Bancroft Gardens refurb moves along

PLANS to give a town centre park a million pound makeover is moving along, after a council said it would seek lottery funding.

Bancroft Gardens in Hitchin was earmarked for a refurb years ago.

And now, councillors at North Herts District Council agreed last night (Tuesday) to submit an application to the Parks for People lottery fund to pay for the redevelopment.

The project is expected to cost �1.2m, with NHDC expected to contribute a minimum of 20 per cent of that cost.

A report which went to cabinet members said: “The proposals are to develop and improve a more accessible park facility, with enhanced provision for children, young people and older users of the facilities.

“Given that access to the park is free of charge, the proposals would deliver a project which encourages healthy leisure activity which all can enjoy regardless of level of income.”

Although the council looks likely to proceed with refurbishing the park, it is still not known whether Bancroft Hall, situated in the gardens, will be replaced.

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The facility was identified by the district council as surplus to needs in a report last year. It said that it would be demolished and not rebuilt, but residents, user groups and opposition councillors disagreed, and called for the facility to be replaced.

Groups that use the hall, including Hitchin Bridge Club, had approached the council with business plans, but these were dismissed.

The future looked brighter, however, when town centre manager Keith Hoskins said at a meeting in March that Hitchin Initiative would be prepared to become a key figure in providing another facility.

Mr Hoskins told the Comet last week that a sub-group had been created, and that its members had met with officers at NHDC.

“What we are going to look at is the possibility of introducing some sort of community facility there,” he said.

“If it’s not possible, we may have to look at other locations.”

Hall user groups still claim that there is need for a new facility.

They will work with Hitchin Initiative to push for a new venue.

Margaret Eddleston, chairman of Hitchin Bridge Club, told the Comet: “There’s no alternative accommodation in the town, not just for us but other users.

“If that hall goes, there will be no community space as such in the town centre.”