Crunch time for replacement park in North Herts after decision to bulldoze Wandon Park

Plans for a replacement park in North Herts to compensate for the loss of Wandon Park are due to be considered next week.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 1:24 pm
Wandon Park

Luton Borough Council's housing company Foxhall Homes Limited has been granted planning permission to build 60 homes on the neighbourhood park in Wandon Close, Wigmore.

Residents opposed to the development have been offered what the council considers a replacement park on a neighbouring plot of woodland.

An executive meeting on Tuesday, April 6, will consider whether the council should enter talks with charity Fields in Trust to acquire the plot, which is located just outside the borough's boundary in North Hertfordshire.

"The replacement park has received a certificate of lawful development from North Hertfordshire District Council and will be created and laid out under our permitted development rights," according to a report to the executive.

"Ownership of this park shall remain with and be the responsibility of the council," said the report.

"Although the proposed replacement park is in north Hertfordshire this doesn't prevent the council from controlling its use within the confines of the planning system.

"As part of the proposed Section 106 legal agreement placed on the owner of the land, there's a requirement for the future use of this land to be protected in perpetuity as public open space."

The council's housing company intends to build nine two-bedroom maisonettes, four two-bed homes and 47 family properties, consisting of 16 three-bedroom, 29 four-bed and two five-bedroom houses.

Its planning approval is subject to referral to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government.

Before Foxhall Homes can start work on the five-acre site, the company must comply with the legal planning obligation, "so the council needs to find a way of protecting the future use of the land", added the report.

"The most appropriate means of securing this protection is to dedicate the replacement park to Fields in Trust, which used to be known as the National Playing Fields Association.

"By entering into a deed of dedication the local authority would effectively be handing over non-operational control of the site to Fields in Trust.

"So while LBC would continue to exercise day-to-day control of the land, Fields in Trust could prevent any attempt to build new structures on it or to change the use.

"Once entered into, the council won't be able to unilaterally revoke the deed."

Several Luton parks, including Memorial Park and Lewsey Park, are already dedicated to the charity, explained the report.

"Once dedicated, the council couldn't undertake any form of development on the land without permission from Fields in Trust.

"Small scale projects to improve the park, such as a pavilion or snack stand, are likely to be approved.

"But this dedication would remove the council’s ability to develop the land for commercial purposes."

The process involves LBC making a small contribution towards the charity's legal fees.

The Friends of Wandon Park say neither LBC or its housing company can replace Wandon Park as "it's a recognised neighbourhood park under the Luton Local Plan".

The land in North Hertfordshire is public open space and would count towards that provision in the neighbouring county, they claim.