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New Harpenden sports centre given go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 13:35 16 January 2019

A picture of the new Harpenden leisure and culture development. Picture: St Albans council.

A picture of the new Harpenden leisure and culture development. Picture: St Albans council.

Archant

A long-awaited new sport and cultural centre in Harpenden has been given the green light.

Although the £18.8 million scheme had been given conditional planning permission by St Albans district council (SADC) last year, the project had been sent to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for ultimate consideration. This is because the site is on Green Belt land and therefore needs authorisation from central government.

The proposals include multiple swimming pools, a sports hall, dance studio, larger gym, steam room, and sauna at Rothamsted Park

It would also include an arts and cultural centre next door, with an exhibition space, bars and a café, and an 511-seat theatre named after comedy legend and former Harpenden resident Eric Morecambe.

Planning casework manager Simon Heydecker-Dent has said there are no objections to the plan and SADC can start work on the project.

Mr Heydecker-Dent said: “The government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.”

Designs were shaped by extensive public consultations at a charrette, and work is due to start in the spring.

SADC’s portfolio holder for commercial and development, Cllr Julian Daly, said this development will add to the portfolio of sports centre redevelopments under the council’s belt.

This includes Batchwood, Cotlandswick, and Westminster Lodge in the last six years.

He said: “The new sport and cultural centres will be high-quality developments with the potential to enrich the lives of people in Harpenden of all ages and backgrounds. They will be valuable community assets.”

Portfolio holder for sport and culture, Cllr Annie Brewster, thanked the community: “There is palpable excitement to finally have the gym and swimming facilities under the same roof and modern, comfortable seating in the new Eric Morecambe Theatre.

“The approved designs will offer the people of Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead fantastic amenities to enjoy for years to come.”

SADC are next proposing to redevelop Harpenden Public Halls. See www.stalbans.gov.uk/harpendenleisure for more information.

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