St Albans Primary School hopeful about expansion proposal

Garden Fields Head Teacher Chris Jukes

Garden Fields Head Teacher Chris Jukes - Credit: Archant

The proposed expansion of a St Albans primary school is now imminent after the county council agreed to undertake a final public consultation on its scheme.

After identifying Garden Fields JMI in Townsend Drive as the closest institution to areas suffering a shortfall in schools in central St Albans, Herts county council recently also pinpointed the site as suitable for growth.

While the school’s governing body said it was “open-minded” about increasing the admission by 30 pupils, it had concerns about both the £2.7 million budget earmarked to expand facilities, and the design proposed.

The scheme involves expanding and refurbishing the site of neighbouring St Albans Music School, which would relocate to Townsend School.

An initial consultation, held earlier this year, showed that 141 out of 173 respondents – 81.5 per cent – disagreed with aspects of the expansion, including traffic.

The governing body told the council its design needed to take into account the impact of expansion on the school’s access and neighbouring residents, including extra traffic.

As a result, the council’s cabinet last Monday agreed to pay an extra one million pounds towards the project, bumping up the budget allocated to £3.7 million to allow “significant highways mitigation measures”.

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The cabinet has authorised the director of children’s services to publish a statutory notice to enlarge Garden Fields in time for the new school year in September 2015 by one form of entry.

If no objections are lodged against that notice, the director has delegated authority to approve the expansion.

But if there are objections, the cabinet will reconsider the proposal at its September meeting.

The move has been welcomed by Garden Fields’ head teacher Chris Jukes, who said the increased funding would ensure the current level of resources would be maintained for all future pupils. He added: “It is quite an exciting time for us as a school, because this means our facilities will be improved. Garden Fields will be a larger school that supports improved standards, and it will go from strength to strength.”

But the county councillor for St Albans south, Sandy Walkington, said the authority needed to consider building a new primary school for the south of the city, as St Peter’s and other institutions cannot expand: “Looking at the demographics of my division, there is going to be a huge influx of new families over the next few years.”