Conservators answer Therfield Heath deregistration and housing questions at Royston meeting

The public meeting was to share views on the management of Therfield Heath.

The public meeting was to share views on the management of Therfield Heath. - Credit: Archant

Members of the public crammed into a meeting at Royston Town Hall on Thursday last week to hear about Therfield Heath’s management and from speakers of clubs who use it for sporting or leisure activities.

There was barely a spare seat in the Heritage Hall room for the meeting, which was called by the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens after February’s public inquiry into whether an area of heathland could be deregistered and sold for housing.

The panel of conservators at the meeting – who are also the trustees of the Therfield Regulation Trust, which owns the heath – were chair John King, Dr Cynthia Combe, Colin Smith, John Davison, Mark Weatherhead, Rev Richard Morgan, Margaret Gergorios and clerk David Smith.

The panel told the audience the deresigration request was the “most significant decision the conservators had made”.

“The conservators can only see more and greater use of the heath,” Mr King said.

“As Royston is growing, what was good practice and management 10 to 15 years ago is no longer so. Our current income will not cover the cost of running the heath.

“We need a large injection of capital to maintain the heath for next generations.”

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The meeting heard the conservators get £58,000 income per year from sports clubs who use the heath and £1,300 from Natural England, who require the heath to be managed according to their specifications.

The panel was also asked whether they had an agreement on the 120-home speculative application by developer Gladman near to the deregistration land, and the response was that conservators were first approached by Gladman in April 2016, but have “no agreement with them or anybody else”.

Mr King said: “We haven’t made a decision for or against. Gladman did ask us not object to it, but we haven’t agreed to that.

“We don’t agree with what they’re proposing – its whether we can fight what they’re doing.”

An audience member said: “Wouldn’t deregisting of the land actually enable their plans?”

To which the response was: “Yes it would. It’s our fault we didn’t get into gear and get this sorted.”

Mr King also said it was too late to turn back on the conservators’ previous decision not to engage with the public, but that going forward they would have a six-monthly public meeting as well as potentially having a friends group.