County set to explain why Green Belt land chosen for new Harpenden school site

The proposed site for a new school off Lower Luton Road

The proposed site for a new school off Lower Luton Road - Credit: Archant

The rationale behind a sudden recent move to buy Green Belt land for a new secondary school in Harpenden will be revealed at three public exhibitions next month.

Herts county council (HCC) will outline its reasons for buying up to 15 hectares of farmland on the corner of Common Lane, off Lower Luton Road, to pave the way for a 1,300-pupil school.

It is holding exhibitions at Grove Junior School in Harpenden (December 3), St Helen’s Primary in Wheathampstead (4) and Redbourn parish council (5).

But HCC has again been criticised for giving too little notice to residents about its intentions.

Wheathampstead parish councillor Judy Shardlow said in her opinion, giving just a fortnight’s notice showed that HCC was “tardy” in ensuring the exhibitions had been publicised in good time.

And she said choosing just three venues also limited the council’s exposure to local feedback.

Residents in Batford were “absolutely livid” at being kept in the dark about the council’s proposal for a new secondary school on neighbouring Green Belt land, when initial information was revealed to them in September.

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Cllr Shardlow said that as the proposed school was a spatial planning issue which would cause significant traffic issues for the whole of Harpenden, all residents should be give the opportunity to challenge it.

Also, there is no information meeting being held in Batford, the area most affected by the building of a new school, should planning permission be granted in the future.

Local campaign group, Right School Right Place, has asked whether the council will present all secondary school site options examined by its consultants, as “promised by county councillors” at a recent residents’ meeting, rather than concentrating solely on Batford.

Cllr Chris Hayward, HCC’s cabinet member for education, said there were “very limited opportunities to expand existing schools or find sites suitable for new secondary schools in Harpenden”.

He said the council was working with the owner of the Green Belt land off Lower Luton Road to ensure a fair price was offered for the site.

Cllr Hayward added: “This purchase will ensure that a reserve site could be available in the event it is required in the future for a school. Further technical investigations are required on this, and other sites, to support a planning application, which will need to demonstrate that we have selected the best site.”

• All three exhibitions are being held from 3.30-7.30pm.