Plans for new St Albans primary school are rushed through by county council

Bernards Heath.

Bernards Heath. - Credit: Archant

Building a new two-form of entry primary school on a former playing field would not serve the local area, county councillors were told last week.

Instead, it would only serve to provide places for children from other parts of St Albans where there is a shortage of places - and bring with it increased traffic and congestion.

But despite some sympathy with the views of county councillor Roma Mills, who represents St Albans North division, a shock proposal to earmark land promised as public open space for a new school on the Lower Field, Bernards Heath, was agreed by both a cabinet panel last Friday (9) and a full cabinet meeting just days later.

The Herts Advertiser revealed last week that there had been no consultation with residents or Cllr Mills about the proposal to ring fence the Lower Field for the building of a new primary school.

That was despite a deal having been reached with the district council that although the rest of the land - known as the Ariston Works site - would be sold off, the Lower Field would be handed over to remain as open space.

Cllr Mills told the cabinet panel that there was no shortfall of school places in north St Albans where both Garden Fields and Bernards Heath Schools have been extended and Margaret Wix could take additional children.

The shortages were in and around London Road and the Oaklands College area - south and east St Albans. She said: “It means that a school is going to serve people from the south and east of the city and would result in 400 car movements in the morning and afternoon. Harpenden Road is already very congested at those times.”

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She went on: “People living around the area are most unhappy about this and it will not be their children going there. This isn’t going to be a school serving the north of the town and it is going to create even more congestion in a congested area.”

She said the panel and full cabinet had agreed to explore the proposal further and she would be putting pressure on the district council to see what sites they could identify for primary schools.

Chris Hayward, the county’s cabinet member for resources, said: “We appreciate residents’ concerns at the potential loss of the proposed additional public open space. However, I can reassure them that there are no plans at present to build a new school at Harpenden Road, St Albans. We have simply agreed to retain a part of the land in that location which had previously been earmarked for sale, which is not a decision that requires a public consultation.”

He pointed out that a lot had changed since the land was earmarked for sale and forecasts suggested a future need for two additional primary schools in central St albans where there was very little suitable land available.

He went on: “While this is an unlikely site for a new school, it wouldn’t be sensible to discount it altogether by selling the land. We have to ensure that there is a school place for every child that needs one, both now and in the future.”

Cllr Hayward added: “We will continue to work with St Albans district council to identify more suitable school sites which can be included in their Detailed Local Plan, and look at whether existing schools can be expanded to meet future demand.”