1 February 2023

St Albans Council’s Public Realm Committee has voted through a programme of cuts that includes the Abbey View athletics track, used by thousands of St Albans residents.

At a tense meeting of the committee, attended by dozens of runners, athletes, golfers and other sports fans, many of them in full sports kit, representatives of Striders and the Athletics Club addressed the committee, asking for more time to discuss options and, ideally, a reversal of the proposed cut.

Green councillor Simon Grover, who does not sit on the Lib Dem-dominated committee but attended the meeting, spoke passionately against the proposed cut, which amounts to a relatively minor £37,000 - “the same amount this council spends on repairing bus stops”. His speech was interrupted by loud applause from the residents, though his questions were left unanswered by councillors or council staff. Watch the speech.

At the meeting, Cllr Grover said, “The secrecy and lack of proper consideration or consultation around the athletics facilities closure is not only bad news for local clubs and the health and wellbeing of our residents, it’s bad news for the health of our local democracy. I worry that this seems to be an increasingly common feature of this Council, as it often is in Councils around the country that have a ruling party with a very large majority.”

Cllr Grover called on the councillors on the committee to look at alternative budget savings, which council staff should have provided for them to choose from. But after debate, the committee voted through all the cuts, including the one to Abbey View.

Cllr Grover said, “This is a terrible decision and unfortunately increasingly typical in that decisions are made behind closed doors without proper consultation or discussion. This will affect so many people - the fight goes on and I will be asking for a reversal of this decision at the next opportunity." Watch the speech