Thousands back petition to save Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre from closure

PUBLISHED: 11:31 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:36 03 November 2017

Cuffley Camp is under threat of closing down. Picture: Google Street View.

Cuffley Camp is under threat of closing down. Picture: Google Street View.

Google Street View

Five thousand people have signed a petition to save Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre as Hertfordshire County Council decides whether to close it.

Yesterday a meeting was held by the county council (HCC) to consider the future of the centre.

The need for a decision comes after HCC broke the conditions of its lease for not maintaining the site to an acceptable standard with year-on-year investment.

The camp, in Northaw, is run by Hertfordshire Children’s Services but is owned by the Hatfield House Estate and managed by the estate’s company, Gascoyne Holdings Limited (GHL).

Under the lease, the county council was convenanted to invest money every five years and now owes 11 years’ of payments.

There is also concern over the condition of asbestos on the caretaker’s cottage and bike store.

A spokesman for HCC said: “Hertfordshire County Council has an obligation to make the best use of taxpayers’ money and to ensure that any facilities we provide for children in the county are fit for purpose.

“We are therefore in the process of considering the future of the Cuffley Camp Outdoor Centre.”

The education centre is frequently visited by youngsters from Welwyn Hatfield, Potters Bar and children from schools farther afield.

The centre was established in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and the county council has held the property on a series of leases since then.

A petition, which currently has nearly 5,000 signatures, has been created in a bid to stop the county council from closing the site.

Many people who have fond childhood memories of the camp or whose children currently attend have been desperately sharing the petition on social media.

The current lease is for 25 years from 2007 and, thus, has just over 14 years left to run.

The county council is now deciding whether to invest £1.8million and continue running the camp or to close the site and look to make similar provision at Hudnall Park.

In a council report from yesterday’s meeting, it states: “Hudnall Park is owned by the council and doing this would have the added advantage of being able to offer both camping-based and building-based residential activities.”

Children’s services has reported a noticeable decline in bookings at Cuffley Camp over the years.

Labour group leader councillor Kieran Thorpe said: “The Conservatives clearly don’t understand the value of this facility to the community and have decided to get rid of it hoping no-one would notice.

“It’s absolutely disgusting.

“They should be ashamed of themselves.

“Generations of people in Welwyn Hatfield and much further afield will have cherished memories of Cuffley Camp, but thanks to the austerity forced on local authorities and implemented by County Hall Conservatives, it looks like memories are all that will remain.”

The next county council meeting takes place on November 9, and the creator of the petition - Sally Edwards -will be taking it along to fight against its closure.

•If you wish to sign the petition visit: https://cmis.hertfordshire.gov.uk/hertfordshire/Petitions/tabid/140/ID/186/Stop-the-closure-of-Cuffley-Camp-Outdoor-Centre.aspx

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