Housing development go-ahead on St Albans’ Beaumont school playing fields

Planning inspector approves 75 new homes to be built in St Albans

PLAYING fields on Green Belt land at an oversubscribed St Albans school are to have up to 75 homes built on them after a planning inspector gave the go-ahead.

The head teacher of Beaumont School, Elizabeth Hitch, is “absolutely delighted” that after two council rejections in three years, the secondary institution can now press on with its plans for the new housing development at the Hatfield Road end of the site, which will help fund school improvements.

Planning inspector Kenneth Smith announced the decision last Thursday, overturning St Albans district council’s rejection of the project. He granted outline planning permission for up to a maximum 75 homes, including two and two-and-a-half storey houses.

Mr Smith also approved:

n 5.7ha sports pitches including a hard-surfaced area and all-weather pitch;

n new school parking area;

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n new classrooms;

n sports hall and 0.74ha woodland.

He criticised the current entrance to the school, two narrow accessways shared by pedestrians and vehicles on residential Oakwood Drive, as congested, “wholly inadequate” and a “potentially dangerous mix” of pupils and traffic.

He approved a new vehicular access and primary road with coach turning loop and parking bays from Hatfield Road, despite the council citing concerns about its alignment from a proposed signal-controlled junction, saying safety of pupils was a “crucial factor.”

No homes can be built on the current playing fields before the replacement sports pitches are complete and the council will have to approve details of floodlighting which cannot be operated on the all-weather pitch from Monday to Friday after 10pm and after 6pm at the weekend.

Mr Smith said there were very special circumstances to justify the development in the Green Belt and went on: “It is undisputed that Beaumont School is successful, popular, oversubscribed and overcrowded. By a wide margin it has worse space standards than are recommended. Delivery of the school curriculum is constrained by the lack of facilities.”

Mr Smith explained that the proposed housing would serve as an “enabling development” to finance Beaumont’s proposals, including buying land for the proposed playing fields.

He questioned whether the size of the school could be reduced to overcome its problems but concluded: “Figures show that, of the seven secondary schools in St Albans, five are full and the City will totally run out of school places by 2016.”

He also recognised that with the extra facilities, Beaumont could apply for Academy status, resulting in a substantial increase in its funding.

Development cannot begin until details of the layout, design and external appearance of the buildings, known as “reserved matters” are approved by the council.