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PARK PROBLEMS: Council imposes hourly rate on Ricky Park School

 Published on: 31st May 2024   |   By: Sophia Sheera   |   Category: Uncategorized

Three Rivers District Council (TDRC) has begun to charge Rickmansworth Park JMI School to use a local park, incurring costs that the school estimates will reach £30,000 per year.

After many months of liaising with TDRC, headteacher Jane Linch sent a letter to parents on Thursday, May 23, asking them to speak to the council and stand up for their children. At the current time, the school has been left with no choice but to agree to pay £7.90 an hour every time schoolchildren use Rickmansworth Park.

This charge will contribute to the maintenance of the park, including mowing the grass.

In 2022, TRDC introduced an initiative in order to increase biodiversity, meaning that the grass in certain areas of the park is cut less often. The council then agreed in 2023, in response to a request from the school, to cut the grass shorter to enable the school to continue using the area for sports day.

County councillor Paula Hiscocks said: “I’m looking at this from the perspective of the children, who have no other place to play games or do sports in. I understand that the council doesn’t want to mow for the sake of increasing biodiversity, but if you want children to respect nature, you have to let them interact with it.

“Obesity is a rising problem amongst primary school children and we need to give our children every opportunity to exercise that we can.”

Cllr Hiscocks was keen to emphasise that neither she nor Ms Linch would be against part of the park remaining a no-mow zone, so long as the children could use other parts for educational and recreational purposes.

Explaining the importance of the space for the school, Ms Linch wrote in her letter to parents: “We have always used this area for PE lessons, lunch time and after-school clubs and sports day. Aside from the financial implication of [the new rules], the school feels very strongly that this arrangement penalises our children who have no field of their own.”

When asked for comment, TRDC directed RICKYnews to an online statement on the subject.

An extract from the statement reads: “Previously, Rickmansworth Park JMI School used an area of Rickmansworth Park for its sports activities, without formal permission from the landowner (TRDC).

“As a responsible landowner, the council has a formal hire of grounds policy that is used where individuals, groups and organisations (including charities, schools and others) as well as private businesses wish to have dedicated access to and use of its publicly funded and maintained grounds. This agreement includes a nominal charge in contribution to the additional maintenance of the grounds that is required to meet the school’s request.

“Rickmansworth Park is a public park, not a school playing field. The council is, however, content to permit the school to use the land providing the usual hire of grounds rules are followed. This will also ensure the area of land is available for the school to use regularly and not hired to anyone else.

“It is therefore surprising that, having willingly entered into this agreement, the school has chosen to publicly, unfairly and with misinformation, attack the council. TRDC is not the local education authority – but it remains open and willing to help the school, however it cannot subsidise its sporting activities.”

A Hertfordshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are working closely with Rickmansworth Park JMI School and TRDC to help resolve this matter.”

Leader of TRDC councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst told RICKYnews: “We’ve been in conversation with Herts County Council and the school and we are keen to make sure things re resolved. We will be meeting after the half term on Tuesday, June 4.”

Local parent Louise Felgate has started a petition objecting to the charge. To view the petition, visit www.t.ly/9vED0

Photo Credit: Rickmansworth Park School 

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