Letters June 2 2016

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk

Have your say and write to hertsad@archant.co.uk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Poorly treated over Harperbury bid

SIR - I read with considerable interest your story concerning the responses about the cancellation of the Harperbury Free School by the EFA to questions raised by the Right School Right Place (RSRP) group in Harpenden. As one of the founders of the Harperbury Free School project I can tell you absolutely that the EFA is simply not telling the truth as I believe they are continuing to try to cover up their own failure to secure a suitably-sized site for our school. Our experience over more than four years has shown that EFA are a totally dysfunctional organisation and we have never received any real explanation let alone an apology for what they did to us and the hundreds of local families supporting us. We spent two years prior to making our Free School application to the Department for Education and, as part of that preparation, had meetings with St Albans council as the local planning authority and with Hertfordshire County Council as the local Education Authority. One of the key issues we identified from the beginning was we must demonstrate that there was a “basic need” for the school places we would create. This is the responsibility of Hertfordshire County Council to calculate as they have a legal responsibility to find a place for every child in the county. There was initially some scepticism from the county about our plans as our proposed catchment area cut across the areas used by them to calculate “basic need”. But, before we made our application in January 2013, they had agreed there was a “need” which we could help to meet. It would frankly have been pointless to make an application if this was not the case and of course our application was approved by the Government so they must have accepted this too. During the period we were preparing our formal planning application to St Albans (June 2015 to January 2016) we kept in touch with the county council on this. In June 2015 I met with Pauline Davis, head of school planning at county and her team at her request to discuss their latest forecasts of basic need for secondary places. She gave me their latest figures which showed a deficit of over four Forms of Entry (FE) or 120 places by 2017/18 within our proposed catchment area. This document formed part of our draft application and was immediately given to EFA and to St Albans planners in advance of any formal application so there is simply no excuse for anyone to say that the requirement for “basic need” had not been met by our project or that they didn’t know about it. In the end no formal planning application was made to St Albans because, at a meeting we had with their planners in January 2016, they made clear that the four acre site secured for us within the huge Harperbury site (which is over 230 acres) was too small for a secondary school which would eventually have 840 students and 70 staff and they would not be able to recommend it for approval. For reasons still unknown to us EFA decided not follow the logical path of seeking extra land or an alternative site and briefed their Minister Lord Nash that there were simply no other sites where our school could be built (we even had a letter from EFA saying that it was possible no site for a new school in our area could ever be found!). We actually had commissioned as part of our planning application a report from expert planning consultants which surveyed more than 60 potential sites in St Albans and Hertsmere and identified a number which could be suitable but EFA chose to ignore this completely. We have given this report to both councils for future use. In seeking to explain their decision to the many angry local parents who supported us EFA spun what Hertfordshire’s staff said about our school’s demise. County said that “they were not relying on our school to meet the demand” but EFA have chosen, including in their most recent response, to spin this as “there was no need”. This is completely untrue and Hertfordshire’s latest estimates (all available on their website as “Meeting the Rising Demand”) continue to show a rising demand for secondary school places with a deficit from next year which will exceed 400 within the proposed Harperbury catchment area within five or six years. Adding places at some existing schools will help but it is quite clear that there will also need to be some completely new schools as well. All new schools have to be Free Schools and so require new groups to be formed and make applications to the Department for Education. It is hard to see that anyone will be willing to spend the amount of time and effort to do this at present given the way we were treated. At present, apart from the Harpenden school, there are no firm plans for any such new secondary schools within St Albans or Hertsmere and it typically takes at least three to four years to create such schools from scratch.


A new one-way system for city?

SIR - We keep reading that car pollution kills but it also silently injures many. Reducing pollution at the top of Holywell Hill needs traffic to keep moving or no traffic. Herts Highways are looking to control traffic levels at the bottom of Holywell Hill but that could jam access to Westminster Lodge and Sainsbury’s. As an alternative, traffic could follow a dedicated turn left lane at the top of Holywell Hill except buses, then one-way north along Verulam Road/Drovers Way past the north roundabout allowing access to St Peter’s Street to one way south on Hatfield Road/Upper Marlborough Street/London Road and back to Holywell Hill. No traffic lights except for pedestrian crossings. Junctions could be ‘offset roundabouts’ with only buses allowed along Chequers Street. Cars would use the circuit using one natural left filter in/out lane and a straight on or right lane.It could also allow back some short-stay shopper parking on St Peter’s Street except market days similar to Harpenden. The one-way system introduced more than 10 years ago by a ‘Scandinavian consultant’ failed. The scheme was south using St Peter’s Street and north on Upper Marlborough Road, ie the opposite way to a roundabout. Traffic jammed. They could not computer model it beforehand as possible these days. Existing traffic levels of St Peter’s Street are not large but are also polluting. What do residents think?

MIKE WAKELY Oakfield Road, Harpenden

Save the Memorial Hospital for town

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SIR - I read the article in the Herts Advertiser regarding the future of the Harpenden Memorial Hospital and feel that the people of Harpenden have been badly let down by the Hertfordshire Community Trust. They have a duty of care to maintain their buildings and premises but have failed miserably where the HMH is concerned. They have allowed a most beautiful building to deteriorate to such an extent that they now say that to keep it would be cost prohibitive. I can almost see them rubbing their hands together with glee at the money they will almost certainly make by selling off the site. The current proposals state that the Stewart’s building will be purchased and rebuilt. Where will the residents go? And what does rebuilt mean, please, not some Lego type structure totally out of character for Harpenden! I notice that the proposals outline some of the services this project will provide, all of which a town the size of Harpenden desperately need, but there is no mention of respite care for the elderly which is a growing problem for our neighbouring hospitals and which was, and remains, the legacy of Sir Halley Stewart. C’mon HCT, when will you realise that we do not accept your meagre attempts to placate the people of Harpenden. We want what is rightfully ours - make your money elsewhere!

CLLR PAT KENT Sherwoods Rise, Harpenden

Fears over plans for new Batford school

SIR – I read with great interest the two letters published in your April 28 edition regarding the purposed new school in Batford. In Jenny Cole’s letter stating that Hertford County Council is keen to get the new school delivered and that the funds for this will come from government grants, I take this information with a pinch of salt. This is based on the facts that at one of the public meetings for the school held last year where many from Hertfordshire County Council were present they could not answer some of the questions, and refused to even answer some questions put to them. We must also remember that the reason we are in this position is due to the lack of planning by Hertfordshire County Council. With all the data available these days, just how did the council ‘miss’ that a new school was needed? What happened to the so-called 20-year plan? Chris Oxley’s letter is a warning for all who live along the Lower Luton Road or use it regularly.

MARK WARD Leasey Bridge Lane, Wheathampstead

Get to the point!

SIR - I must congratulate Denise Thornton on her letter in last week’s Herts Advertiser. It consisted of 142 words, all within one sentence. Perhaps it could be submitted to the Guinness Book of Records as possibly the longest sentence in the English language without even a semi-colon, or included in the National Curriculum for 11-year-olds doing STATS tests in English grammar. As far as I could tell, it was grammatically correct, but you have to get to word 102 to find the the subject of the sentence (“I”) and word 104 (“request”) for the main verb. I think she was trying to argue that she was in favour of Brexit. Why didn’t she just say so?

MARK SHEPHARD Upper Culver Road, St Albans

Serfdom beckons if we stay in the EU

SIR – We would all be better out of what used to be called the Common Market and is now a tyrannical bureaucracy. The EU plans to nationalise farming and housing and no doubt commerce and industry and make serfs of us all. Better out – we should never have been taken into it.

MISS L. BARWELL Old Watling Street, Flamstead