Herts Ad Comment: Planning experts and Samuel Ryder Academy improvements

This week's editor's comment...

This week's editor's comment... - Credit: Archant

Like most local newspapers these days, the Herts Advertiser does not have wall-to-wall reporters who can cover every event going on in the St Albans district.

So we frequently have to turn to the webcam to see what is happening at St Albans council - and what an eye-opener that was this week.

No sooner had the planning referrals committee started their consideration of a scheme to expand a gipsy site in Chiswell Green - one that has been a thorn in the side of local residents for a number of years - than a ‘planning expert’, speaking on behalf of the application, told them that the officer’s report contained serious errors, the application would go to appeal and win and costs would be awarded against the council.

It was surely meant to belittle the members of the committee and it might well have succeeded. It is not easy to be told by someone claiming to be the best in the business that he was right and they were wrong and they had it round their neck.

But, good for them, they stuck to the recommendation made by their maligned planning officer and unanimously turned down the application for the Green Belt site.

In other words, they were doing what it says on the tin - backing the concerns of residents who were themselves supported by St Albans MP Anne Main and St Stephen parish council.

Maybe it will go to appeal and maybe the applicant will win and costs be awarded against the council. But sometimes there are more important things than money and standing up for the concerns of people who vote for you is one of them. That’s what democracy is all about.

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Despite its illustrious name, the old Francis Bacon School was a by-word for inadequacy when judged alongside its peers in St Albans. Years of falling standards ultimately led to the school experiencing reduced admissions which made it unsustainable to continue in its existing format.

It was given notice to improve by Ofsted which eventually led to it being revamped as an all-through school and renamed the Samuel Ryder Academy, but it then faced an uphill battle to restore its reputation and improve levels of teaching.

It is therefore welcome news that in just four years the academy is now rated good with some outstanding features by Ofsted inspectors, thanks largely to the efforts of headteacher Matt Gauthier and his team.

Having visited the academy to give presentations to students, one cannot ignore the sense of pride and passion at every level, and yet despite having achieved this milestone inspection result, Mr Gauthier has aspirations to make Samuel Ryder even better.

It can’t have been easy to have to have picked up a poisoned chalice like Francis Bacon, but Mr Gauthier not only grasped it with both hands, but quaffed it down in one. His achievements, and that of his staff, prove there is always hope of making things better.