Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust and North Herts District Council set for Butts Close parking land swap

PUBLISHED: 10:21 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:54 08 September 2017

The Hitchin Swimming Centre car park was gridlocked before Hitchin's friendly against Luton in July after the district council banned overspill football parking on Butts Close. Picture: Layth Yousif

The Hitchin Swimming Centre car park was gridlocked before Hitchin's friendly against Luton in July after the district council banned overspill football parking on Butts Close. Picture: Layth Yousif

Archant

Extra parking for Hitchin’s swimming centre – that’s the aim of a proposed land swap at Butts Close, and it could benefit football fans too.

A map showing, shaded, the land held by the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust at Top Field and across Fishponds Road at Butts Close. Picture: HCCTA map showing, shaded, the land held by the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust at Top Field and across Fishponds Road at Butts Close. Picture: HCCT

The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, which holds Hitchin Town FC’s Top Field ground and a second parcel of land on the other side of Fishponds Road, is set to make a deal with North Herts District Council that could lead to the addition of a new access road and extra parking for the swimming pool.

The proposed swap, announced by the district council yesterday, would see the Cow Commoners Trust transfer about 1,040 square metres of land next to the pool to the district council in exchange for 2,600 square metres of common land elsewhere on Butts Close.

Councillor Jane Gray – responsible for leisure at the district council – said the authority was now inviting public comments on its planned disposal of land, and had already requested government consent for the access road.

She said: “The council recognises that there can be an issue with parking for users of swim centre during busy periods.

“We have therefore been working on a solution to try and accommodate more parking, while also respecting the green space at Butts Close.

“Our solution involves building an access road and additional parking adjacent to the swim centre. However, this is a long and complicated process.

“A key part of the process has involved negotiating a land swap with the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust. The council intends to dispose of an area of land at Butts Close to the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, and in return the council will receive an area of land adjacent to the pool from the Cow Commoners Trust, at Fishponds Road.

“We are now accepting comments or objections to the intended disposal of the council’s land, which must be received by noon on September 21.

“Alongside this, we have also applied to the Secretary of State for consent to build an access road on common land, and we have a planning inspectorate inquiry on this later this year. If we are successful, the next step will be to obtain planning permission.”

Hitchin Town FC is three years into a 25-year lease for the land and buildings at Top Field.

The deal could mean fans of Hitchin Town and visiting clubs might once again be able to park their cars on Butts Close, opposite the ground – a privilege that the district council withdrew in July, prompting chaos during the pre-season visit of Luton Town.

Hitchin Town chief executive Andy Melvin told the Comet yesterday that he had been unaware of the planned land swap, but that it sounded like it could be a good idea.

The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust is yet to respond to the Comet’s request for comment.

Any comments or objections about the proposal must be made in writing and addressed to Steven Crowley – Ref: HIT SWIM SEPT 17 – North Hertfordshire District Council, Town Lodge, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 3HN.

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