Harpenden Town Council to take control of Rothamsted Park

Rothamsted Park in the autumn. Picture: Steve Collins

Rothamsted Park in the autumn. Picture: Steve Collins - Credit: Archant

The ownership of Rothamsted Park is set to be transferred to Harpenden Town Council in January.

After several months of negotiations St Albans district council has agreed the scheme in principle.

Among the major issues that have been settled is the future of the Harpenden Town Football Club site, with the town council agreeing to honour existing commitments.

The district council will survey all the park’s trees and carry out any essential work before the handover.

They will also provide the town council with up to £100,000 towards the demolition of the ageing Orchard Pavilion.

There is no purchase price and any savings made by the district council in future years will be passed on to Harpenden residents through their Council Tax bills.

If all goes to schedule, legal documents should be finalised by the end of next month with the transfer taking place in January.

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An update on the deal’s progress was given to a meeting of SADC’s Cabinet this week.

SADC has a longstanding policy of allowing the transfer of community assets to parish and town councils so that decisions can be made at a neighbourhood level.

Agreement has also been reached with the town council to transfer open spaces at Wood End, Oakley Road, Parva Close and Roundwood Lane to them.

Council leader Chris White, portfolio holder for climate, environment and transport, said: “Devolving the ownership and management of green spaces and other assets has a number of advantages. The main one is that it allows for decisions to be taken by people at the grass roots with a real feel for their local area.

“Rothamsted Park is one of the biggest assets that we have agreed to devolve to a parish or town council and there were a lot of complex legal and financial issues involved with the transfer.

“These have taken time to resolve, but I’m pleased that we have now reached agreement in principle on all the remaining matters.

“I am sure that from January onwards, Harpenden Town Council will do a fine job in looking after and improving this fantastic park in the years ahead.”

Harpenden councillor, and leader of the Tory opposition, Mary Maynard, added: “The terms of the transfer have not yet been agreed and discussions are continuing. The focus will be on getting best value for Harpenden residents. Harpenden councillors are very excited by the opportunities that will open up if the transfer goes ahead. Harpenden Town Council will be able to invest in a wonderful new children’s playground in Rothamsted Park and return the park to being Harpenden’s ‘jewel in the crown’. It’s just a pity that the current St Albans administration preferred to invest in playgrounds in central St Albans rather than across the district and in Harpenden.”