Facebook battle for Hitchin beauty spot's future

HUNDREDS of people have joined a Facebook page opposing the building of a rope park at a secluded beauty spot. Nearly 600 people have signed up to the Don t Jump! page on the social networking site against a planning application by Jump, a not-for-profit

HUNDREDS of people have joined a Facebook page opposing the building of a rope park at a secluded beauty spot.

Nearly 600 people have signed up to the Don't Jump! page on the social networking site against a planning application by Jump, a not-for-profit community organisation, to build a permanent high ropes climbing course at The Dell in Hitchin.

The area of woodland between the Queen Mother Theatre and Windmill Hill, which was once an open air theatre, is currently used by youths as a BMX course and somewhere to gather to play music and juggle, as well as by dog walkers.

Hitchin's Club85 manager, Bob Mardon, who is a member of the group, said: "The Dell is a much loved piece of wilderness in the centre of Hitchin and is held dear to the heart of anyone who has grown up here. There is very strong feeling and concern that if this plan goes ahead then The Dell as we know it will be destroyed.


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"On first impressions a high ropes course for Hitchin is a wonderful idea, and many people, myself included, are in full support of Jump in Hitchin, but not in The Dell.

"When you look at the plans, they are intending to build a relatively small course whilst destroying The Dell with a 2.4m high, 130m long security fence which will enclose most of the base, complete with cameras and lights.

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"We ask that the course is found a better site that is less contentious, where they can spend most of their start up fund on equipment and installation of a course that would be the pride of the region rather than spending most of it on landscaping, security and destruction."

But Jump director Elias Xenophontos said they would be enhancing the area and stopping anti-social behaviour. "The fence is going to be just in the bottom of The Dell and it will be freely open in the day. It's only at night time you won't be able to use it, and through our audit there's very little use at night time. Unless you are using it at night, you are unaffected

"It's not used by a large amount of the community and we want to encourage more people to use it. Although it's being changed there's a lot wrong with The Dell including anti-social behaviour. It's going to stop bonfires, urination and petty crime."

The minimum three week public consultation on the scheme, carried out by North Herts District Council which owns the site, ends tomorrow (Friday). But a council spokesman said late comments on the plans, either by post or on the planning section of the council website, will be considered up to the time the application is decided in around five weeks time.

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