Vice Chairmans report to public meeting 11.10.18

A warm welcome to you all for our second public meeting of 2018.

I would like to welcome the “Friends of the Heath” to their first meeting since being established in July this year.

I would firstly like to apologise that our Chairman is unable to attend tonight for personal reasons and as the newly elected Vice Chairman, I will chair this meeting.

Also our Clerk David Smith is very poorly and we wish him a speedy recovery.

We will over the next hour or so invite the users of the Heath to make presentations and at the end will take questions from the floor at the end of each presentation.

I will then deliver a statement on behalf of the Conservators and then take further questions.

As always we are limited on time, and I will please take only one question per person and ask that you introduce yourself, where you live and how you use the Heath.

I would first like to read you a statement from our web site.

The Therfield Regulation Trust is a registered charity which manages the Therfield Heath and Greens. This includes both the common land and the recreational and sporting areas. The Conservators, who act as the Charity’s managing trustees, govern the Charity and ensure the Heaths and Greens are preserved and accessible to the general public for their enjoyment. The Conservators also act as the Charity’s property owning trustees holding title to the land and assets.

I would like to add the following statement:

The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens are the managers of Therfield Heath and Greens under the Act of Parliament of 1888. Therfield Regulation Trust, Charity no 277881, owns the land. We are required under the terms of the Act to permit sporting facilities for the people of Therfield and Royston and of the conservation of the unique environment of the Heath.

Our funding comes primarily from the leases for the Golf Club, Heath Sports Club and John Jenkins Racing.

As you have heard tonight other sports include Archery, , Rugby, Tennis, Running and other activities for all age groups. On an average weekend well over 500 people will be using the Heath for locally organised sporting activities. In addition, outside clubs such as orienteering, running and charities also use the Heath.

You all know that we wanted to sell land at Briary Lane.  Part of the one-off windfall of £1M plus proceeds would have funded an all-weather hockey pitch. The income from the pitch would fund management of the heath and much needed heath Wardens.

The deregistration was refused in May 2018. That is now behind us and we have to move forward. We are now cutting the grass on Briary Lane & we will review each year.

When David Smith took office 9 years ago as Clerk his role was to manage the Conservators bring them together for meetings and note the actions. Now he manages GDPR (data protection), EIR (Environmental Information Requests), Land Agents, and Solicitors & Accountants. Policies and Procedures, Bye Laws, Natural England, H&S, Diversity & Equality, plus he still has the day job as a carer!!

I remind you that David works only part time. We Conservators are unpaid volunteers. There are only 7 of us at the moment – the Rector of Therfield has retired and may or may not be replaced.

We have been and are constantly under a barrage of EIR requests, Crow articles and letters suggesting improper operation and accounting. Responding and refuting, making reports to Information Commissioners Office (ICO) & the Charity Commission (CC) consumes time and effort and adds to our accountants and solicitors costs.

A very very small number of individuals instigate these activities – it only takes them moments to email an EIR request and minutes to send a letter to the Crow or offer an article – but their effect is disproportionate.

We would like it to stop so we can focus our energies on the Heath.

We have nothing to hide. We are not operating improperly or illegally.

This coupled with the limited income from our tenant’s puts further pressure on our resources as we wait and look forward to income from S106 due to the increased number of building developments in and around Royston.

Our understanding of what is in the pipeline means more pressure on the Heath with around a thousand new houses on land north of Baldock Road, land north and south of Newmarket Road and the new request from Gladman to build top of  Briary Lane. We the Conservators objected to Ivy Farm 3 (not yet fully approved and Briary Lane).

As we stated at the last meeting we have no agreement with Gladman written or oral. They have made us a further offer which if we accept and they are successful will secure future funding for the Heath for the future.

As trustees of the Charity it is our duty to look and consider this seriously. We have appointed a land agent to work on our behalf.

There is an increased demand for sporting facilities on the heath with both Cricket & Hockey potentially coming home, as well as an increasing number of walkers and others enjoying the open spaces.

Do we still try to build “All weather Hockey Pitch” now that the Hockey club have secured S106 monies. Do we level out more land to accommodate the huge growth in Rugby?

We need a new Youth football pitch. We need to start preparation on the Cricket pitch for their planned return in 2019.

We still have a pinch point for vehicular access and the Car parks need a major upgrade, do we patch up or regrade/surface dress. Do we charge for parking? National Trust do in many sites, so why shouldn’t we!

We need additional Changing rooms for Junior Sport development. How do we recover the £7.5k on emptying other peoples rubbish and dog faeces?

You have heard about the lack of grazing and end of the HLS agreements in less than year, so future funding and maintenance is in question. The cut backs in scrub clearance and the need to fell dangerous trees, some of which have fallen from neighbouring land all of which requires funding. Cynthia and her volunteers have worked hard to keep down unwanted species such as Ragwort.

Finally, Social media has meant that the Conservators have to be more public and we have worked to make sure we talk on as many media platforms as we can to get our message out – is there anything else we should be doing?