St Albans school expansion plan backed despite concerns over ‘detrimental impact’ on playing field

St Peter's School in St Albans is due to expand, but Sport England fears this will have a detrimenta

St Peter's School in St Albans is due to expand, but Sport England fears this will have a detrimental effect on the school's playing field. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Plans to extend a St Albans primary school have been backed by county councillors, but will now be referred to the secretary of state amid concerns about the loss of part of the school’s playing field.

As part of the plans, a two-storey teaching block would be built on the playing field at St Peter's School in Cottonmill Lane, providing an additional eight classrooms and new sports facilities.

The extra space would almost double the number of places at the school from 220 to 450, but Sport England has objected to the plans because of the "detrimental permanent impact on the school's playing field".

As a result the plans for the site, which is in the Green Belt, have been passed to the secretary of state, who will decide whether to endorse the approval for the site or whether the plans should be 'called-in' for further consideration.

During a Herts County Council meeting on Thursday, June 27, members of the development control committee were asked to determine whether the need for school places met the 'special circumstances' required to approve the development on the Green Belt, and to balance the need for school places against the loss of part of the playing field.

Backing the proposal, Cllr Sandy Walkington said: "There's an absolute crisis of school places in the centre of St Albans, and there are no alternative schools.

"What happens is people come to St Albans and make a lifestyle choice not to have a car, but they are then allocated schools on the outskirts of the town, which is a nightmare."

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The expanded school would include a new dance and fitness studio and an all-weather, multi-use games area. A larger dining hall could be used for indoor physical activities, and there are plans for children to use outdoor facilities at Westminster Lodge.

However Sport England say there will no longer be space at the school for the 60m running track or the mini football pitch, which is used by a local scout group as well as the school.

Following the debate, councillors unanimously backed the expansion plans despite the potential loss of part of the playing field.

Cllr David Barnard said: "There is a clear demand for education provision and it will be a great opportunity. The new sports facilities will be shared for the community - and that has to be a plus."