Wheathampstead parish council battles to prevent further education sites being sold

Wheathampstead High Street

Wheathampstead High Street - Credit: Archant

Safeguards need to be built into the district council’s draft planning blueprint to protect education sites from being sold off and redeveloped.

Wheathampstead parish council, which could do no more than watch when the village secondary school in Butterfield Road was closed and the site sold for housing, is asking for greater sureties to be included in the council’s Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which has just been out for consultation.

The parish council is calling for the policy on education sites in the SLP to provide protection for such sites which could be at risk of being sold and redeveloped.

They want the proposed strategy of protecting community, sport and recreational facilities to be extended to all educational sites and no sale or development permitted unless education uses are reprovided elsewhere or it can be clearly demonstrated that the land is no longer required for education purposes.

Wheathampstead secondary school closed in 1988 and a housing development has since been built on the site. But in the meantime, a shortage of secondary places for young people from the village and Harpenden has left the county council hunting around for a suitable site for a new school.

While generally supportive of the draft SLP, particularly its housing needs assessment, the parish council would like to see more specific detail relating to individual communities included in the document.

In particular it would like the Strategic Housing Market Assessment giving a more specific direction of the type of housing sought in different communities.

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If land is to be released from the Green Belt, the parish council argues that it is critical that the district council explains more clearly its preferred number of homes and the required infrastructure.

It also points out that under the section on transport strategy, no reference is made to the impact of through traffic, airport traffic and gridlocking on Wheathampstead and questions why local authority funding favours towns for road improvements over villages.

The results of the SLP consultation will be considered by the council’s planning policy committee early next year.

A summary of comments and responses will then be published and the council will decide if any changes to the draft SLP are necessary.