Call for conservators to resign after Therfield Heath land swap application refusal

The release land at the top of Sun Hill. Picture: David Hatton

The release land at the top of Sun Hill. Picture: David Hatton - Credit: David Hatton

Objectors to the application to deregister common land in Royston have called on the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens to resign, after the Planning Inspectorate rejected the proposal.

The entrance of the replacement land to the west of New Road in Therfield. Picture: David Hatton

The entrance of the replacement land to the west of New Road in Therfield. Picture: David Hatton - Credit: David Hatton

The conservators manage the heath and are also trustees of the Therfield Regulation Trust, which owns the 400-acre site.

They submitted an application to deregister heathland near Sun Hill and Briary Lane and replace it with woodland west of New Road in Therfield. It resulted in an eight-day public inquiry, for which the refusal decision was announced on Friday.

Clive Hall, who led the objectors’ panel at the inquiry, told the Crow: “It was the conservators who chose the timing, spent the charity’s money on lawyers, paid experts, and defined their proposal, yet it was still too uncertain to justify the exchange. Had they spent time listening rather than calling people ‘nimbys’ their scheme would have been vastly improved.

“Our heath must be trusted to people who can balance what is right for the neighbourhood and listen to all views. The failure to achieve this balance has resulted in the wasting of our heath’s money, so there must be resignations and a commitment to greater engagement with the community.

“Like the inspector, I recognise the value to the neighbourhood of a hockey ATP and if the Roysia school site or other appropriate site becomes available would like to see the town back a scheme to build one funded by 106 money.”

Don Shewan and Karen Pearson – who sat on the panel of objectors – released a joint statement to the Crow, which said: “Those who opposed the sale of valued open space are very pleased with the inspector’s decision to reject the plan to sell part of our Common Land for housing. We would like to express our thanks for all the help, support and encouragement we received from such a huge section of the public over the past few years.

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“We have never understood the conservators’ argument that, to save the heath, you must sell part of it for housing development and then build on yet more of our rare chalk grassland – it is illogical.

“We do understand the funding difficulties that concern our present conservators but feel we should explore other, and better, ways to protect the common.

“Investment of charity money should not be gambled on schemes which have not been fully costed. Flora and fauna on the Therfield Heath SSSI will be compromised if we allow inappropriate development and a dangerous precedent will be set.”

Royston resident Richard Ketteringham said: “Because the public inquiry has turned down selling some of the heath for housing, it does not mean the heath is safe. It makes me sick to think they are still the owners.”

The Crow has contacted the conservators for comment and is awaiting a response.