Plans for new Stevenage secondary school raise concerns

The proposed site for the new Michaela Community School in Stevenage

The proposed site for the new Michaela Community School in Stevenage - Credit: Ares Landscape Architects LTD

The proposed development of a new secondary school in Stevenage addresses "the demand for school places arising from housing growth," but raises concerns about road safety, parking and the removal of woodland, a local authority report says.

A planning application for a new secondary school on the former Collenswood and Barnwell School site in Collenswood Road and Redwing Close was submitted to Stevenage Borough Council in April.

If approved, it will become a new branch of London's Michaela Community School, which has the reputation of being Britain's strictest school.

The on-site Stevenage Education Support Centre will also be upgraded with a new single-storey building, with provision for 36 students at Key Stages 3 and 4.

Collenswood School opened in 1962 and closed in 2006 and the site was then used as a campus by Barnwell School until 2014.

Outside the gates at Barnwell School in Stevenage

A new secondary school is planned for the former Barnwell Middle and Collenswood School site in Collenswood Road, Stevenage - Credit: Harry Hubbard

In a planning policy report prepared by the borough council, it says: "The proposed development would make good use of a brownfield site, provide greater state school choice and create jobs in education.

"It would deliver a significant proportion of the education capacity required to meet demand arising from housing growth, as well as open space and leisure facilities."

However, the report raises concerns about the proposed removal of woodland to create a 154-space car park for staff and visitors at the front of the school, saying "there is little reason" to provide so many spaces, and suggesting "it would be possible to avoid removing the woodland if the northeast corner of the proposed car park was removed".

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Increasing cycle parking spaces from the currently proposed 120, which would only accommodate one in 10 pupils, is also suggested.

The report highlights "an adverse impact" on road safety that the proposed development would have,  but says that "traffic modelling provided by the applicant demonstrates that the proposed development would contribute to an insignificant increase in traffic delay and queue length on the adjacent road network".

However, it says neighbours have pointed out that parents of Ashtree Primary School "currently compete with residents for parking" on Redwing Close, so "the applicant must ensure students and parents are prohibited from parking at this access point".

In conclusion, the report says: "The proposed development would reuse a vacant school site for the provision of a community school which would accommodate a significant portion of the demand for school places arising from housing growth.

"The applicant proposes high-quality sustainable building design, a robust biodiversity strategy, and a sports hall for community use.

"However, the applicant should strongly consider reducing parking provision to preserve woodland and disincentivise staff car use, and accordingly provide additional cycle parking to accommodate staff and students.

"Additionally, consideration should be given to means of prohibiting parent parking on Redwing Close and adjacent streets."

Hertfordshire police have said they support the application, but recommend the applicant consults with the constabulary about security of the site.

A spokesman said: "This site has previously been a hotspot for anti-social behaviour, due to the route through the school linking Collenswood Road and Redwing Close," and "the school regularly suffered from criminal damage in the form of broken windows."

A spokesman for the Michaela School said: "The capital works for Michaela Stevenage are being organised and overseen by the Department for Education. The Department for Education has assembled a team of professional advisors in whom we have complete confidence. All matters relating to environmental concerns will be considered fully during the process."

If approved, the mixed free school with capacity for 1,260 pupils aged 11 to 19  will open with an intake of 180 Year 7 pupils - potentially in early 2024 - and will grow with the same intake each year.

To view the planning application and have your say, visit stevenage.gov.uk and search for 22/00369/FPM on the planning portal. A decision is expected in July.