Consultation on future of troubled park

The future of a troubled Hitchin park is in the hands of the community from this weekend when users can have their say on how a council should spend a pot of regeneration money.

On Saturday Hitchin park goers will have their chance to share their vision of Bancroft Gardens as a public consultation begins into its future by environmental charity Groundwork Hertfordshire on behalf of North Herts District Council.

Ian Knighton, leisure portfolio holder at the council, said: “Bancroft Park is in the heart of Hitchin and its community, but unfortunately areas of it have become neglected and are in need of updating. The consultation process is aimed at getting the views of a wide range of people in the community and of all different ages on how they would like to see it improved.“

The park has suffered from repeated arson attacks last year which destroyed the tennis club pavilion and damaged the community centre. The public toilets are closed due to lack of funding and the public tennis courts are in poor condition. Groups of drink and drug users are also known to use the park.

The council has so far secured over �70,000 from developers to regenerate the park and is hoping to secure further grant funding from external sources.

In and around the park on Wednesday morning residents told The Comet their views on what could be done to improve it.

Phil Ahern, 40, who lives in Pirton said the area should be made more open to deter drinkers from gathering.

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“They hang out because there are lots of nooks and crannies to hide in,” he said.

Pat Jeffs of Wellingham Avenue said she goes to the park with her grandchildren and was happy with it. “It’s a lovely park as it is - it’s fine,” she said.

But Pete Morey, 59, who was cleaning up rubbish from the park for council contractors John O’Connor, said litter was an issue.

“I’ve nearly filled two bags,” he said. “Rubbish is a problem. Weekends are worse. A lot of teenagers come in here at night. If you come in here on Friday and Saturday night it is bad with drinking cans.

“I don’t know what the teenagers want. I don’t know if one of these climbing frames would be good.”

Hitchin tennis club member, Kate Briggs, said the arson attack on the club pavilion was “just terrible” and the club should be protected as an integral part of the park.

She said: “I feel that it is important to keep this as a club – not many towns this size don’t have one.”

Mother of one, Joanna Malkowiak, 25, of Radcliffe Road said: “I think they should have somebody looking after the park. In the holidays there’s lots of teenagers. They leave lots of rubbish. Little kids could pick it up. It’s uncomfortable for me when teenagers are hanging around.”

She added: “The play area is fine, although it’s a bit cozy.”

Gill Taylor, operations director for Groundwork Hertfordshire said they aimed to complete the consultation process by October, “which will include a clear agreed vision and plan for taking the proposal forward together with fundraising ideas.”

Park users are invited to discuss their ideas and concerns with Groundwork staff on Saturday between 10am and 2pm at the bandstand in the park. If you cannot make the event you can email Gill Taylor at

What do you think of the park and what could be done to improve it?

Write to us at or Editorial, The Comet, Bank House, Primett Road, Stevenage, Herts SG1 3EE.