Calls for alternative sites for new Harpenden school
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Growing concern over a controversial move to build a new secondary school in Harpenden’s Green Belt has prompted calls for alternative locations to be further investigated.
Herts county council (HCC) attracted both praise and condemnation when it recently revealed that it planned to buy – by compulsory purchase order “if necessary” – 15 hectares of farmland on the corner of Common Lane off Lower Luton Road.
Neighbouring residents fumed over a lack of consultation with them, while the Harpenden Parents Group has thrown its support behind the purchase.
The county council is in a race to secure a new site for a future school as forecasts have shown there will be a shortage of 228 secondary places in Harpenden in six years’ time.
Three tiers of local government met last week to discuss local school expansion, HCC’s logic behind settling upon building at Batford and why potential alternative sites had been rejected.
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Questions were raised about the location of pupils and their journeys to school, with HCC advised that further work needed to be carried out to determine whether the Common Lane site was the most suitable.
After the meeting Cllr David Johnston, chairman of Wheathampstead parish council (WPC), said that while councillors in the village supported a new school, they “strongly questioned the location of the proposed secondary school in Batford”.
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A shortage of places has been an issue for village families since the closure of Wheathampstead School in the late 1980s.
Prior to their meeting with HCC, parish councillors recently held an extraordinary meeting to consider their response to the recommendation that Lower Luton Road was the preferred potential site.
They said that other shortlisted locations should be re-examined such as land east of Croftwell in Harpenden, bounded by Pipers Lane and Wheathampstead Road.
This was initially dismissed by consultants engaged by HCC because of access problems.
But WPC said a school in this location was worth considering as a much higher proportion of children from the village and Southdown could walk or cycle to it, as opposed to the Lower Luton Road site.
The council said it would also create much needed community and sporting facilities for Southdown.
As the site is flat it would not need the terracing that has been suggested for the Lower Luton Road location.
HCC is to hold a public exhibition on school expansion in Harpenden next month.
Two e-petitions have been lodged on Hertfordshire county council’s website – for and against the proposed secondary school in Harpenden.
Harpenden Parents Group is petitioning for it, saying it is imperative a new school be built as there is an “acute shortage” of secondary school places in the town.
It supports the purchase of land off Lower Luton Road for a school.
The e-petition, signed by over 500 people since it appeared on HCC’s website last Friday, can be found at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=143431
The second petition criticises HCC for its “lack of community involvement” in considering the scheme.
Organised by the Right School Right Place campaign group, it calls upon HCC to organise public consultation on the proposal. It has been signed by over 100 people and can be found at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=142656