University of Hertfordshire hits back in Hatfield stadium row

PLANS to build a football stadium in Hatfield have been effectively ruled out by the University of Hertfordshire – despite backing the scheme five years ago.

The university has also denied claims made by Jon Brindle, chairman of fundraising body Sport Hatfield, that it broke promises over the proposed redevelopment of Angerland Common, off South Way, Hatfield.

Mr Brindle said the university was dodging commitments to redevelop the land, which it owns, for community sports, and that it had previously pledged to help build a ground for Hatfield Town Football Club.

But Nick Brooking, the university’s director of sports, has said the university had supported the building of the stadium, and that the project floundered because Sport Hatfield had not provided sufficient funds to build and maintain such a scheme.

“The university has never promised to build a football ground for Hatfield Town FC,” he said.

“Nobody’s ever come up with any money. There’s no point putting sports provision anywhere where it’s unviable and unsustainable.”

Permission to build a 450-seater stadium and cricket facilities at Angerland Common was granted in December 2005 by Welwyn Hatfield Council and publicly backed by the university and Mr Brooking.

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Despite a Section 106 agreement obliging the university to reinstate a changing room and playing fields at Angerland Common, the land remains empty – save for a 700-car park and ride facility owned by the university.

“The university’s delay in reinstating sports pitches at Angerland is based largely on the view of various parties that there were sufficient football pitches in the area to meet the existing demand,” Mr Brooking said.

“Particularly as the new facilities at the [Hertfordshire] Sports Village had opened by this time.”

Mr Brindle responded by saying: “I spent much of last year working with Mr Brooking on a business plan to prove how a stadium could be sustainable.

“We visited several clubs and I provided a study report that could be used as a blueprint.

“Surely Mr Brooking has not forgotten that already?”

This summer, the Welwyn Hatfield Sports Facility Strategy will be sent out for public consultation, examining the need for sporting facilities in the borough up to 2026.

Angerland Common does not feature in the scheme.