Hitchin councillor defends statement about play area’s future

PUBLISHED: 15:05 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 16 March 2018

Parents and children protest against the potential closure of Rosehill play area in Hitchin in 2017. Picture: Danny Loo

Parents and children protest against the potential closure of Rosehill play area in Hitchin in 2017. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A Hitchin councillor has defended a statement about a play area’s future, amid claims the wording is misleading.

Councillor Alan Millard, who represents Hitchin Walsworth ward. Picture: Alan MillardCouncillor Alan Millard, who represents Hitchin Walsworth ward. Picture: Alan Millard

The contentious passage about Rosehill play area – which had faced the possibility of closure – appears on a leaflet distributed in Hitchin Walsworth ward by Conservatives including Councillor Alan Millard, in a section entitled ‘your local councillors report on the local area’.

The paragraph reads: “The proposal to remove play equipment from Rosehill play area has been a serious issue for many people but after a lot of input by your local councillors, there is now a recommendation before the next cabinet meeting that, for the time being, the council will continue to maintain the area and play equipment.”

NHDC’s cabinet is to consider the recommendation that the district council would continue to maintain the play area until April 2022 at the latest on the condition that “an independent provider” creates a new play area nearby at no cost to the council, whereupon Rosehill would be closed.

Labour councillor Elizabeth Dennis, one of the three district council members for Walsworth, has said the leaflet’s wording amounts to “Tories claiming to have saved Rosehill” – a claim she said would be “outrageous”.

Hundreds of children and parents turned out to show support for Rosehill last year after it was included in NHDC’s Green Space Strategy – which earmarked 14 play areas across the district for closure unless community groups took them over.

The line from Conservative councillors at the time regarding Rosehill was that financial pressures meant tough choices and that if the playground closed, users could go to Purwell Recreation Ground or Walsworth Common instead.

Responding to Ms Dennis’ point that he had not joined the Rosehill protesters “to listen or offer encouragement”, Mr Millard said he couldn’t attend as it was “a political event of another party”.

Mr Millard has defended the leaflet’s wording in conversations with the Comet, saying the paragraph about Rosehill was intended to refer to councillors from all parties and simply inform about what was happening in Walsworth.

He said the Rosehill recommendation to cabinet had come about after he and fellow Walsworth councillor Bernard Lovewell, who is also Conservative, realised the strength of public feeling and spoke with Labour councillors and the council’s cabinet member for leisure, Councillor Jane Gray, “to look at what we could do to save it”.

The next cabinet meeting is on Tuesday, March 27 – a week after the district council’s overview and scrutiny committee looks at the Rosehill recommendation.

For more see north-herts.gov.uk.

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