Concerns over Hitchin primary school expansion

AN APPLICATION was lodged this week to expand a Hitchin primary school, as part of plans to meet a higher demand for places.

The county planning application to build an extra classroom block to accommodate another reception class at Highover JMI Primary School has been submitted to Herts County Council (HCC).

According to the county council, the plans are down to a need for more places within the Highover catchment, as well as other areas in the town.

But the application, which also includes 16 new parking spaces, has caused concerns among some residents, with worries that further work will have to be undertaken to accommodate an influx of pupils.

There are also fears that extra traffic and parking issues could be generated on the nearby roads.

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Bob Wright, who lives nearby, used to sit on the PTA when his children were at the school more than 25 years ago. He first found out about the proposals when he received a consultation letter last month, and has accused HCC of concealing its true plans.

“It is abundantly clear that behind this lies a far more significant plan, namely to continue to have two reception classes at Highover,” he said.

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“Within a period of seven years, the school will double in size from 210 places to 420. This will obviously entail a far more substantial building programme at the school than that which is currently on the table.

“There’s consequences in all of this when talking about extra traffic delivering children to school. The three roads in which the entrances are located are not equipped to take on large amounts of traffic. They are residential roads.

“Why are they [the county council] doing this, when money is supposed to be tight, and cuts are being made?”

A consultation, which was held with the school earlier this year, also saw the issue of traffic raised.

The county council sought to reassure on these concerns.

In a report, it said: “We are aware of parking issues in the area around the school, particularly in Cambridge Road and Millard Way, and commissioned a professional firm of transport consultants to assess the impact of a potential school expansion.”

If approved, the new class would be in place from September 2012, meaning that there is potential for the school to have doubled in size by 2020.

A target decision has been set for October 25, with the possibility of it being discussed at a development control committee a week earlier than that.

Meanwhile, a consultation is ongoing, which includes 900 local residents, North Herts District Council (NHDC), Environment Agency, Sport England, Veolia, the Highways Authority.

Due to the summer holidays, no-one from Highover JMI School was available for comment.

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