Controversial proposals have been drawn up to build a new secondary school in Harpenden to meet the growing demand for school places.

Residents gathered at a public meeting in All Saints’ Church recently to discuss their concerns after Hertfordshire County Council announced plans to build a 1,500 to 2,000 pupil secondary school on a site adjacent to Lower Luton Road.

The plans follow a report in January 2011 which showed evidence to suggest there will be a shortage of school places in the town between 2014 and 2015 before a shortfall peaks in 2019.

The Green Belt site has raised objections among residents’ group Right School Right Place, which were discussed on Sunday, October 6.

Hillary Taylor, from Right School Right Place, said she welcomed the "once in a generation opportunity" for a secondary school, but didn’t want the county council to rush into a decision.

The Common Lane resident said: "It is critical to be sure we build this school in the right place for the wider community it is to serve.

"This field is earmarked as the breathing space between Harpenden and Wheathampstead - it is important it is protected.

"Common Lane and Lower Luton Road is a very busy road and far too dangerous to be an access route for children.

"Parents living in Wheathampstead, Batford and Southdown find it difficult to get their children into school because of the catchment area and this site still doesn’t meet the requirements because they won’t fall in to the catchment area.

"Herts County Council seems to be rushing into it, without thinking about the consequences. We need to make the right choices for our children’s future and our villages and town’s futures."

Harpenden North East county councillor David Williams also attended the meeting and was questioned by residents.

Councillor Williams said: "There are some issues - because the site is on busy Lower Luton Road - that need to be looked at carefully. For residents living adjacent to the site there amenities will undoubtedly be impaired.

"However, primary schools have been expanded in recent years so there is a great need for a new secondary school.

"I think the site on Lower Luton Road is the most viable site."

Harpenden Parents Group, a 300-strong campaign group, has been advocating for a secondary school in the town for the past two years.

Ben Bardsley, chairman of the group, said: "We deem Lower Luton Road to be the best location.

"Now our concerns are how Hertfordshire County Council proposes to deal with the shortfall of school places for the next three years until the school is built."

The Harpenden Society has also been campaigning alongside the town’s parent group.

Eric Midwinter, the society’s education spokesman, said: "We are in very critical need of school places.

"This is a once in a generation opportunity and I am concerned if we make a big song and dance about the location, the opportunity could vanish all together."