Harpenden free school future looking brighter

HIGHWAYS objections to the use of a tithe barn as a temporary home for the new Harpenden Free School have been dropped – and the future is looking brighter.

The application for a temporary change of use for the barn in Redbourn still has to get planning permission but the school has been pressing ahead with its induction fortnight for new children and their parents in the 14th Century building.

And the governors are hopeful that they will now receive planning permission in time for its formal opening on September 17.

If they are unsuccessful, they have been told they can use the youth club at the site of the former Oaklands College building in Victoria Road, Harpenden, which will become the school’s permanent home.

Problems arose last week when the governors learned that the change of use application had not gone to the August planning committee as they had hoped and they were due to open their doors at the tithe barn for an induction fortnight from Monday.

But Adam Nichols, chairman of Harpenden Free School Trust, said this week that they had gone ahead with the induction fortnight because the change of use applied to its full use as a school which would not happen until September 17.

In the meantime, with the dropping of the highways objection and the other issue more of a technicality, the school hopes to get its planning permission at next Monday’s St Albans plans (north) committee.

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Commenting on the highways issues, Adam said: “I don’t think they had realised the measures we had put in place and once they had a clearer understanding they were happy about it.”

Discussions with St Albans planners were still going on, he added, and he praised the council for responding so promptly to the school’s plight.

Adam added: “We haven’t lost any parents as a result of this – they have been great and completely on our side. We have also had another eight or nine families come to us and we were able to say this is definitely happening.”

The free school – one of two in the district opening this month because of parental demand under a new government initiative – will be taking 60 pupils this year and a further 60 next year.

It has signed an agreement with the county council to acquire the former Oaklands College building as its permanent premises and plans to open there in early 2014.