Funds for renovation work at Hitchin recreation ground rejected due to weak application

Plans for Bancroft Park, Hitchin

Plans for Bancroft Park, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that a grant application for the regeneration of a Hitchin recreation ground was rejected due to a weak application.

The FOI was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund by Margaret Eddleston, chairman of Hitchin Bridge Club, after a request for funding from North Herts District Council totalling £110,600 to renovate Bancroft Recreation Ground was not approved in July.

The total cost for the proposed redevelopment – approved by the district council two years ago – is £2,647,000, and includes altering pedestrian access, new seating, a play area for children, and changes to tennis facilities which would see four courts removed.

The report said: “This was an experienced applicant and there was potential for this project, which included redesign of the public space and new capital works, to reach out to new and diverse audiences. However, this element appeared weak and there was a low budget for activity costs. Consultation with all parks users and potential audiences also needed strengthening together with more detail of the long term management requirements. HLF trustees queried the proposals regarding the tennis courts and the wider concerns regarding their removal and sought more detail.”

Under the plans the lower bowls green would be converted to a hard surface multi-use games area and restoration works carried of the River Hiz.

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The grant was rejected in July and at the time the Comet asked NHDC on what grounds it rejected, but the council were not able to provide us with the reasons.

Speaking about the FOI Mrs Eddleston said: “I obtained this information by a simple FOI request. The council could have had this information immediately following the rejection decision but apparently didn’t bother to ask for it. They seem content to await a meeting with the HLF in late September and will not report to council and suggest new ideas for the recreation ground redevelopment until December – six months after the decision.”

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Councillor Jane Gray, NHDC’s portfolio holder for leisure said: “We are awaiting a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of September to discuss their decision in more detail. Following the meeting we will be in a better position to be able to plan next steps on the future of the recreation ground. A report detailing potential options will also be submitted to the council’s cabinet in due course.”

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