Herts and Essex Observer
12 North Street
|30 November 2006|
It is disappointing to see two of our secondary schools ignoring all the bits they don't like in the Inspector's draft report on the Local Plan (Herts and Essex Observer, 30 November 2006).
So far the only occasion on which the schools' arguments for relocation have been tested in public has been at the inquiry into the Local Plan. As a result, the Inspector has questioned whether the remainder of the Whittington Way site could be preserved as green belt, expressed no view on how the transport consequences could be managed and questioned the financial basis of the move. This hardly chimes in with Mr Stock's reported view that she has done everything but release the land. On the contrary, her conclusion was that the supporters of the scheme had failed to demonstrate an exceptional case for removing the land from Green Belt protection and that doing so would expose the rest of the site to the risk of development.
The schools themselves appear to have no idea of the scale of the transport consequences or how, if at all, they could be managed, no design to put forward and no idea how much it would cost to buy the land. And yet they hope to put forward an outline planning application in a couple of months. It is difficult to see how East Herts District Council could give consent in the light of such major uncertainties. If the schools really are determined not to look at alternatives they should at least carry out and publish a proper feasibility study so that we can all understand the consequences, before applying for a permission which would be difficult to undo if it were granted
But, having failed to slip this through by means of a change to the Local Plan, I would urge the schools and the LEA to look again at site at Hadham Road. It is big enough to build a school to meet the shortfall in school places (or to relocate one of the schools to new buildings there to make room for a new school on an existing site); the site is already owned by the County Council; and since architects have not been commissioned for any proposal yet it need not involve any further delay.JOHN RHODES