‘We’ll fight this tooth and nail’ – Retirement residents oppose Hitchin school expansion plans

Archers Court resident John Harling in his living room points to the planned new building of Hitchin

Archers Court resident John Harling in his living room points to the planned new building of Hitchin Boys' School which would be a few metres from the green fence. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

Elderly residents living in a Hitchin care home say they are “deeply distressed” about the impact a school’s expansion plans may have.

Pensioners at Archers Court retirement apartments have raised concerns about Hitchin Boys’ School proposal to build an auditorium next to their homes.

The school in Grammar School Walk has submitted a planning application to North Herts District Council to construct a teaching block – including 10 classrooms, six practice rooms and a multi-use auditorium.

The residents fear the building works will create noise and disruption, and once the site is finished many folk are concerned it will prevent natural light from getting through.

John Harling, a sprightly 87-year-old at Archers Court, told the Comet: “No-one is complaining about the school expanding. We appreciate the need for children to have the best facilities they can have. We don’t have any problem with the pupils or their hard working teachers.

“We are just disgusted with the way it’s been thrust upon us, and every single one of us and all our families object in the strongest possible terms to the plans as they stand at the moment.

“It has made people who have worked hard all their lives deeply distressed. We just want to live in peace and quiet.

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“It’s not nimbyism. How would you feel if someone was built a two story block right outside your bedroom window without much consultation?

“There’s a lot of space in the school grounds, why does the auditorium – which could be used from 8am to 10pm – have to built right on top of us when there are options elsewhere?”

HBS head Martin Brown has visited Archers Court to present the school’s plan, but some residents were critical of his attitude. One said: “He rode roughshod over our views and fears. There is total solidarity on this from everyone.

“We are made of stern stuff and will fight this tooth and nail. Many of us will be at the public meeting to make our views known.”

Mr Brown said: “We’ve met with residents and management and listened to their concerns. We will aim to minimise the impact of any future development. “However, this expansion is vital to meet the needs of the young people and families of Hitchin.”

Councillor Simon Harwood has ‘called in’ the planning application on the basis of the scale of the proposed development and in the wider public interest.

Another resident added: “Mr Brown was lecturing us when a large noise started. He demanded rather curtly the noise should be stopped – only to be informed it came from the measuring equipment his surveyors were employing outside.

“If he didn’t like a bit of noise for a few seconds why should we put up with months of building work right next to us?

“The school simply isn’t being a good neighbour with these distressing plans.”

The application will be discussed at North Herts District Council’s planning control committee on July 20.

Although the formal consultation period ends on Thursday 1 June, the public can still send comments on the plans in writing until July 20.

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