Group fears over Hitchin gardens scheme

There are concerns over the redevelopment of Bancroft Gardens in Hitchin

There are concerns over the redevelopment of Bancroft Gardens in Hitchin - Credit: Archant

A group of people concerned about the future of a recreation ground will come together to discuss plans for the site after fears over a council’s refurbishment proposals.

Plans for Bancroft Park, Hitchin

Plans for Bancroft Park, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

The Bancroft Users Group will meet next week to discuss the plans put forward by North Herts District Council (NHDC) for the redevelopment of Bancroft Recreation Ground in Hitchin.

NHDC intends to redevelop the area and is currently conducting an online and street survey to gather opinions about it in conjunction with environmental charity Groundwork Hertfordshire.

The council approved a master plan a year ago, which includes altering pedestrian access, new seating, electricity supply in the bandstand, a play area for older children, and a cafe.

Mike Clarke, chairman of Hitchin Forum, said: “We are pleased that investment and improvement is to be made, but concerned at what could be lost if some of the best-used facilities in the area are removed.”

The recreation ground has four tennis courts available free of charge. NHDC wants to remove these and grass over the area. It is also suggesting that the lower bowls green will be converted to a hard surface multi-use games area.

The council is also locked in negotiations to renew the lease for Hitchin Lawn Tennis Club, which has three floodlit courts.

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The council has said that there will be public access to these. However, the access is likely to be only when the club does not have its own activities and matches.

Mr Clarke said: “Having facilities for other games is undoubtedly desirable, but the case for removing all four public courts is unconvincing. We suggest that at least two public tennis courts are retained.”

Another concern is the car parking for people using Hitchin Town Bowls Club. At present users mostly park in front of the pavilion. Mr Clarke said that replacement of the current parking area for the bowls club needed consideration and would need to be closer to the site to ensure that the bowling club was viable.

The master plan proposes a small car park between the current greens, but Mr Clarke said this would be impractical and a hazard to pedestrians.

He went on to say that the play areas needed to be improved and that toilets would need to be provided. People currently use Bancroft Hall when it is open, but the venue is due for demolition in two years’ time.

Hitchin Forum is suggesting that the current pavilion could be developed, partly to provide public toilets, but also be extended to provide a social and community centre, which could provide the funds to cover the cost of toilets, closed through lack of funding six years ago.

The closure of Bancroft Hall is due to happen when Hitchin Town Hall is opened. It has been suggested that Bancroft Hall users could be relocated there, but Mr Clarke said this would not suit all, and a social and community indoor recreational area would be a valuable resource in the park.

Mr Clarke also raised concerns that when Bancroft Hall is demolished it will reduce footfall to the area, with Hitchin Bridge Club, which has campaigned the most for a replacement, being most affected.

A public discussion about these issues will be held on Tuesday in Bancroft Pavilion at 7.30pm.

NHDC’s consultation will also end on Tuesday.