Secret plan for new school on Harpenden Green Belt

PUBLISHED: 18:12 27 September 2013

The proposed site for a new school off Lower Luton Road

The proposed site for a new school off Lower Luton Road

Archant

Harpenden residents are “absolutely livid” at being kept in the dark about a county council proposal for a new secondary school on Green Belt land.

About 150 angry locals from Batford and Wheathampstead attended an emergency residents’ meeting on Sunday after receiving late notice of an attempt to pave the way for a new school.

On Monday, the Herts county council’s (HCC) cabinet agreed to press ahead with the compulsory acquisition of up to 15 hectares of farm land on the corner of Common Lane, off Lower Luton Road.

The acquisition would provide a development site for a new school with a capacity of six to eight forms of entry.

But locals are fuming as there has been no consultation with them.

And just Common Lane residents recently received a letter from Cllr for Harpenden north east David Williams about the proposal.

Annoyed locals have contacted the Herts Advertiser, expressing their concern at receiving just 10 days notice about cabinet’s vote on the compulsory purchase.

One Lower Luton Road man asked, “why are HCC acting in this underhand manner?”

He added: “This is not the place to put a new school. Our local councillors are either in the dark, or keeping us in the dark.”

Other residents said people were “absolutely livid” and that it was “outrageous” plans for the purchase had until recently been discussed behind closed doors at the council.

Wheathampstead parish Cllr Judy Shardlow said: “While Harpenden and the villages undoubtedly need a new school, which will almost certainly have to be located in the Green Belt, this location is completely unsuitable.”

She warned that developing the farm land would “destroy the separation between Wheathampstead and Harpenden”.

Cllr Shardlow said it was a strategic planning issue that must be discussed locally, by St Albans district council, rather than “high-jacked upon a community by the county council without any input or consultation”.

Cllr Williams said forecasts had shown a “critical shortage” of secondary school places in Harpenden by 2019.

He said there had been no attempt to hide the purchase, as negotiations with the landowners are at a “preliminary stage”.

Cabinet member and Cllr for Harpenden south west Teresa Heritage said it was vital that HCC both prepares for, and meets the future need, for additional secondary schooling in the area.

Council figures show Harpenden will suffer a shortage of 41 places by 2014/15, which will dramatically increase to 228 places by 2019/20.

Cllr Chris Hayward, cabinet member for education, said if a decision is made to build on the site, it would go through a full planning application.

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