Hitchin pupils speak after school planning passed – as retirement residents criticise councillors ‘for not having grasped situation’
- Credit: Archant
Pupils from Hitchin Boys’ School have told the Comet that its expansion will “enhance the area”, after the plans were given the green light.
The project to build a multi-use auditorium, 10 classrooms and six practice rooms has been passed by North Herts District Council’s planning committee, after amendments to the design were made in the pre-application stage.
The scheme has attracted criticism from elderly residents at the nearby Archers Court care home and Elmside Walk, who fear the building works will create noise and disruption, and – once complete – will prevent natural light from getting through, as well as block views.
Pupils Hersh Vilas and Bertie Betts wrote to the Comet to explain why they were in favour of the expansion.
“We feel it is our duty, as students of the school, to voice our own opinions on the matter,” they said.
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“From the beginning of nursery to the end of university, education is the soul of any society, passed on from one generation to the next.
“The truth remains while you can buy a property or living space, you cannot buy a set view. Soundproofing and opaque windows will avoid any impact on our neighbours.
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“A view is ever-changing, subject to adaptation and development depending on the needs of those whose land accounts for that view.
“Our plans to expand prompted by huge rise in demand require new buildings. Archer’s Court care home backs on to our fields and will be 15m away from the proposed building site, which has prompted various concerns and complaints.
“The school’s governing body has undertaken a long planning process and the pavilion site is the only option that fulfils the needs of the school, while abiding by the requirements of both the local authority and various other interested parties such as Sport England.
“By having a considerate design and using modern methods of construction we believe the proposed development will enhance the area.”
However residents at the Archers Court have hit back by saying they were ‘deeply unhappy’ with the result and feel their voice was simply ignored by a number of councillors.
Roger Russell, 85, told the Comet: “My response to the pupils is that we’re not trying to buy a view.
“Of course we know that. It’s not about the view.
“Many residents both at Archers Court and Elmside Walk are disappointed. We are worried about the noise and the sheer bulk of the building,
“Our beef is not with the school, our beef is with a large number of councillors who simply didn’t try to see our point of view.
“They didn’t listen to us. They had little grasp of our situation.
“The school is big enough not to build their new facilities right in front of us.
“We are devastated. We feel abandoned. Apart from councillors Simon Harwood, Paul Clark and Nicola Harris – who agreed it shouldn’t be built – no-one else has paid any interest in us.”
Mr Russell’s daughter Lyndsay Newbury, who was visiting her father at Archers Court, added: “I feel very upset for the residents of both Archers Court and Elmside Walk. They feel like they’ve got no voice.
“It’s been stacked against the elderly, vulnerable people from the start.”
Councillor David Barnard, chairman of council’s planning committee, said: “Planning permission has been granted for a new two-storey teaching and music block at Hitchin Boys’ School. The council proactively engaged with the applicant at the early pre-application stage, resulting in improvements to the scheme. This included lowering the building into the ground and the use of opaque glass which will lessen the effect on neighbouring residents.
“With increased pressures on school places and the need for increased school provision, the extension and improvement to this facility will be valuable to families in the local community.”