BSCF Comments on Proposed Schools Relocation New!

Letter to the editor, Herts & Essex Observer

This letter was prompted by news that an appeal is likely against the decision of the EDHC Development Control Committee which rejected the plans in September 2010.

The Editor
Herts & Essex Observer
12 North Street
Bishops Stortford
CM23 2LQ
18 January 2011

Reference: Whittington Way Schools

I was surprised to read your report in the Observer on 13 January that the head teacher of the Bishop's Stortford High School referred at a recent awards evening to the urgent need for new premises in Thorley.

It seems to have escaped Mr Goulding's attention that planning permission for his school to relocate to Whittington Way has been refused. The Civic Federation would echo Baroness Williams' comment in the same report that it is the quality of a school's people which is paramount, not just the buildings.

Local authorities are currently facing the most stringent cutbacks in expenditure with the prospect of many of their staff being made redundant.

Herts County Council has already spent over £600,000 of taxpayers' money promoting the schools relocation scheme. If they were now to appeal against refusal of planning permission, they would incur on taxpayers' behalf another six figure sum for the own costs, with EHDC facing a similar bill in funding the defence of their decision – money which would better be spent on our children's education.

I therefore wrote to Cllr Thake, County Executive Member for Education in October 2010 (letter already sent to you), urging him to respect the unanimous, democratically taken decision of the planning authority and the overwhelming wish of local people by not supporting or funding an appeal against refusal of planning permission. I am still waiting for a reply.

One of the Government's key policies is to devolve power to the people for the major decisions which affect their locality. If our schools had any respect for the localism agenda, the schools and the County Council should accept that this grandiose scheme is devoid of planning merit, outmoded educationally, and reflects neither the needs nor the wishes of the local community.

However, if Mr Goulding's reported comments are to be believed, in this case the faceless bureaucrats in County Hall are still in charge.

Finally, the Civic Federation understands that the schools are going to appeal some time in February against the decision taken by EHDC in September 2010 not to grant planning permission to build the two schools at Whittington Way.

Should this be the case then this would be a blatant disregard of the of the overwhelming wishes of local residents and a disgraceful waste of public money when hard working families are having to make serious cuts to their bugets.

Yours sincerely,

Richard. F .Hannah
Chairman Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation