County council officer admits failure to sort Hitchin school’s park and stride scheme

The building works currently going on at Samuel Lucas JMI

The building works currently going on at Samuel Lucas JMI - Credit: Archant

A planning officer has admitted that the failure to implement a park and ride scheme to coincide with a Hitchin school’s expansion has breached planning rules.

In an email seen by the Comet, Herts county council officer Rob Egan told Hitchin resident Robin Dartington that a condition of Samuel Lucas JMI School’s expansion has been contravened as a permit-led park and ride scheme for parents to use the nearby Lairage multi-storey car park has not been introduced before the start of term.

The introduction of the scheme was among the planning conditions agreed when the expansion – which will see the Gaping Lane school double in size by 2019 – was approved by the county council last year.

In an email to Mr Dartington, who campaigned against the expansion, Mr Egan said: “Planning are keen to progress this with the start of the new academic year now upon us, and are in the process of formulating an approach with the school as to the best way forward to distribute the parking permits to parents to ensure the continued operation of the park and stride scheme.

“They anticipate that such a scheme will be in place by the end of next week. While this contravenes the terms of the planning permission, parents are still able to use the Lairage car park for this very short period of time, although it is accepted that they would have to pay for such use until the agreement is in place. Therefore, on the basis that the park and stride is envisaged to be up and running within two weeks of the start of term, I do not consider it necessary to insist that occupation of the school building be suspended.”

In response, Mr Dartington said: “We don’t want to inconvenience the children, but this is not good enough and it is something could have been sorted much earlier. There is an uncomfortable feeling that there is one rule for the council and another for everybody else. It is an abuse of power.”

The new intake of reception children started at the school last week, but the county council said it is still working on legal agreements between itself and North Herts District Council, which owns Lairage multi-storey car park.

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A spokesman for Herts County Council said: “The town planning consent for the additional buildings required to facilitate the expansion of Samuel Lucas primary school includes a condition for a park and stride arrangement to be in place. The county council is finalising the arrangements regarding this year’s park and stride permits with NHDC.”

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