Plans to sell part of Royston’s heathland opposed by town council

Land is for sale on Therfield Heath

Land is for sale on Therfield Heath - Credit: Archant

Plans to sell part of Royston’s heathland for a housing development have been opposed by Royston Town Council.

The Conservators of Therfield Heath wish to sell a piece of the Heath, adjacent to Briary Lane, to housing developers, but the proposals have hit a snag after Royston town councillors objected to the plans at a meeting on Monday evening.

An outline planning application to build eight houses on the land in question was submitted to North Herts District Council on October 1, and the consultation ended on Thursday last week.

Don Shewan, who has lived in The Dell for 30 years and is chairman of the Royston Wildlife Group, made a presentation concerning the proposed development to councillors and about 70 residents who attended.

He said: “I wish to object to these proposals, as do many residents who have recently been made aware of these plans.

“There has been a lack of consultation with the people of Therfield and Royston who were given the Heath in perpetuity.

“If the trustees of the Heath are allowed to sell and exchange the two plots of land they have identified, we believe that irresponsible overdevelopment of the few remaining areas of green space within the town should be avoided.

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“We would lose a valued local amenity. The site is a safe, flat play area and has been used in excess of 30 years.

“The site is used every day of the year by dog walkers and is a popular meeting place. Before North Herts District Council neglected the site, local clubs and scout groups used it as a base for activities.”

The conservators have said that money that goes towards the upkeep of the Briary Lane land could be better spent providing extra sporting and recreational facilities.

If the land is sold, a piece of woodland adjacent to the Heath will be purchased to replace it, and any profits from the sale will be put back into the running of the Heath.

David Smith, clerk of the Conservators of Therfield Heath, said: “The surplus from any sale will be reinvested in the Heath.

“The Conservators have a duty to promote sporting activities on the Heath.

“They also need to maintain the Heath so people can enjoy it in as many ways as possible.

“Maintaining the Heath means collecting litter and dog faeces, cutting back the encroaching scrub, managing the rabbit population, enforcing the bye-laws and making it possible for sheep to graze to preserve the unique chalk grassland, which is why the Heath is such a special place.”

A spokesman for Royston Town Council said: “Members discussed the concerns raised over the loss of an open space area within Royston and that the area was used regularly as an informal play space for over thirty years, it was maintained by North Herts District Council up until a couple of years ago.

“Members were divided on their response and voted five to three, with one abstention, to object on the grounds that an Ecology Survey of the area needs to be undertaken.”

The ultimate decision will be made by North Herts District Council planners.