Thousands sign petition to save Cuffley Camp as Herts County Council considers closure
PUBLISHED: 12:58 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:59 03 November 2017
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A petition launched yesterday to save Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre has already amassed more than 5,000 signatures, as Hertfordshire County Council decides whether to close the facility.
Yesterday the children’s services cabinet panel at the county council met to consider the future of the centre – which was established in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and has seen thousands of pupils enjoy outdoor activities there.
The need for a decision comes after the county council broke the conditions of its lease – which has just over 14 years left to run – for not maintaining the site to an acceptable standard with year-on-year investment.
The camp – situated in the south east of the county, not far from Cuffley and Northaw – is run by Hertfordshire Children’s Services but is owned by the Hatfield House Estate and managed by the estate’s company, Gascoyne Holdings Limited.
Under the lease, the county council has to invest money every five years and now owes 11 years’ worth of payments.
There is also concern over the condition of asbestos on the caretaker’s cottage and bike store.
A spokesman for HCC said: “Hertfordshire County Council has an obligation to make the best use of taxpayers’ money and to ensure that any facilities we provide for children in the county are fit for purpose.
“We are therefore in the process of considering the future of the Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre.”
The education centre is frequently visited by youngsters from North Herts and Stevenage, as well other pupils attending schools from across the county.
An online petition has been set up by Herts resident Sally Edwards in a bid to stop the county council from closing the site and to “save this valuable environment for our children and future generations”.
Since its launch yesterday, the petition has been widely circulated on social media – with many sharing their fond childhood memories of the camp.
Hitchin county councillor Judi Billing, who is Labour’s education spokeswoman for Herts, said: “There is considerable concern at the proposal by the county council to walk away from its interest in Cuffley Camp by surrendering the remainder of its current 25-year lease which started in 2007. The county council was meant to make annual investment to keep the place up to scratch and useable and it has seriously failed to do this.
“Cuffley Camp was established after the Second World War and has been delivering marvellous outdoor education to children and young people for 70 years, through a huge range of activities and pursuits.
“Most of those with incredibly powerful memories of their time there have mentioned the few days camping which Year 6 students as part of their final year personal and social preparation for secondary school. My own children had marvellous times there in the 1980s!
“Many primary schools currently do more sophisticated Year 6 trips these days, but many of these are expensive for parents and sometimes out of reach for some. Hertfordshire is a relatively wealthy county but there are large pockets of deprivation, mainly in urban locations and I believe that Cuffley should be refurbished, restored and cherished as an opportunity for all young people, irrespective of means to enjoy the vital opportunities that it has offered for so many years.”
The county council is now deciding whether to invest £1.8 million and continue running the camp, or to close the site and look to make similar provision at Hudnall Park Outdoor Centre – situated eight miles from Hemel Hempstead.
In a council report from yesterday’s meeting, it states: “Hudnall Park is owned by the council and doing this would have the added advantage of being able to offer both camping-based and building-based residential activities.”
Cuffley Camp’s future will next be discussed at another county county cabinet panel meeting on November 9, which Ms Edwards will be taking her petition along to.