Hundreds of residents are calling on the county council to take steps to reinstate a once "thriving" equestrian centre – rather than selling the site to the highest bidder.

Ickleford Equestrian Centre had been running from Lower Green Farm for more than 30 years.

But now, following the end of the tenancy on the council-owned farm, the centre has closed, with ten acres of the Lower Green Farm site – that includes the farm buildings –  have been earmarked for possible sale.

Hundreds of people have already signed a petition that calls on the council to reinstate the farm as Ickleford Equestrian Centre, which included facilities for disabled riders.

And instead of selling off the 10-acres of the 120-acre site to the highest bidder, they are calling for the council to consider three alternative options.

They want the council to restore and re-let it as a public asset to a tenant who would uphold its "inclusive values", "future proofing it for further generations".

That, they say, should include the future use as a facility for the Riding for the Disabled Association.

Alternatively, they call on the council to sell the farm and equestrian centre to a community group for the same purpose.

Or, they suggest the council should sell the site with a legal covenant, ensuring that an equestrian centre with an inclusive ethos would remain and provide facilities to the Riding for the Disabled Association.

The petition – started by Frances Barry – says the Grade II-listed farm is an established and active part of the rural village which has been nominated as an asset of community value.

It says the site – surrounded by public footpaths and bridal ways – is in a "unique position" to allow safe access for disabled riders and social benefits for all.

It states:  “This is a pivotal moment in the history of Lower Green Farm. Its future should be discussed in partnership with community interests, values and needs.

“The community should not be overlooked.

“If Lower Green Farm is sold to the highest bidder, as proposed by the council, the outcome will be uncertain, except that the village and equestrian community will lose a much loved and valued public asset.”

County councillors are expected to consider a proposal to sell the site at a meeting of the resources and performance cabinet panel on February 8.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:  “We are aware of the petition and that some residents have expressed concerns and we will certainly follow all due process.

“Officers and Councillors met with the petitioners before Christmas to understand their concerns, and there is a further meeting scheduled with them in the coming weeks.

“The recommendation to sell a small part of Lower Green Farm will be considered at the Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel meeting on 8th February 2024.”

Conservative county councillor David Barnard said: “I am looking for an amicable solution – one which will make residents happy and one which is within the law and democratic processes."

The petition is still going and can be viewed on the Herts County Council website