Businesses hope new St Albans primary school will provide boost
BUSINESSES closest to the proposed new school site in St Albans city centre say they are largely optimistic about the venture despite the traffic problems it will pose.
The majority of proprietors on Hatfield Road in the vicinity of the School of Law, where the proposed Alban City School could be located, hope the increase in footfall and traffic will invigorate a part of town that is often overlooked by shoppers.
While many recognised the potential traffic problems posed by the opening of the school, they said they hoped the issue would right itself.
Michael O’Shea, owner of The Courtyard Caf�, said he hoped it would herald a new era for that part of town.
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He said: “I’m really excited about the prospect of the primary school being in the vicinity of the business.
“Obviously, from a business perspective, it’s a good thing because it’s bringing more people down to this side of St Albans and many businesses could benefit.
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“It will also create that community feeling, I hope, that we need around this side of town.
“People will have to walk their children to school – it might take them a while to realise this but I’m hopeful that they will. It’ll be healthier for the kids and they’ll enjoy it more than sitting in the car.
“It’s a culture shift of sorts but we have to be positive and hope this will happen. If there’s a school nearby, why shouldn’t people be encouraged to walk?”
Nearby Let Me Properties is also hoping to capitalise on the influx of traffic that will inevitably come with the opening of the school.
Gregory Moulton, co-owner of the company, said: “We’re quite happy that there’s something happening on this side of the town. We’re hoping that those younger families, perhaps looking to invest, will be able to see what we can offer.”
Owner and manager of Khans News, Abdus Khan, said he had been hit hard by the closure of the School of Law, losing a significant amount of income from the students and wasn’t yet sure if he’d be able to last until the school opened.
But if it did, he hoped it would be enough to revive his flagging store.
He said: “I think I’m finished, if I’m honest.
“The students have gone and I’m competing with Pound World and the 99p Store, so people who used to come in here to buy their drinks and sweets are going there.
“Perhaps if the school opened, I might see interest from pupils but I’m not sure I will be here. I will know in the next few months. I’d like to think I would be and that the school could help me.”
The managing director of Kashu, Gels Picciuto, whose restaurant is located next door to the School of Law, said he couldn’t accept such a “short minded view” and didn’t believe that parents would greatly ease the economic pressure of the nearby businesses.
He said: “We would be happy to open early and go through the day, picking up on the increased footfall but I’m not sure it will be that impressive.
“Many, many parents who drop off kids at school are going on somewhere else, usually work, and it makes sense for them to go in their car.”
He said the need for a school was apparent and nobody wanted to see children bussed to Hemel Hempstead but questioned the suitability of the location when sites such as the old fire station on Harpenden Road would be better suited.
“If it goes ahead, it could be the final nail in the coffin for all businesses beyond M&S. It’s not a school that site needs but some kind of commercial venture.
“It’s in our interest that businesses around us thrive but the traffic problem which I refuse to believe will sort itself out and the proposed pedestrianisation of St Peter’s Street, will cripple this end of the city.”
Alban City School is proposed to open September 2012 as a free school. The two-form entry will help meet the growing demand for school places in the city centre and across the district.