BSCF's Objections to Proposed Schools' Relocation  Map 

Letter to Herts and Essex Observer

The Editor,
Herts & Essex Observer,
12 North Street,
Bishop's Stortford,
CM23 2LQ
28 June 2007

Dear Sir,

Reference Proposed Schools at Whittington Way

Your article about the proposed new schools at Whittington Way that would be a combined site for both the Herts and Essex and Boys' High Schools is a timely reminder of this disastrous proposal.

The Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation and its predecessor the Civic Society have always opposed the scheme to build it on the Green Belt. Therefore, we now need to heighten the public’s awareness of the consequences of the Whittington Way proposal on Bishop's Stortford.

The Inspector at the Inquiry into the East Herts Plan agreed with us and directed East Herts District to remove the proposal from the plan stating that the only way it could be considered was by submitting a planning application in the normal manner. The two schools are now preparing such an application.

Apart from all the new building in the town centre, it is difficult to imagine a project that would have such an adverse impact on the Town, its families and transport congestion. It is very regrettable, therefore, that our request last February to Councillor Jackson, the leader of EHDC, to have this as the first item for his intended committee on the future of Bishop's Stortford was ignored. Our reminder to him in May has also received no acknowledgment and the Committee itself shows no sign of being established.

The Conservative Party in their pre election literature before the recent local elections stated that they would fight for the retention of the existing Green Belt in East Herts; perhaps they would like to confirm that this commitment also applies to the Green Belt in Bishop's Stortford?

The schools’ proposal has so far been marked by a selective presentation of the issues. The person who presented the case at the Inquiry into the Local Plan had no idea what the land owner would charge for the site, could not explain the landowner’s intended application for houses and industrial premises on the rest of the Green Belt site after the new schools had been built and, perhaps, the worst omission of all was that the parents had not been consulted.

Parental consultation is essential not only with existing pupils’ parents, but also with potential parents who now have children at primary schools.

I spoke to the author of the option agreement mentioned in your article and he was not familiar with Bishop's Stortford. Perhaps this is why he thought it an easy walk for a child from the train and bus stations to Whittington Way. Over the weekend I walked the most direct route between these two locations and it took me 30 minutes, and there are no footpaths along Whittington Way.

The LEA has argued that the new site will provide an extra two forms initially but six forms of entry by 2021. But the LEA's own evidence to the Local Plan Inquiry showed that there was already a shortage of 189 places, equivalent to six forms of entry last year. So two extra forms when the schools plan to move in a few years time will not be nearly enough, especially as the schools want to build more houses on the sites they vacate.

The Hadham Road site is already owned by the LEA; the schools' own advisers have conceded that it is large enough to provide a school of six forms of entry, and the capital cost of one new school on this site should be only be half as much as two new schools on the green belt, all points that were not disputed at the Inquiry into the Local Plan. So it is regrettable that the LEA are perpetuating the myth that the site is not big enough but do not support their claim with reliable evidence.

We find it incredible that the Governors of the two schools are happy to see them physically destroyed. Whilst it is understood that the Boys High needs improvement, it would be a piece of vandalism to pull down the Herts and Essex which needs improvement in only a few areas, having had so much money spent on it with the recent completion of a new hall and sixth form centre.

We suggest that the LEA should now abandon its pig headed insistence on its proposal and carry out a thorough and professional cost benefit study on the alternatives; something completely missing from the papers presented at Hertfordshire County Council's cabinet meeting.

In conclusion, it would be essential to have proper consultation once the facts from the cost benefit study and feedback from the public consultation are available. A three minute presentation at a Planning Committee Meeting or a Community Voice meeting would be quite inadequate for this important matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Richard Hannah
Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation