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Orchard Primary School in north Watford to be extended onto Callowland Allotments
Politicians have agreed plans for a north Watford primary school to be expanded onto fallow allotment land.
Watford Borough Council has approved the use of a disused area of Callowland Allotments to be used to expand Orchard Primary School.
Even though the land has not been used as an allotment for more than 25 years, an application will need to be made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, before building work can begin.
The move comes as Hertfordshire education bosses struggle to create extra primary school places to stave off a looming admissions shortage.
Hertfordshire County Council plans to expand the primary school, in Gammons Lane, to take in 60 new pupils a year. It currently takes in 30 new pupils a year.
The council are set to consult parents on the plans next month. If the current expansion plans go ahead they will come into effect from September next year.
On Monday, Watford Borough Council’s ruling Liberal Democrat cabinet agreed to give the land over for the expansion and make the application to the government so the land can be built on.
Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, said: "It has been disused for 25 years. The allotment-holders have been brilliant and really sensitive to the needs of the school.
"My stance is, if it means the wider community will benefit I think it is okay to use allotment land. But it has to be for a big cause like a school."
The decision comes as the council applies to government to build on the Farm Terrace Allotments as part of the Watford Health Campus project.
The controversial move has been strongly opposed by the plot-holders and also the opposition Labour group, arguing the project can be built without sacrificing the historic allotments.
Earlier this year the council said it needed to build houses and hospital buildings on the Farm Terrace site to make the project viable for the developers.
The health campus projects aims to see around 600 new homes and a new hospital built on the land behind Vicarage Road.
However this week the Labour group said they supported the decision to use the fallow Callowland allotment land to expand Orchard Primary School.
Councillor Nigel Bell, the leader of the Labour group, said: "We need to find extra schooling and need a proper expansion.
"We are in favour of it (the use of allotment land) in this case. Particularly as the Tory county council have left us needing to find extra primary school places."