School places row

PUBLISHED: 10:58 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

SIR – A few weeks ago Persimmon Homes gained planning permission to build 67 new family homes on the site of the former secondary school in Wheathampstead. Let s just remind ourselves of a bit of history. Over 20 years ago a short sighted Conservative-led

SIR - A few weeks ago Persimmon Homes gained planning permission to build 67 new family homes on the site of the former secondary school in Wheathampstead.

Let's just remind ourselves of a bit of history. Over 20 years ago a short sighted Conservative-led county council decided that it would be a good idea to close perfectly good village secondary schools, like Wheathampstead, Redbourn and London Colney.

Instead it would be much better to bus children miles into either St Albans or Harpenden to school.

The logic was it was not practical or sustainable to have smaller village schools when the population appeared to be ageing, even though there was plenty of evidence presented to the county council that many parts of the county, particularly St Albans and Watford, would suffer a shortage of places if schools were shut.

But hey ho - the lure of large amounts of money was something that Herts County Council simply couldn't resist and in 2005 sold off Wheathampstead Secondary School for over £3 million.

So the county council picked up a fat cheque, Persimmon picked up a prime housing site and what did residents of Wheathamptead get? You guessed it - nothing.

Yes, Persimmon will make a contribution towards funding secondary education but we won't be seeing any more school places in local schools in a hurry.

And without more secondary school places, 67 new homes in Wheathampstead will have a catastrophic impact on a secondary school places scramble that gets worse each year.

The county council believes that the new houses in Wheathampstead will generate just 12 extra secondary-school age children. Yeah, right. And finally just as planning permission is granted for a site that could easily have accommodated a large secondary school, the county council wake up to problem.

Cllr Richard Thake, cabinet member for education, said recently: "Areas such as Wheathampstead, Harpenden, St Albans and Watford are showing huge, huge demand."

Well you don't say? This problem wouldn't be caused by years and years of denial that there ever was a shortage of school places would it? Judging by the comments I saw from Cllr Richard Thake I'd say he sounded pretty nervous.

I imagine that he's already seen the figures for St Albans District for secondary school allocations and found that the number who have a non-ranked school is frighteningly high.

Well good luck Richard, we'll be seeing you in March when I will be inviting you to Wheathampstead to explain to parents of children without a school place why it's sensible to sell off a school site for family housing when there are not enough school places already.

Not to mention how exactly you and the rest of the fools on the hill are going to fix this primary and secondary school place crisis that is now so bad that even you have to admit it.

CLLR JUDY SHARDLOW

St Albans District Councillor, Wheathampstead Ward


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