© 2017 The Harpenden Society
Outline proposals for the development of Harpenden’s new Arts & Leisure complex in Rothamsted Park were put forward at a St Albans District Council cabinet meeting in late September. Their main principles, further spelled out by SADC leader Cllr Julian Daly, at a subsequent Harpenden Town Council meeting, are subject to local consultation until January 2017.
It is emphasised that – in the light of a feasibility study by The Sports Consultancy – for the £18 million project to be financially viable, it must be self funding, imposing no additional burden on council tax payers. Contributory funding is likely to be realised from the sale of the present Public Halls for housing, as has been widely suggested. Reference is made to ‘an enabling development’ on that site.
In increasing and enhancing the current swimming pool and sports centre facilities, SADC says the project has to meet the needs of the town for at least the next 30 years. Greatly increased car parking provision, to match the extended facilities and ‘cater for the town’s growing need’, was recognised as a key priority, though detailed plans – for a multi-deck Amenbury Lane car park for example – remain unclear.
‘Continuity of service’, that is by minimising disruption for existing sports centre and swimming pool users while the redevelopment is in progress, is identified as a necessity in the proposals. Closure of some or all of the facilities for three to five months is expected.
The proposed new sports centre, envisaged for completion by December 2018, is planned as ‘an integrated wet and dry’ facility, encompassing the present swimming pool facility. The main six-lane 3500sq ft main pool would remain unchanged, but the learner pool would be doubled in size to 1400sq ft. The pool building’s existing so-called health suite would be retained.
The outline plans show the new sports hall adjoining the pool building. It would be built on the site of the present under-used outdoor pool and part of its large surrounding grassed area – separated from Rothamsted Park itself by the existing tall beech hedge. It would be 16% larger than today’s separate sports centre facility, at 7400sq ft, accommodating 160 – rather than 65 – health and fitness ‘stations’, some at first floor level. Other peripheral sports centre facilities, including a café and toilets, would be effectively transferred to the new pool and sports complex.
Within the shell of the present sports centre site would be developed what SADC refers to as an ‘arts and cultural hub’, targeted for completion by December 2019. It would replace and augment the facilities of the present Harpenden Public Halls. Its theatre/cinema auditorium would seat up to 500, compared with 410 in today’s Eric Morecambe (Large) Public Hall. There would be three additional function meeting rooms, effectively replacing the present Small Public Hall.
Left & above: As a basis for evaluation by stakeholders, tentative plans of the 7400sq ft leisure centre have been prepared. They show the proposed sports and fitness centre adjoining the west and south sides of the existing swimming pool building. The large sports hall, bottom left in the plan, would be built on what is now the extensive green space (left) encompassing the present outdoor learner pool – within the tall perimeter beech hedge that forms the boundary with Rothamsted Park.
After substantial lobbying by Harpenden Local History Society, SADC also proposes a much-needed ‘museum display area’, as well as a café/bar area which could, when required, double as a further meeting room. It is envisaged that sports centre membership subscriptions and ‘irregular user’ fees would partially subsidise cultural hub activities.
Project planners acknowledge that there are inevitably unforeseen risks which could hamper progress, not surprisingly including possible construction cost inflation. Car parking and planning permission issues could also arise, relating to encroachment on Rothamsted Park green space.
Harpenden Town Centre will be THE place for Christmas shopping this year thanks to an exciting initiative involving a number of local retailers. These retailers have put together special promotions, offers, gifts and ideas that will benefit Harpenden residents and make the High Street a magical place to shop, eat and drink.
The initiative launched on 21 November with a Christmas leaflet being delivered to all Harpenden homes. Inside the leaflet residents will find coupon offers and details of a free prize draw which includes cash prizes and tickets to see the England football team play at Wembley. There will be editorial coverage on Harpendia.com and weekly offers on the Harpenden Shopping facebook site
If you haven’t already received a leaflet, one should be appearing through your door soon. Alternatively you can pick one up from the Information Point at the Town Hall.
This initiative has been supported by Harpenden Town Council, Brayleys. Lyndhurst Financial Management and The Harpenden Society who all support the ethos of a having a ‘Thriving High Street’
C Y Hair
R & M Butchers