Ownership of Rothamsted Park is being transferred to the Harpenden Town Council at no cost. St Albans City and District Council, which has owned and managed the community asset until now, has agreed to hand over ownership.
Q: Why is the transfer happening?
Having management of a community asset devolved to the most local level makes great sense. Harpenden Town Council will be more responsive to exploiting the opportunities to develop the park and will be able to address any issues that occur more swiftly.
Q: What are the benefits to Harpenden residents?
There are exciting plans to invest in the park’s facilities, which have been neglected over an extended period – for example, the play area is of mid-1990s vintage.
A significant proportion of the capital receipt resulting from the sale of land to build low-cost housing in the Westfield Road area has been allocated to revamp the play area and to build a high-quality artificial football pitch.
The football pitch will provide the Harpenden Colts with a much-needed, central playing facility, as well as improving provision for the town’s senior football club.
Spending on these assets by the town council requires ownership.
Q: Are there any costs associated with this?
There is no purchase cost involved.
There will be a small (about £30,000 a year) additional operating cost, but Harpenden residents already pay for much of the greens and maintenance costs of running the park through a ‘special expense’ transfer in the local council tax accounting.
Q: Why has there been a fuss about the final sign-off of the transfer, then?
Good question. It’s hard to fathom without assigned ulterior, political motives to those who have sought to interfere with the final legal arrangements related to the transfer.
The previously established transfer terms contained the standard provisions preventing the town council accruing any liability for costs or damages associated with construction of the leisure and cultural centres, or any other potential problems that relate to the period of district council control. The flood management position is also well understood and mitigated.
Q: What have local Liberal Democrats contributed to the transfer proposal?
We have been pro-active supporters of the transfer plans since gaining a place on the town council in May 2019, always seeking to overcome any barriers placed in the way of its progress.
We also produced and promoted a ‘Healthy Harpenden’ programme to distribute all of the capital receipts funding in a coherent way, giving the widest benefit to the whole community.
For example, we were the first to introduce the idea of investing in an artificial football pitch for use by the colts and we worked with local groups to ensure sufficient funding was mobilised to quickly move forward with the play area equipment design and construction contracts.