Hatfield residents confused by town council meeting discussing football stadium

PUBLISHED: 06:58 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 20 January 2020

People enjoying the Hatfield Music Festival at the Birchwood playing fields. Picture: Simon Jenkins.

People enjoying the Hatfield Music Festival at the Birchwood playing fields. Picture: Simon Jenkins.

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A Hatfield Town Council meeting about revamping its leisure centre and creating a new football stadium has left some residents puzzled.

Playing fields behind Birchwood leisure centre.Playing fields behind Birchwood leisure centre.

On Wednesday, residents went along to see plans for a new football stadium out the back of Birchwood Leisure Centre but were instead shown a presentation on a new scheme for four pitches, a 3G stadium, a space for Hatfield Boxing Club, junior netball clubs, martial arts, dance and recording studios, as well as new catering facilities and meeting and function rooms.

The scheme also proposes a mix of one and two bedroom units - with 35 per cent of those currently allocated for 'affordable' housing - and a new car park, opposite Tesco.

READ MORE: Latest Birchwood Leisure Centre plans unveiled to rehome Hatfield Town FC

Conservative Hatfield town councillor and deputy leader Caron Juggins posted a presentation on Facebook ahead of the meeting, which caused many Birchwood residents to believe the proposals were for a new football stadium only. In the post she said there were more options in the pipeline.

However, during the meeting held at the leisure centre in Longmead, it was claimed by the town councillors that they were only showing the flats and pitch proposal despite screens outside the room displaying the other option.

Hatfield Town Council deputy leader posted in Hatfield Community Chat about the option with the stadium. Picture: Facebook.Hatfield Town Council deputy leader posted in Hatfield Community Chat about the option with the stadium. Picture: Facebook.

Alan Upson, who attends the walking football classes at the club, said he thought they were looking at the stadium only.

"We need more green spaces for kids not less," Mr Upson said after the meeting, when the press and public were excluded due to the 'confidential nature of the business to be transacted'.

"All the schools playing fields have been destroyed," he added.

Another resident claimed "everyone I've spoken to is against more flats" and there was no communication around that option.

Cllr Juggins shared the presentation on Facebook by local football enthusiast Jon Brindle, where he outlines a way to use HTC's £800,000 for a new stadium.

READ MORE: Hatfield Town Council eyeing major housing plans for playing field, critics claim

Mr Brindle - who sits on the board of Breaks Manor Youth Centre - explained that his proposal is fully costed and ready to go.

"Hatfield needs a football ground [and] I have put forward a business proposal to secure that," he said.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times clarified with Cllr Juggins, Cllr Richard Brisbin, Cllr Richard Griffiths and town leader Cllr Lenny Brandon that two proposals were discussed, alongside the option of doing nothing, when councillors met behind closed doors - and there would be a public consultation if any of the plans go forward.

Cllr Caron Juggins at Birchwood Leisure centre.Cllr Caron Juggins at Birchwood Leisure centre.

Cllr Brandon said, "The [flats] proposal would certainly bring Birchwood Leisure Centre into the present day, and would benefit the town as a whole not just the footballing community.

"I appreciate certain quarters do not like change, but I believe this [redevelopment] proposal would give the people of Hatfield a facility to be proud of. It would include boxing, dance, martial arts, education and netball.

"The football provision would not only give the towns youth something to aspire to, but would go along way in stopping the best home grown talent looking for pastures new away from Hatfield."

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