St Albans residents kept in dark over new primary school

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 May 2011

View from the church tower of the school building

View from the church tower of the school building

Archant

RESIDENTS living close to the proposed site of the new primary school in St Albans say they are offended by the lack of information that has been made available by Herts County Council.

Kate Morris, who recently retired as a district councillor and is now able to speak freely about the proposal for the school on Hatfield Road, says she and her neighbours on St Peter’s Street are very supportive of the school which would be located in the current School of Law.

But there is a shared anger among them about the threadbare information which has been made public and that what has been released seems to be aimed solely at prospective parents.

She said: “The suggestion that it’s of no interest to anyone who doesn’t have young children is offensive and the county council have really shot themselves in the foot because they could have gathered quite a support team from the people living here but we’ve not heard a thing.”

Kate is also concerned about proposals to destroy the Pemberton building which sits unnoticed behind the Law School’s functional façade. In a picture (above) taken from the top of St Peter’s Church tower the building, built around 1880, can be clearly seen nestled behind the more modern School of Law on the left, which the former Marshalswick South ward councillor described as a “carbuncle”.

Kate added: “It’s such a shame to propose keeping that at the expense of the old school. A number of us in the adjacent listed buildings did put this across to the school place planners, architects and head teacher designate at the open evening.

“As I suspected, they had given no thought to the heritage aspects of the proposal, but were concerned only with the need for hard play space for the prospective two-form entry school – ultimately 400 children crammed into what has for the last 50 years been a car park.”

Reiterating the residents’ support for the school, Kate underlined the need for consultation and said it was not their intention to see the site sit vacant after the Law School move out in July but that it would take a lot of “good will” to get there.

A locally listed building in the conservation area, the former board school is considered by many in the vicinity to be an important part of the city centre’s character.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “There is clear demand from parents for additional primary school places in the centre of St Albans and the county council welcomes and supports proposals for a new free school at the Hatfield Road site.

“We have exchanged contracts with the University of Hertfordshire and will take ownership once the School of Law vacates the site in July.

“We will seek the relevant consent for changes to the site at the relevant time. The free school’s plan for the site does involve the demolition of the Pemberton building, which is not a listed building but it is in a conservation area.

“The public will be consulted by the planning authority once the appropriate applications have been made.

“The proposers of the free school are required to consult with the public about the need for a new school and the opening evening last Tuesday was the first stage of this process.”

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