Plans to rebuild Letchworth school rejected

An artist's impression of how the new school would have looked

An artist's impression of how the new school would have looked - Credit: Archant

Plans to rebuild a school have been refused.

A proposal to rebuild The Highfield School in Letchworth GC was rejected by members of the North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) planning committee at a meeting last week.

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.

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

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 concluded that the proposal would not improve the character, quality and functional value of the area, thus failing the design standards set-out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The application has been dealt with by NHDC because Hertfordshire County Council, responsible for education services, is not involved in funding the redevelopment.

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Ian Morris, headteacher at The Highfield School, said: “I’m very disappointed that the application has been rejected and we are now waiting for a response from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) as to the next steps to take.

“The council rejected it because they said the building was too close to the gardens at the back despite the fact that their own officers’ report said that it was ok.”

The council had received objections from Highfield residents, which included complaints regarding privacy, noise levels, traffic and the loss of views from homes.

But a report written by council officers prior to the planning committee meeting had recommended that the application be granted, stating: “It is not felt that the proposed development would cause a significant loss of privacy for the neighbouring properties, due to the relationship, vegetation screen and position and nature of the windows and doors.”

The existing school building would have been demolished under the plans, with a three-year-old sports hall retained.

Had planning permission been granted, building work was due to start this spring and completed by autumn 2015.

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