Harpenden Free School wins go-ahead to develop former library

Site of the proposed Harpenden Free School

Site of the proposed Harpenden Free School - Credit: Photo by Matt Adams

RAPTUROUS applause greeted news that plans to build a new primary school in Harpenden had received the seal of approval.

At St Albans district council’s plans north committee councillors voted in favour of demolishing some of the buildings on the site of what was formerly the town’s library in Vaughan Road.

They also agreed to the refurbishment and extension of the old Victorian school building on the site to create a new home for Harpenden Free School.

During the one-and-a-half-hour debate some issues were raised about parking but councillors shared the view it would address the town’s shortfall in primary school places.

Both applications had been recommended for refusal by planning officers due to the lack of outside space saying it would result in an overdevelopment of the site.

Harpenden town council had also been against the plans for the same reasons but during last week’s meeting town councillor David Williams said: “While members of the town council inevitably have some concerns, to a greater or lesser degree through the cooperation of school management, parents and local authorities there is an opportunity for this site to be an asset to the town.”

Planning consent was granted, subject to a number of conditions, to construct a two-to-three storey extension and refurbish the existing building, as well as to demolish the existing extension, youth club, workshop and garage.

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The conditions require that further information is provided about parking for parents and staff and the addition of a pedestrian crossing.

It has also been agreed the school will contribute to the cost of extra traffic wardens at the start and end of the school day.

Speaking during the meeting, Cllr Michael Weaver commented: “It would be an important benefit to the whole town and it might be a bigger incentive to get things moving.”

He added: “I detect a determination on the part of the school in their original presentation that they will make things work.”

Currently the school, which will eventually have 420 pupils aged four-11, is operating from temporary accommodation at The Tithe Barn in Redbourn.

Work is due to start on the permanent premises in September and is expected to be completed by the start of the following academic year.

Headteacher of Harpenden Free School, John Gibson, said he was looking forward to developing a “caring and forward-thinking school where children are at its heart”.