever is most likely to meet development criteria goes forwards as quickly as possible.”

Pat Savage, former president of Batchwood Hall Bowling Club, described the artist’s impression of the bowls pavilion as, “very good, but I would like to know [its] size”.

She added: “Members will not accept a smaller pavilion than we had. We would obviously want input into the interior of the clubhouse. A few years ago members made great improvements to the pavilion, so I am sure they will only accept like-for-like.”

A spokeswoman for SADC said plans had been finalised following discussions with both clubs, residents at Batchwood, Leisure Connection and Friends of Batchwood.

Both schemes are available for public comment until September 26.