Desperate need for a new Harpenden secondary school

HARPENDEN is “desperate for a new secondary school” as the town can’t cope with pupil demand, local councillors have warned.

Cllr Michael Weaver, chair of the town council’s policy and finance committee, said: “We are highly over-subscribed in Harpenden with pupil demand [for school places] and we cannot cope at the moment.”

He maintained it was not possible to expand existing school sites because of ground restrictions and no fields to encroach on but the need was “pretty desperate”.

He said an additional school would cater for students from Redbourn, Wheathampstead, north St Albans and Harpenden but there was currently no such proposal from Herts County Council to build one.

While there are no formal proposals for a school as yet, the town council has signalled its support for one to be built in future by calling on St Albans district council to pave the way for an additional school in its draft core strategy, which sets out the future location of housing, education facilities, jobs and infrastructure for the next 17 years.

In its submission on the strategy, Harpenden town council said it would support a new school being built north of St Albans.

Town clerk John Bagshaw said: “There is a need for a secondary school in the north of the district between Harpenden and St Albans, to meet growing demand. The schools are very full.”

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The town council’s response to the draft stategy also commented on councillors’ wish for improvements to Harpenden Memorial Hospital, as it was “an important medical resource.”

Cllr Weaver said upgrading the “underused” hospital would be of huge benefit to the town’s ageing population as seniors were forced to travel, usually by bus, for medical treatment in neighbouring areas.

He described bus transport facilities in Harpenden as awful, particularly for the elderly travelling from east to west.

A lack of affordable housing was another concern, and councillors reiterated a need for the district council to pave the way for homes to encourage key workers and first-time buyers to live in the town.

Cllr Weaver said: “We are desperate to see more affordable houses in Harpenden.”

Three of his four children, who are key workers, were initially forced to live in neighbouring areas rather than the town they were born in because of a lack of affordable homes.

Cllr Weaver said: “We want to keep young people in Harpenden.”

He voiced frustration that while the district council has pledged to have 100 affordable homes built throughout St Albans every year for the next 17 years, it hadn’t pinpointed where, if any, they would be built in Harpenden.

Cllr Weaver added: “Just one affordable home has been allowed to be built in Harpenden this year.”