St Albans neighbours rally against proposed new build for school
PUBLISHED: 13:30 22 June 2017
Image provided by pHp Architects
Neighbours are banding together to try and quash a controversial new teaching block planned for a St Albans public school.
A letter has been sent to residents surrounding St Albans School encouraging objections to the new maths block proposed for Abbey Gateway.
The application to knock down a timber structure and replace it with a three-storey maths block was originally rejected last August because it is on Green Belt land, several mature trees would be lost, and the size would undermine the designated St Albans Conservation Area.
But residents argue the revised and resubmitted application has been “barely altered”.
Kate Franklin is one of the authors behind the letter, and says they are trying to inform people of the plans: “It’s incredibly inaccessible for people who don’t have the time to go on the council website.” She says it is also to counteract the 14-pages of support for the new build on the application, some from people who “don’t even live in St Albans”.
“For us it’s very frustrating as we are a small community, and we want to give people who don’t know about the plans the chance to get involved.
“People can make up their own mind whether they are supportive or objecting, but we want to give people a fair chance.
“A lot of us will object from an emotional or personal point of view so they need to know the facts before they comment.” She added: “The school community benefits, but the local community is negatively affected.”
The letter suggests possible objections, including disruption from construction, poor aesthetics, more cars, light or noise pollution, overlooking gardens, and pupil requirements “incorrectly analysed”.
One objection already lodged says they “do not need this extra oversized building for their capped capacity of total pupils”, adding: “The school has continually developed and not taken any consideration to the community.
“Proposal of the new sports centre was that the community would have the facilities of gym and swimming pool, but Fishpool residents are only authorised to use the pool at allocated unsociable hours and short time frames.”
In the revised application the building footprint has been reduced by 5.2 per cent, it will be one metre shorter, and a bank of trees on the edge of the site has been saved.
One supporting commenter said: “The new maths department building is critical for the progress of maths and science education at St Albans School. The companies I manage require personnel with high-end skills in mathematics and science.
“Initiatives which deliver such capabilities are essential for my industry and the UK economy.”
A local architect said the design was of a “high standard”: “This scheme replaces a building which is of no aesthetic value with an educational building of good design quality which will enhance the Fishpool Street conservation area.”
One woman agreed: “I support this application as I am keen to see the school develop its teaching facilities in mathematics and science.
“The buildings will make a significant difference to the school and its pupils.”
St Albans School headteacher Jonathan Gillespie said the new build will address the increasingly popularity of science subjects: “In 2013, an internal review identified the urgent need for a solution, to enable the school to adequately support core STEM (science, technology, English, maths) subjects for the school’s long term future and its ability to support the teaching of these critical subjects.
“Both science and mathematics are currently co-located in the same ageing classroom block on the site, and there is no potential for this block to be expanded. Unlike some other subjects, science cannot be taught in ‘standard’ classrooms. It requires space for properly-equipped laboratories, bulky equipment, benching and storage.”
He noted that the proposed building is on brownfield land and “significant changes” have been made to the original plans, adding that the building would benefit the wider community.
“It is worth noting that the planning application has had over 90 representations of support to date from a variety of individuals who highlight the benefit that this important new facility could provide for the young minds outside the school, as well as our own pupils.”
Locals previously clashed with the school in 2013 over whether student coaches should be allowed to drive along narrow streets surrounding the site.