Letters, October 24, 2013

Backing Batford school bid

We have been inundated with letters supporting the proposed new secondary school in Batford. Space prevents us from publishing them all in full, and many of them make similar arguments, so here are some pertinent extracts from the letters received.

SIR – I understand how Batford residents feel about the short notice of the consultation but let’s take a moment to see how this development can help hundreds of families who are currently worried where their children are going to be going to school, who are having sleepless nights and considering stretching themselves financially all because they want their children to have a good education and walk to their local school.

FIONA MCCARTHY Eastcote Drive, Harpenden

SIR – Could people stop moaning about the fourth Harpenden school. It is clearly needed. Everyone moaning has had the opportunity to go to school in the past, why should the young children of today be carted miles away when there’s enough room and need for one. It will bring jobs and no doubt increase prices of local houses too. Lets give our children the best start in life.

ANA DOYLE Crown Street, Redbourn

SIR – I am a parent from Southdown and know that we do need a new secondary school. I support the site in Batford as it is a large site and hopefully we can get an amazing facility built like a pool or a sports centre that will benefit the community as a whole.

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ZANRI HEARN Meadway, Harpenden

SIR – Attending a local school should be a right of our children in the district and we need to be realistic as to where this can be accommodated. Budgets are tight and space is limited but through due diligence, HCC have considered a range of locations and the Batford site has been deemed the most suitable. Opposing the proposed development of a fourth school based on “destroying the separation between Wheathampstead and Harpenden” by Cllr Shardlow is short sighted in the face of providing much needed local schooling for the children of Harpenden and the villages now and in the future.

JULIA MERRITT Aysgarth Road, Redbourn

SIR – It is a difficult job to find the “perfect” location for a new school as there are so many factors to take into account and I believe from the information provided that I have read, that the county have chosen the best site to serve the demand and meet the needs of the whole town. A new school is needed without doubt and we should be welcoming this opportunity to ensure that we remain a community, by allowing our children to be taught in Harpenden and not having to be bussed to elsewhere in the county or in temporary accomodation.

KATE GOODMAN Alzey Gardens, Harpenden SIR – Whilst accusations of underhand politics, and the “livid” reaction of immediate neighbours, may make good newsprint, the educational and social needs of the 180 children in the catchment for whom there will not be places in 2019 must be the primary concern. What is needed is a calm, sensible and rational approach to determine where this provision can best be fulfilled, so that children can have continuity of education in the community in which they are part. I very much hope that the Batford Road option is considered, any perceived issues are resolved, and that the conclusion prioritises the over-riding needs of our local children.

BEN PURPLE High Street, Kimpton

SIR – To damn the project without consideration of its considerable merits suggests that insufficient research has been conducted into the needs of the many who are currently suffering and who would benefit from the development suggested.

ANDREW MORTON Hampden, Kimpton

SIR – Redbourn has no village secondary school and would ideally send our children to Harpenden being the closest and most easily accessible for us, not to mention having some very good schools there. However, the number of places available for children from Harpenden and the surrounding villages are being increasingly squeezed and in the next few years we could see our children being bused around far and wide to attend schools around the county. We therefore really urge the council to go forward with proposed plans for a fourth secondary school in Harpenden. Although the proposed location would not directly benefit us, being on the other side of Harpenden, obviously this would free up places in the schools nearer to us.

LAURA GRENIER Silk Mill Road, Redbourn

And those who are against the plans...

SIR – I am concerned about Hertfordshire County Council’s proposal to build a new Secondary School in Harpenden on Green Belt land between Batford and Wheathampstead off Common Lane and the Lower Luton Road, causing the coalescence of Harpenden and Wheathampstead. As a parent of a six year old, I understand the need for additional secondary school places in the district; any decisions made now will affect her directly. But I feel I am being blackmailed – we are told there is no plan B, that it is this site or nothing, that by questioning this site puts any new school in jeopardy. How can that be right? Site ‘F’ is large, and there is a possibility of it being a “through school”.

What effect will this new school have on existing schools, both primary and secondary? What will stop parents, if other schools expand or see their numbers dropping, choose to take their children to a more established school even if it means driving past the door of the new school?

There is also the issue of meeting the need in perpetuity – more houses are built, more families move in, more schools are built, more houses are built... where will this stop? After the fifth, sixth, seventh school? There is already considerable development underway in Batford and along the Lea Valley. Even more housing on a valuable green space at Westfield, on fields to the north along Lower Luton Road, and redevelopment of the Lea Valley Industrial Estate, to name but a few. The traffic on Lower Luton Road at the peak school times is already very congested, and there are regular accidents on this narrow and twisting road. A new school of this size, on top of the additional housing as mentioned, not forgetting Luton Airport expansion and the regular accidents on the M1 and A1(M), will have further impact. Do we really need a fourth school in Harpenden? The admissions rules are such that so many pupils travel in and out of the area and the fact that parents can rent for one year, get their eldest into a school, then move out with siblings assured a place, really does need addressing. Wouldn’t it be sensible to change admission rules, improve existing schools in the district and build a new school elsewhere?

NATALIE EDWARDS Roundfield Avenue, Harpenden

SIR – The lack of secondary school places for a significant number of children from Wheathampstead, Redbourn and parts of Harpenden has been highlighted by your paper for a number of years, and this is likely to worsen if the county council’s statistics are to be believed. Acknowledgement of this shortfall however should not be taken as support for the council’s ill-conceived proposal for a new school on Common Lane. Reasons for objecting to this site, including traffic considerations, accessibility (particularly for pupils from South Harpenden) and site topography, have been well rehearsed in these columns and at a recent public meeting. The county council, however, has form in approving inappropriate school sites – the site of the new primary school (also a ‘free’ school) on the old library site in the centre of Harpenden has similar problems with traffic, parking and lack of play space for the children. I acknowledge that Education Secretary Michael Gove has decreed that all new schools must be ‘free’ schools and that the county council would have no responsibility for their management, but as facilitator for finding sites for these schools surely the council could have been a bit more imaginative and more aware of the concerns of pupils, parents and local residents before suggesting these inappropriate sites?

CHRIS GILLEN Barrons Row, Harpenden

Why Oaklands plan must go ahead

I’m writing in response to the article published in the Herts Ad on the Oaklands college development. I thought it would be a good idea to hear the students’ opinions on this topic as this affects us too. As an animal care student at Oaklands College I think that the build will benefit us in so many ways. Zoe (our principal) is perfectly right in saying that this is going to help the future of our college. Our college is now supporting twice the amount of students since the closure of the St Albans campus and we are feeling the effects of it in terms of space and materials. The funds that come from the development plot will help the students and future students at the college. I strongly disagree with the people objecting to the build. If their children ever decide to attend Oaklands College then they might not be able to if there aren’t enough supplies or space or funding for them. This affects their children too. Not just the current students at the college. Oaklands College has so many opportunities for young people and I am proud to be a part of the student community. I would hate to see the college be affected by the build not going ahead. We are the ones who will be benefiting or losing out on this build and I think everyone needs to know this.

HANNAH MILLS Villiars Crescent, St Albans

We must all fight to protect Green Belt

SIR – Your newspaper, like most newspapers, is rightly always reporting incursions onto the Green Belt. Also the term having “your say” has become a cynical and hypercritical expression used by the present government and councils when a certain undemocratic violation to the Green Belt is proposed as a means of letting the plebs “get it off their chests” If the Green Belt does not remain enforced then the separation between Wheathampstead and Harpenden and between St Albans and Hatfield and between Stevenage and Hatfield, etc., etc., will irreversibly be destroyed. In my opinion, the general public, councils and governments should resist the growth in our population otherwise we will be fighting and arguing over land and the Green Belt for the foreseeable future. More school places should be provided by building upwards thereby adding more stories to existing buildings. The public should resist the cause for the need for continual population expansion and thereby the need to keep building on England’s reducing area of green land.

RALPH BAKER Hales Meadow, Harpenden

A lover of wildlife (even snails?)

SIR – with reference to the letter from your correspondent Carol Hedges in your October 17 edition When in discussion with Carol Hedges on the day, when she advised badgers were probably present on the Westfield former allotment site, I can categorically say I did not use the phrase quoted, “that if there are any badgers on the land, he (I) would personally go and put down cyanide”. This is not my style, I personally have an affection for all forms of wildlife. If I did use the word cyanide in the context of badgers, it was purely a connotation, not in any way versed as a threat. I would implore Carol Hedges not to use this as an excuse not to engage with the Town Council on the future of that site.

CLLR BERT PAWLE Harpenden North Ward Bramble Close, Harpenden

Carry on Cashin!

SIR – I have just read Barry Cashin’s letter in your issue of October 3. It was not only very amusing but very well researched. I find that it is easy to dismiss his views, but he does get very much to the point when he outlines the waste in the local council and he goes further when he castigates local councillors to step up to the plate and address the problems of bloated departments not addressing their wasteful expenditure. Many might criticise him, but he is always on the ball and echoes the sentiments of many local residents who want to see a real effort in these difficult times to reduce costs and provide good services. He is often denigrated in your articles, but he is to me someone who really cares about the city where he resides. He does not tolerate the mealy mouthed politician who spouts a lot and delivers nothing. A few weeks ago you published a letter welcoming the return of Kerry Pollard as the prospective Labour candidate for St Albans and the correspondent who submitted this letter attempted to dismiss Barry Cashin as being irrelevant. I submit to you and your readership that Mr Cashin is far from irrelevant, but a breath of fresh air. Long may his letters continue.

G STONE New House Park, St Albans

Fishpool residents group hits back

SIR – I would like to correct some impressions given by recent articles about the Romeland coach situation. In particular I have been dismayed by the unhelpful remarks attributed to the headmaster of St Albans School as reported by this newspaper. For more than 20 years residents of Fishpool Street have endured increasing numbers of coaches (now including double-deckers) rumbling past our homes, rattling their foundations, damaging the fabric of the street, causing congestion and endangering our children and all other pedestrians. We have watched the obstructing coaches and gridlock in Romeland with hazards to pupils and to local parents with children at the Abbey Primary School. About two years ago parking in Romeland Hill alongside the wall was prohibited during term-time 3.30-6.30pm to provide space for coaches to park. Unfortunately this has not been enforced by fines due to a legal technicality. In recent months the Fishpool Street Residents Association (FSRA) has been working with the school to tackle the worst aspects of the present situation. For example, by reinstating a code of practice first negotiated in the late 1990s for the coaches, including sensible parking, maximum speed in Fishpool Street, no convoys of over two etc. However these could only ever be a palliative. The fact remained that coaches designed for motorways were still trundling down a mediaeval street. Ironically Verulam Road was built by Thomas Telford in the 1830s precisely to relieve traffic in Fishpool Street and here we are in 2013... The proposal this year for re-routing the coaches around Romeland and up George Street came from St Albans council. At the same time St Albans School had commissioned a report on the coaches problem which had reached very similar conclusions with coaches circling Romeland and exiting by George Street. We recognised that any change would not suit everyone but the idea clearly merited a trial. This trial was set for a full week in the summer term but was curtailed to a single day – June 18. This proved that the coaches could negotiate Romeland and merited a longer trial. This has been agreed by the Car Parking Working Party in July and is being set in motion via an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order. We still support this initiative. Although it is far from perfect (it does not address all safety issues to pedestrians in the area), it represents a genuine attempt to try something different and is a step toward solving an intractable problem. FRSA trusts that the council will continue to work with all involved to find the best solution for all parties.

PETER GODWIN Chairman, Fishpool Street Residents Association