Clash over site for new Harpenden school

Wheathampstead residents do not want a school built on Green Belt land east of Croftwell. Summer har

Wheathampstead residents do not want a school built on Green Belt land east of Croftwell. Summer harvest at Croftwell. - Credit: Photo supplied

The furore over a new secondary school proposed for Harpenden’s Green Belt has escalated with nearby residents taking a council to task for “flagrantly disregarding local democracy”.

Harpenden residents have presented a petition, signed by 107 locals, to Wheathampstead parish council.

It states their objection to any attempts to have a new school built at a possible alternative site to that proposed by Herts county council (HCC).

It follows the row which erupted after the county council suddenly announced in September that it was to purchase 15 hectares of farmland on the corner of Common Lane, off Lower Luton Road.

It urgently wants to pave the way for a secondary school for about 1,300 pupils at the Batford site because there will be a shortage of 228 secondary places in Harpenden in six years’ time.

While Wheathampstead parish council (WPC) supports a new school, it has questioned locating one in Batford, suggesting other sites previously considered by HCC’s consultants should be re-examined.

But that has provoked anger among residents living in one of those shortlisted - but rejected - areas, on Green Belt land east of Croftwell, bounded by Pipers Lane and Wheathampstead Road.

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They have declared their opposition to the parish council’s “implied” suggestion that it would be better to build a new secondary school on such a site.

In a statement to the Herts Advertiser, Brian Moores, chairman of the Long Buftlers Residents Association (LBRA), complained that WPC had not consulted with locals.

He said the LBRA was “so alarmed by this flagrant disregard for local democracy that they have lodged a code of conduct complaint against the parish council at St Albans district council”.

Norman and Jill Deas, who have lived on Croftwell for 35 years, said they were “mortified” at the prospect of any school being built on the “beautiful green belt spot”.

The association has called upon the county council to “ignore” the parish council’s suggestion to reconsider alternative areas and continue with its purchase of the Batford site.

But Cllr David Johnston, chairman of the parish council, said WPC had never stated that Croftwell was the best choice of all 11 sites.

He said that as HCC had not consulted with residents prior to pursuing its purchase of the Batford site, WPC felt it was prudent to suggest it look again at all alternative areas, as the Common Lane location had many “failings”.