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New West Watford primary school moves a step closer
The development of a new school at the old Royal Mail depot in West Watford, which could help avert a looming admissions crisis in the town, has moved a step closer.
County politicians pledged their support for a new primary school on Ascot Road on Friday.
Supermarket Morrisons is already in advanced negotiations to build a new store on the site.
However, in its initial plans for the depot, the supermarket chain has allowed space for a new school.
Labour County Councilor Nigel Bell welcomed the decision, saying: “I am pleased that, after pushing for years to get a new primary school in West Watford, that appears to be happening.
“I hope that the borough council will work with the county council to get this done.”
In a report to Hertfordshire County Council’s education and skills cabinet panel, officers said the site had been identified as suitable for a new school, which could take in around 60 pupils a year.
Current admission forecasts predict that by September 2015, close to 200 children in Watford could be without a primary place unless new schools are built.
The largest crush for places is in central Watford, but education officers said there was also a shortage developing in the north and west areas of the town.
Due to the increase in demand six schools – Cassiobury Infants, Cassiobury Junior, Beechfield, Cherry Tree Primary, Holywell Primary and St Anthony’s Primary – have all agreed to expand permanently.
But officers said expanding existing schools will not cover the shortfall and the council is looking at a number of locations in Watford that could be suitable for new primary schools.
The Ascot Road depot has been indentified as one such site – as long as a detached playing field can be found.
Negotiations are underway which would allow the King George V field in West Watford to be used by the new school.
As the proposal stands, any new school would fit in alongside the proposed new Morrisons store on the Watford Borough Council-owned land. But if those proposals fail, Hertfordshire
County Council would lease or purchase the space for the school itself.
Education officers said the need for new school places in Watford is so pressing that the county council could forcibly purchase space at the Ascot Road site if necessary.
The new school is expected to be either an academy or a free school and the council has already commissioned the Hertfordshire Free School Trust Company to submit a bid.
Applications for parties interested in setting up the new Ascot Road school will have to be submitted by December.
The report said the cost of building the new school on the site would be in the region of £6 million and it would cost around £1.1 million to acquire the land.
A final decision will be made by the council’s ruling Conservative cabinet on Monday.