© 2017 The Harpenden Society

Harpenden’s new Arts & Leisure centres

Leisure centre plans – an opposing view

SIR, - My wife and I must protest at the Harpenden Society’s ongoing support for the proposed developments in our town centre and Rothamsted Park.  The Society must be all too aware that our town centre is clogged with traffic for some twelve hours a day.

Yet you appear to be giving full support to the St Albans District Council proposals for 1) An ‘arts and leisure centre’ in Rothamsted Park, 2) An  ‘enabling development’ on the site of the Public Halls.  (I assume that this can be translated as ‘ luxury apartments’.) and 3) The possibility/likelihood of a multi-storey car park in Amenbury Lane.

We read in the Society’s Winter newsletter that ‘in a Harpenden Society initiative, Westminster Lodge and Batchwood leisure centres were visited as an indication of what might be accomplished in Rothamsted Park’.  May I point out that both Westminster Lodge and Batchwood leisure centres are not in the centre of St Albans. They are on the outskirts of the city.

 Comparable facilities may well be needed in Harpenden. But to suggest that this should be done in Rothamsted Park, in the centre of our town, is quite lunatic.

 It shows a total disregard for town centre residents. Your newsletter bemoans the lack of parking in the town and yet you appear to be backing a proposal that will greatly increase the amount of traffic! Would it not be much more sensible to build any new facility on an edge-of-town site, drawing traffic out of, as opposed to into, the town centre. 

As Harpenden town centre residents for some thirty five years, we find it sad and disappointing, that we should – in your newsletter editor’s words – ‘have to resign ourselves to more ugly intrusions on the townscape…’ like the footbridge at our railway station.

Regarding ever more town centre development, we should say ‘enough is enough’.  The evident views of the Harpenden Society, and of our SADC and town councillors, on the Rothamsted Park sports and leisure centre proposals, seem aimed to ensure that we pass on to our children and grandchildren a much less attractive town.

Yours, Victor Lowry. Amenbury Lane

Chris Marsden, Harpenden Society chairman, replies:

As a Society, we do our best to support efforts which we feel will add to the amenity and quality of life in the town, while opposing those things likely to have an adverse effect. We have to make these decisions on the basis of what we feel is best for the people of Harpenden.  As a civic society it is our function to try to work for all the town’s residents, not just our members.

In the case of the planned redevelopment of the swimming pool and sports centre to create a new, modern sports, arts and leisure facility, we are clear that the proposals are in the interests of the town as a whole.  We held two lively public meetings – fully reported in our Winter newsletter – at which leaders of sports and leisure organisations in Harpenden were invited to tell us about their activities and their future facility aspirations.

The proposals met with near universal approval from those groups.  I take your point that Westminster Lodge and Batchwood are sited further away from St Albans’ urban centre than the envisaged Rothamsted Park development is from Harpenden town centre.  And we recognise there are many issues still to be determined, and these include the connection between the new centre and the town and, in particular, related parking issues.

Parking and traffic congestion are, of course, huge problems in Harpenden and different options are being studied. We don’t believe, however, that these problems are sufficient to outweigh the benefits the proposed centre will bring over say the next thirty years. And we wonder if we will, by then, still be driving cars as we presently know them. However, it’s unlikely that sports, arts and leisure activity will have declined.

Regarding the Public Halls, no decisions have yet been made, though we are assured by SADC leader Cllr Julian Daly that they will remain in use until the new arts and cultural ‘hub’ (in the shell of the present sports centre building) is opened – that is by December 2019 at the earliest. Only then, will the future of the Public Halls site be a matter for public consultation.  Though the eventual sale of the site for residential use must remain a possibility, Cllr Daly stresses it  is not a determining factor in the financial plan for the new centre.

Chris Marsden, Harpenden Society chairman

Spring 2017 Newsletter