Objections lodged against further expansion of St Albans School

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 May 2016

St Albans School has proposed building a new Mathematics faculty, including a 'blackboard facade'. Image provided by pHp Architects

St Albans School has proposed building a new Mathematics faculty, including a 'blackboard facade'. Image provided by pHp Architects

Image provided by pHp Architects

Objections have been raised against more infill development at an inner-city school site with residents claiming it is being used “like a Monopoly board”.

St Albans School has proposed building a new Mathematics faculty. Image provided by pHp ArchitectsSt Albans School has proposed building a new Mathematics faculty. Image provided by pHp Architects

St Albans School in Abbey Mill Lane has applied to demolish a single storey timber building to make way for a proposed three-storey maths faculty.

However Fishpool Street residents have lodged objections, including Kate Franklin, who labelled the building’s style as a “brutal and dominant brick mass, more reminiscent of a warehouse than an educational building”.

She also opposed the removal of any trees “for the necessity of making the construction of this building cheaper and easier”.

Another Fishpool Street resident warned the scheme would result in a “large incongruous building on green belt land within a conservation area.

“Protected trees will be removed and residents will be subjected to large volumes of construction traffic, pollution and congestion, in the name of a grand school project.”

St Albans district council’s online planning pages show that during an initial consultation Historic England raised concerns about the design, saying it would “erode the historic and aesthetic character of its surroundings”.

The organisation also dismissed the architect’s unusual proposed blackboard façade in the design as likely to fade over time.

One local man warned: “The school has already expanded in footprint and scale beyond the limits of what is practical or reasonable for the neighbourhood”.

A fellow Fishpool Street resident wrote of her opposition, saying it was an “opportunistic proposal based on having a £5 million donation rather than a necessity for current pupils.”

She said it was an “inappropriate hangar-like design which … will provide ugly views of a featureless brick wall … the gimmicky blackboard wall is architectural whimsy which will date very quickly. It bears no relation to surrounding buildings and has no architectural merit.”

The resident added: “This is a further example of the school treating Fishpool Street like a Monopoly board where it can use its wealth for uncontrolled expansion without considering the impact on its neighbours.

“Having acquired large buildings in the last 10 years [including neighbouring Aquis Court and building a sports centre] there seems to be no end to its ambitions to develop all available land on the site.”

In its application, the school said the project was needed because of an “unprecedented number” of pupils choosing maths at A level.

It added: “The mathematics department shares its current building with the science faculty, which is also experiencing significant increases in the uptake of its A level courses.”

The school said it wanted to avoid the “unpalatable decision of splitting the teaching of mathematics across the site and to enable the science faculty to expand its facilities into the space to be vacated by mathematics”.

A design statement prepared by architects Peter Haddon and Partners (pHp) said the plan was aimed at modernising and expanding facilities to meet curriculum need, although the campus had “few remaining areas for development.”

The proposed block would replace ‘shabby existing buildings’ and be sited between the new sports centre and Aquis Court, a large office building adjacent to the school, which provides modern facilities for the sixth form and the art department.

The architects said the scheme should have “minimal impact on sensitive views” as it was set back from both Fishpool Street and Verulamium Park.

Consultation ended last Wednesday, with a council decision pending.

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