Open letter in response to petition in favour of schools plans

22 March 2011

Dear Claire,

I have followed the application for a new school at Whittington Way with much interest since its inception. I have always looked at it with an open mind especially as I have had two boys at TBSHS and a daughter at Herts & Essex. I have always stated that if anyone could give me a sensible convincing reason why the schools should re-locate that would outweigh the huge amount of damage it would do to both schools ethos, the local community or the green belt other that the fact that private money was going to pay for it then I would support it!

The plans in any form that I have seen are ludicrous. Everything that could be wrong with them is. There are too many things wrong with them to list them all but for starters, a designated site on the right side of town for a secondary school (but unfortunately Countryside Homes won't pay for that school) insufficient transport links, more unwanted houses in Bishops Stortford which is already massively over developed for its infrastructure (290 odd dwellings already sitting empty), flooding, noise pollution from the airport, all reports showing that "super schools" don't work hence the objection to them by David Cameron, the mixing of the two sexes on one site (which no matter how much the Heads protest against it will naturally happen on a shared site), changes to the schools admissions criteria (so that they didn't take all and sundry from miles outside Bishop's Stortford would solve the place shortages (as would a new secondary school on the designated site) I could go on.

Then there is the matter of our "wonderful democracy" so far all the Bishops Stortford Residents Associations, all of the Parish Councils, the Town Council, the East Herts District Council and the vast majority of residents & Parents in Bishops Stortford that I have spoken to have all been against it. It has been rejected time after time after time and yet, yet again, another attempt is going to be made to foist it upon us! Where is the democracy in that?

All of this comes at a time when the schools are having to cut back due to the economic situation. I am told teachers could be "laid off", lessons & courses are being cut and the kids choices & education are obviously going to be curtailed - yes this seems like the perfect time to spend another six figure sum on an appeal for a school that only the school heads, some governors & Countryside Homes really want!

The ridiculous thing is that the main argument for the new school, the need for more places (and a newer more purpose built premises), is a non starter. The development of this site would come at the cost to the town of 1000-1500 new family dwellings, with children! By creating the new school they would increase one of the problems they are arguing about plus increasing traffic in an already heavily congested Market Town. No extra provision is being provided by Herts Education (or Countryside Homes) for extra Primary or pre-school places for these families. The problems we already have would be increased exponentially.

What you should be arguing for is a new school built on the existing designated site on Hadham Road. A school here would alleviate traffic problems in the town at school times, would solve the places problem, would allow TBSHS to re-develop in the knowledge that they are not going to be "overrun" with ever-growing numbers on their existing site (as Birchwood successfully did). A school here would also be on the "correct" side of town to cope with future development and have the scope for better transport & access links. All things point to this being the much more suitable option, all we have to do is persuade Countryside Homes to pay for it!!

I won't be supporting your positive petition I'm afraid, I haven't yet heard a convincing argument & I also believe in Democracy at a local level. To coin a phrase, "everyone & their dog" have already said no to this proposal and the fact that more money is being spent taking the decision out of the hands of local people & local councils who are in a much better position to make an informed decision frankly doesn't sound like Democracy it sounds more like "money".

Sincerely,

Nigel Pack