Plans for much needed primary school expansion stumble on parking arrangement

Plans for much needed primary school expansion stumble on parking arrangement

Plans for much needed primary school expansion stumble on parking arrangement

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A £2.7 million expansion of Garden Fields JMI, which would see it become St Albans’ biggest primary school, could hit the rocks if suitable pick up and drop off parking points cannot be agreed.

People living near the school have raised concerns about increased congestion and parking problems at the start and end of the academic day since Hertfordshire County Council announced the planned expansion of the school.

The consultation period for plans to take another 30 reception children from September 2015 and in each subsequent year thereafter, making it a three form entry school, closed on March 12. 

However Bacthwood councillor Martin Leach said he was now calling for a public meeting to see plans because the consultation period had been insufficient.

The Labour leader said: "In pick up and drop off times, the area is extremely busy and there is a concern that it will get busier if the school is expanded.

"People come in to visit numerous organisations in the area, the school being one of them. As well as people from the hospital, who park in Langley Crescent and Townsend Drive."

Since a controlled parking zone (CPZ) was introduced on Batchwood View in a bid to ease the congestion suffered by residents on nearby streets, it is thought the problem has now spread to neighbouring streets including Townsend Drive and Waverly Road.

Councillor Leach continued "Little information has been provided in the county's initial consultation. Therefore I have called for a public meeting that includes the actual plans so that residents could comment further.

"It would be good for residents to see plans so they can get an idea of what is going on if they are concerned. This could ease their minds or maybe even agitate them, when things haven’t been included.

"It is important that plans are transparent and open."

The £2.7 million proposal has been drawn up in response to a projected shortfall of primary places in schools in other parts of the city.

Garden Fields has been chosen because "it is located close to the area of demand and the site is capable of accommodating an enlargement".

Reception places would grow from 60 to 90, which could mean the current capacity of 420 pupils would increase to 630, excluding nursery children.

Batchwood councillor Roma Mills said she had been approached by concerned residents.

She explained: "This is always going to be a contentious issue and I think parents may be concerned because they worry about the impact on the school in terms of interaction between pupils across the age groups and the nurturing ethos which currently exists.

"A 50 per cent increase in children, means a 50 per cent increase in parents dropping their children off to school.

"We wouldn’t want it to be 50 per cent busier. It is already busy enough around this area and a picking up and dropping off point will have to be managed before these plans go ahead.

"There is definitely a need for school places in the city with the growth of families in St Albans, however travel issues must be addressed."

Chris Hayward, cabinet member for education, said the outcome of the seven-week public consultation on the principle of expansion will be reported to the enterprise, education and skills panel on April 9, where it will make recommendations to cabinet about the next steps on all school expansions proposals.

He continued: "Detailed schemes are being developed with the schools and, where required, will be subject to a separate statutory town planning consultation process. Final school organisation decisions are usually conditional upon town planning permission being received, where required. 

"Our priority is to ensure that there is a school place for every child that wants one and we aim to commission the right number of school places for children and young people."

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