95-home plan next to Stevenage school deferred

Plans to build up to 95 homes on a fire service training centre site in Hitchin Road, Stevenage, hav

Plans to build up to 95 homes on a fire service training centre site in Hitchin Road, Stevenage, have been deferred - Credit: Archant

A PLAN to build 95 homes on a fire service training centre site have been deferred amid concerns over traffic and a secondary school’s ability to expand.

Members of Stevenage Borough Council’s planning committee were unanimous in a decision to defer an outline planning application to build up to 95 houses in Hitchin Road, Stevenage.

The 2.68 hectare site is next to The John Henry Newman School, and under the plans from Hertfordshire County Council would become a residential development made up of two, three and four-bedroom houses.

The land, owned by the county council, is currently used by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service as a training centre, which would relocate if houses were built.

Speaking at Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, borough councillor Marilyn Yarnold-Forrester said: “I go past there between 20 past and 20 to nine every morning and it’s a nightmare driving along there. We’ve already got coaches going into the school and mums going in and out, which is bad enough, but I’d hate to think what it’s going to be like if this goes ahead.”

Clive Mathew, headteacher at The John Henry Newman School, also raised objections.

He said: “If this development was to go ahead there would be no option for The John Henry Newman School to be developed. We’re already overcrowded and are 200 children over capacity, and the school is heavily over-subscribed.”

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Speaking to the Comet afterwards, he added: “What surprises me most about the whole process is the county council has not consulted with us about the use of the land, all they’ve done is consult with us about 95 dwellings. We’ve got a government which supports the expansion of outstanding schools, but then we haven’t been approached by the county council.”

Mr Mathew also said he would be speaking to the Diocese of Westminster, which provides support to the Catholic school, about whether it is possible to buy the land.

Questions were also raised about noise and traffic pollution, the need for future secondary school spaces, and why the county council is able to consult itself on education and highways matters.

Cllr David Kissane said: “Can I move that we defer this until we get more answers to the questions we’ve asked here tonight?

“We’ve got to think to the future. John Henry Newman is a huge school and is turning away hundreds of pupils each year.

“I think The John Henry Newman should have the opportunity to talk to the county council about buying the site.”

The application will be discussed again at a later date, potentially at next month’s planning meeting.