Secret primary school plan revealed for Bernards Heath open space

Bernards Heath.

Bernards Heath. - Credit: Archant

An out-of-the-blue proposal to turn over land promised as public open space to the building of a two form of entry primary school has stunned local residents.

Bernards Heath.

Bernards Heath. - Credit: Archant

Both they and their county councillor, Roma Mills, maintain there has been no consulation over the school plan for the Lower Field on the former Ariston Works site in Harpenden Road, St Albans.

The proposal is due to go before a county cabinet panel tomorrow (9) and then to full cabinet on Monday (12) where it could be given the go ahead.

Some years ago there was a bid to get the Lower Field registered as a village green. But the county council as landowners came up with a plan to sell off the majority of the Ariston Works site and as part of the deal, the Lower Field was to be handed over to St Albans council to provide additional open space.

But shocked residents have now learned that a county council options study has shown that the former playing field is potentially suitable for the development of a two form of entry primary school.

To compound their concerns, residents say there has been no consultation with them or Cllr Mills who represents St Albans North division.

The Lower Field is behind Bridle Close and Fontmell Close - the scene of last year’s massive sinkhole - and the state of the ground has been examined by the county council to ascertain that the land is suitable for development.

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A report to tomorrow’s meeting says that as the St Albans Strategic Local Plan (SLP), which is out for consultation, does not explicitly mention the need for new primary schools in the city nor identify sites to meeting rising demand, it is particularly important that the county council ensures that, ‘any potential site options are safeguarded’.

Cllr Mills said: “Local people understood it would be retained as a green area and now it looks like county is saying it should be a school.

“There have been no discussions with people nor anyone saying, we have to review this.”

She went on: “The Friends of Bernards Heath have picked this up and I am getting daily emails from people who thought it was to be retained for recreation.”

Cllr Mills added: “I feel this has been badly handled to say the least. I appreciate there is pressure for primary school places but I think it would have been worth some local dialogue.”

Tomorrow’s panel meeting is recommending that the Lower Field should be excluded from land which cabinet had previously agreed could be sold and a timeline suggests that an outline planning application could be submitted as early as next spring.