The county council says it is in talks about a new lease with the new owners of a school field.

Hertfordshire County Council has released a statement after parents found out part of the school field at Shenley Primary School had been privately sold to neighbours, one of whom is the village's parish council chairman.

The news of the sale sparked protests from parents and school governors, and demonstrators gathered at the school on Saturday morning after learning a fence was already being constructed on the field.

Protesters mainly vented their fury at Councillor William Susman, the chairman of Shenley Parish Council, whose home backs onto the school field.

A decision was made at around Saturday lunchtime to pause the construction of the fence.

Borehamwood Times:

Protesters held up signs and banners at the school on Saturday

Parents and governors also raised questions on Saturday about how the public were not made aware of the sale until it had already been completed while others questioned how the county council had allowed the sale to happen.

A part of the school field has, since at least 1999, been privately owned.

The county council has leased this land for primary school use since 1999, but that lease came to an end in 2019.

Borehamwood Times:

Fence posts were put up on Saturday morning outlining the sold land but work was halted after protests. Credit: Simon Jacobs

Councillor Ralph Sangster, cabinet member for resources and performance at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "In 1999, the county council took a 20-year lease for part of the playing field land at Shenley Primary School.

"In 2017 the county council opened up negotiations for a new lease, which would extend the school’s occupation of the land beyond 2019. Unfortunately the county council was not offered a new lease."

Cllr Sangster says negotiations reopened with the private owners in 2019, but an email dated July last year released by Cllr Susman on Sunday, showed Cllr Susman was also offered the land for sale.

Cllr Susman said in Sunday's statement, which appears to have been deleted from Facebook, that a purchase was agreed for the school field land in September and the sale was completed in February.

Borehamwood Times:

Cllr Sangster says the council were advised in February that the land had been sold to new owners.

Cllr Sangster said: "During 2019 and early 2020 the county council tried again to re-negotiate with the land owners and made an offer to buy the land, this approach also failed and in February 2020 we were advised that this land had been sold.

"The new owners have made us aware of their future plans with this land and we are currently in talks about our current occupancy and a potential new lease."

Borehamwood Times:

Parents brought their children along on Saturday after finding out about the sale the day earlier via a school newsletter. Credit: Simon Jacobs

Cllr Susman told the Times on Saturday that he and his neighbour, Nikolai Levey, would be willing to lease 50 per cent of their new land, which is currently an outdoor learning space and home to a community fundraised project, back to the council free of charge.

Cllr Susman said this offer was on the table in early spring but an email from the council's agents showed the council were not interested in the offer and wanted to retain the whole of the school field.

Read more about the protest and initial story by clicking here.