CPRE opposes 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

Countryside campaigners have stepped into the row over the proposed siting of a new secondary school in Harpenden’s Green Belt.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Herts is opposing the county council-preferred site at the junction of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane primarily because of its importance in separating Harpenden from Wheathampstead.

Director Kevin FitzGerald has written to the county council’s chief executive John Wood to point out the 15 hectares of land under consideration is “vitally important in separating Harpenden from Wheathampstead”.

He went on: “Lower Luton Road and Common Lane provide a long established and clearly defined boundary to the Green Belt. The ill-defined school site would prevent a defensible boundary being created against further development in the Green Belt.”

He also raised the issues of the slope on the site which meant it would have to be built on terracing, the likelihood of major traffic problems and the journey across the centre of Harpenden children from Redbourn would have to make to get there.

CPRE’s comments have been endorsed by the campaign group Right School Right Place which recognises and supports the urgent need for a new school for Harpenden and the villages but not on that site.

Chair David Cairns said: “It is important that people recognise that we are not a ‘small but vocal minority’ opposing the site and our concerns are shared by others including the CPRE in Hertfordshire and nationally.”

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Deputy executive leader of St Albans council, Cllr Mike Wakely, a civil and structural engineer by profession, has voiced his concerns about the suitability of the proposed site which is in his Harpenden East ward where there are already two secondary schools.

He echoed CPRE’s concern about its importance in the SLP as a “critical part of the Green Belt separating local settlements” and believes a site bounded by Pipers Lane and Wheathampstead Road, favoured by Wheathampstead parish council, would be far more suitable.

Cllr Wakely pointed out that it was much better served by roads to new housing with young families, was flat for playing fields and access would be far easier.

He said this week that the county’s proposed site was a “nightmare” with Batford jammed up morning and evening.

Campaigners for a new school to deal with an estimated shortfall of 228 secondary places in and around Harpenden in six years time are split over the suitability of the site.

The county council, which has been criticised for its lack of consultation over the issue, has said it will compulsorily purchase the site if necessary to build a new school there.

Its cabinet member for education Chris Hayward confirmed that the authority believed that Lower Luton Road was the best possible site for a new school.

But he went on: “However, it was agreed that it would be beneficial to engage with the community on the concerns raised and we are looking into the best way of doing this.”