Protected species found at Hitchin school proposed for expansion

Samuel Lucas School

Samuel Lucas School - Credit: Archant

PROTECTED animals have been uncovered near a school site earmarked for a controversial expansion.

Slow worms similar to this one have been found near Samuel Lucas

Slow worms similar to this one have been found near Samuel Lucas - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Slow worms were detected on land next to Hitchin’s Samuel Lucas JMI school, which the county council wants to eventually double in size.

The expansion, which was approved by the council’s cabinet on Monday, has drawn criticism from residents and some parents at the school, who claim the site is unsuitable.

And the discovery of the slow worms – found on allotments proposed for school playing fields, as part of a mandatory ecological study – ignited hopes from some the project would fall down.

One resident, who asked not to be named, claimed work would not be able to continue until at least spring.

He said: “Let’s now hope that many other species are also found there.

“Then perhaps this unnecessary building project can be legitimately halted without wasting another penny of council money.

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“The county council would them be able to focus on the existing essential school issues in this part of Hitchin.”

The county council, however, looks likely to plough on with its unpopular plans anyway, in spite of the discovery.

A spokesman told the Comet this week: “An ecology survey has identified the presence of slow worms.

“They will be relocated by a qualified ecologist under controlled conditions, agreed with English Nature.

“This activity forms part of the overall implementation programme for the enlargement of Samuel Lucas.”

It is proposed to double the number of reception places at the school this September.

But residents have claimed the site is not appropriate, that the roads will suffer, and that alternative options have not been explored properly.

The expansion is now subject to planning approval.

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