Hitchin school’s park and stride scheme ‘in breach’ of planning rules

The building works currently going on at Samuel Lucas JMI

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

A school expansion given the go-ahead on the condition adequate parking would be provided nearby has breached planning rules, it has been claimed.

Samuel Lucas JMI School in Hitchin is due to double in size by 2019 after plans were approved by Herts County Council last year, with the introduction of a park and stride scheme among the planning conditions.

The new intake of reception children started at the Gaping Lane school this week, but the county council is still working on legal agreements between itself and North Herts District Council, which owns the nearby Lairage multi-storey car park which is meant to be providing parking for parents.

It has prompted claims that planning laws have been breached and the occupancy of the school buildings is illegal

Robin Dartington from Keep Hitchin Special said: “While we have no wish to see children inconvenienced, the planning permission contained a legal condition that a park and stride be provided in the interests of public safety and this disregard of the law by HCC’s schools planning team is simply not acceptable.

“They have known since May last year that a new agreement with NHDC would be needed or that an alternative to the park and stride would have to be found.”

Mr Dartington said that the agreement by NHDC for use of the Lairage car park would have to be approved by members of NHDC’s cabinet, which is not set to meet until September 23.

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Prior to its approval by the county council the expansion, which will see numbers eventually increased to 420 places, was widely opposed by people living nearby amid fears the site would not cope with the influx.

Opponents raised concerns over road safety, costs, parking, and loss of allotments and public space.

A County Hall spokesman said: “Negotiations are currently taking place with NHDC about the number of spaces that will be made available for the park and stride scheme. We are also waiting to see what the level of interest is from parents at the school.”

The Comet asked whether the school was in breach of the planning rules, but had not received a response at the time of going to press.

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