Decision to reject plans to rebuild Letchworth school criticised

An artist's impression of how the new school could look

An artist's impression of how the new school could look - Credit: Archant

A decision to reject plans to rebuild a school has been widely criticised, with an MP calling the prospect of it not going ahead as “unthinkable”.

A proposal to rebuild The Highfield School in Letchworth GC was rejected by members of the North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) planning committee three weeks ago.

The plans, which had included a new secondary school building, hard and soft surface play areas, car parking and a multi-use games area, had been submitted to NHDC in November and were recommended for approval by council officers.

Councillors rejected the proposal on the grounds that the development, due to its excessive height, bulk and proximity, would have an unacceptable impact on neighbouring residential areas along Highfield. They also cited poor standards of the design.

Letters from the school were sent out to parents about the decision on Monday, who have reacted angrily to the news.

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Highfield parent Clare Monaghan said: “I have seen the plans and they are excellent and just what this dated, worn-out school requires. Apart from the gym block nothing has changed since I was there more than 20 years ago, and even since my father was there 40 years ago.

“Four residents opposed, each objection was looked at and in some cases changes were made to reduce the negative impact, so if this has been addressed why is the permission being refused? I am urging those responsible to reconsider. We want the best for our children, and you need to give the school the opportunity to give my kids and their kids a fantastic education, along with the resources the build can bring.”

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Another parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “What really annoys me is that at Knights Templar School in Baldock they have a playground and grass verge that is much closer to houses than Highfield School is. I think it’s pathetic that it has been rejected just because four people objected the proposal. Where are these children going to go to school? What is going to happen to the next generation of children who need to go to school. The school needs to be rebuilt.”

The project was being funded through the Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme, and was due to be delivered by the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

North East Herts MP Oliver Heald said: “At the moment I am encouraging the EFA to either appeal against the decision or produce an amended application. Money for the project is still available from the EFA and I am very pleased that they are sticking with the project as it is vitally important for the area. Schools across the country would bite your hand off to have the chance to completely rebuild their school and I think it’s unthinkable that this project doesn’t go through.”

Highfield headteacher Ian Morris said: “We are still very shocked that the application was rejected because the planning officer had said that there were no grounds for refusal. We are awaiting a response from the EFA on what course of action will be taken.”

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