Heath threatened with 'eyesore' borehole kiosks

The pumping station site at Therfield Heath 

The pumping station site at Therfield Heath - Credit: Carol Fossick

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens have signalled their intention to oppose the application to erect two large borehole kiosks on Therfield Heath.

Affinity Water Limited has applied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for consent under the Commons Act 2006, the National Trust Act 1971 and the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967 to carry out restricted works on Therfield Heath Common.

The proposed works are to improve Affinity Water Limited current operational site, located at the end of Stakepiece Road.

The works involve upgrading the existing apparatus which requires the installation of two associated kiosks. During the works, the area would be fenced to ensure public safety. A total of roughly 107.02 metres of heras fencing will be required and will enclose an area of approximately 695 square metres.

The boreholes, located near the pumping station at the end of Stakepiece Road, would be topped by 2.4m kiosks each covering 2.7m by 2.1m.

The pumping station site at Therfield Heath 

The pumping station site at Therfield Heath - Credit: Carol Fossick

The conservators say the pumping station is already blighted by graffiti and is an eyesore visible widely from the heath and Baldock Road. They believe these new kiosks will create a larger eyesore and remain a magnet for antisocial behaviour over a wider area.

A better plan, they say, would be for Affinity Water Limited to create a small secure compound in exchange for other land, and AWL would then be able to landscape their assets removing the eyesore.

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The land swap would ensure the approx. 600 m2 of the heath taken by the compound would be replaced by a new area of heath of the same size or larger and of equal amenity value. 

Clare Swarbrick, who was elected chair of the Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens in March 2020, said: “People rightly want AWL to maintain their water supply to the highest standards, but the proposed solution is not the right one.

"We hope the public will tell the Planning Inspectorate, who will decide AWL’s application that AWL should not look to do this on the cheap but go the extra mile for our beloved heath.”

The Planning Inspectorate will decide the application on behalf of the Secretary of State, George Eustice MP. 

An Affinity Water spokesperson said: “We have been liaising with the Conservators of the Heath and will continue to work with them and the community to try and accommodate both their aims and our responsibilities to provide reliable and sustainable high-quality drinking water for our customers now and in the future.

"We need to install these new kiosks to do that and we will ensure they and the building blend in with the environment so that any visual impact is minimised. We need more time to explore the possibility of a land swap and other options for further phases of these works.”

It's not the first time the heath has been subject to a potential land swap. Back in May this year, a land swap was approved to correct an oversight from 1976.

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens election is to be held at their AGM. Picture: Archant

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens election is to be held at their AGM. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The proposal to deregister part of the common land along the A505 Baldock Road and exchange it with land west of Pen Hills came about after it emerged the heath was 8500m² smaller than it should have been. The reduced heath came about when the A505 was widened to become a dual carriageway. 

In January 2018, a public inquiry was held to determine whether the conservators could deregister and sell off a portion of land for housing, with the money being reinvested into the heath. The bid was unsuccessful and the area, now called Sun Hill Common, was given a new lease of life as a regularly maintained play space. 

A copy of the application form and accompanying documents can be inspected at the entrance to Therfield Heath off Stakepiece Road, Royston, until October 7, 2021.

The application form and accompanying documents can also be obtained by writing to Kate Howlett, Dalcour Maclaren, Unit 1 Staplehurst Farm, Weston-on-the-Green, Bicester, OX25 3QU or via email at: Kate.howlett@dalcourmaclaren.com.

Any representations should be sent in writing on or before October 7 to The Planning Inspectorate, Commons Team at 3A Temple Quay House, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN or commonlandcasework@planninginspectorate.gov.uk.