Challenge to St Albans fire station sell-off

THE potential sale of a prime city centre site has been challenged by both St Albans district and Herts county councillors.

Herts County Council owns the old fire station site in Harpenden Road which is known locally as the Ariston Works and will be considering whether or not to put it up for sale at the next meeting of cabinet later this month.

But Lib Dems have always supported the retention of the site for a possible new school and are also concerned about the impact on local groups currently based there including the Pioneer Club and St Albans Judo Club.

A letter to the county council, signed by five Lib Dem councillors, has accused the Conservative-controlled county council of failing to prepare a coherent strategy for meeting school place demand in the district.

The Lib Dems have been concerned about the county council’s decision to build a new primary school at the former University of Herts School of Law in Hatfield Road, St Albans, for a number of reasons and have talked up the Ariston Works as a better site.

They point out that the county council has already identified a further need for additional classrooms – or even new schools – in St Albans which makes it the wrong time to sell.

Allan Witherick, who represents St Albans North county division which takes in the Ariston Works, said: “My colleagues and I are united in opposing the sale because we feel that the county council has failed to demonstrate a long-term strategy for dealing with the long-term problems of school place demand in St Albans.

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“We’ve had enough short-termism from the county council – and this most recent proposal is all the worse for failing to make any provisions for the groups that currently use the site.”

He added: “Local views differ on whether this site is suitable for a school but what is clear is that it’s not suitable for sale right now – instead it should be kept for the current groups to use until such time that the county council can come up with the strategy we are asking for.”