Schools’ wait for �multi-million redevelopment decision

THE future of three Comet country schools will be decided in just over a week when Herts County Council decides whether to approve plans to meet a “real and pressing need” for primary places in the area.

Cabinet members will meet at County Hall on Monday March 21 to discuss recommendations by the authority’s education and skills cabinet panel to expand dozens of schools in the county.

The panel’s report said expansion “will enable additional school places to be made available as close as possible to the demand for them. In that way they will improve access to school places to all sectors of the communities in which they are located.”

The proposals include a �2.5m plan for Highover JMI and Nursery in Hitchin, and a �3.3m plan for Fairlands Primary and Nursery in Stevenage. If approved, both schemes are scheduled to be completed by September 2012.

But a decision for a major expansion of Martins Wood Primary in Stevenage is on hold pending further discussions about the nature of new buildings. Instead, a �220,000 plan for a temporary building to accommodate 30 new pupils is up for approval, to be completed before their admission in September.

In consultation earlier this year the school’s governing body favoured expansion, but not the council’s design of four standalone, but linked, blocks. Governors insist a design under one roof is non-negotiable. The council estimates this would cost between �1m and �1.8m more than its current �5.2m plan for the school.

Headteacher Tom Evans said the council’s plan may suit other schools, but not his.

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“We just think that for security reasons, health and safety and just the practical nature of running a school that the school should be under one roof,” he said.

He added that he was hopeful their preferred redevelopment could still meet the original completion date of September 2012.

“We have got further meetings planned with the planners to try to bring the costs down. They are massively over-estimating the cost. I’m fairly confident we can bring it down to around the �5.2m it would cost under their preferred model.

“We do not want a model that we know would not work.”