Walsworth Common is integral to the fabric of the Walsworth community to the north-east of Hitchin. In recent times, through a lack of strong political leadership and confusion among the Tory Councillors the Common has been thrown into crisis.
The sign which appeared where our children should have been playing at the beginning of the year said it all. A project was rushed ahead without being fully thought through. It should have been obvious to those in charge that the Common (the clue is, after all, in the name) was Common land and therefore subject to certain special protections. Had there been strong, unified, political leadership from the sitting Tory Councillors this error could have been avoided. Instead the people of Walsworth were left without a valuable community resource for a prolonged period and no communication was made about the issue until the sign appeared. Thankfully the playground is now complete and open for use, however this should never have been allowed to happen.
At a Hitchin Committee in meeting in December 2014, consideration was given to setting up a 'Park Run' event on the common. At the same meeting, the Committee received a report on future management of the Common which aimed to "preserve and enhance the community asset and provision including the flora and fauna that can be found at Walsworth Common".
Conservative Councillors voted in favour of both Park Run's proposals (supporting start-up costs of £1,500) and the management plan. The two, however, are mutually exclusive. It is not possible to support and nurture flora and fauna whilst having it disrupted and trampled by a running club. The Common has football pitches which could be used by Park Run, but this would disrupt the groups already using these facilities and restricts the space available to an otherwise well-meaning organisation which could prove popular with the community.
Labour Councillors are in favour of the management plan for the common and concerned about the conflict between its objectives and Park Run. Labour Candidate for Walsworth, Elizabeth Dennis, supports the management plan. In reference to Park Run she has said:
"Park Run is a fantastic organisation and provides a great service to local communities. However it needs to be in the right location. Walsworth Common is not the right place for a running club. I am concerned that proceeding with Park Run events at this site will undermine the good work being done with the management plan to preserve and nurture wildlife on the Common. A better location would be Ransom's Recreation Ground, which is purpose built for events like this. It is also a more central location so more Hitchin residents would be able to access a great wellbeing event".