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New Watford Town Community Free School met with opposition from nearby residents
Efforts to get a new Watford primary school ready in time to accommodate 120 pupils in September are facing mounting opposition from people living nearby.
Hopes of opening the new Watford Town Community Free School in the Lanchester building on West Herts College’s Hempstead Road site hinge on a planning application due to be heard at the end of the month.
However, scores of people living on the Cassiobury estate near the school are objecting on the grounds of its "absurd" proposed drop-off point on a residential road, which they say will create a dangerous situation for children.
Current school plans will see an old access path from the campus to Cassiobury Drive re-opened. The path’s entrance is on a junction with Woodland Drive.
Andrew Shewan, a retired software engineer living in Cassiobury Drive, said: "The whole thing has become absurd. We have had the school saying they are going to promote walking to school, but they have not selected the pupils and do not know which parents will be walking and who will come by car.
"The original plans did not include the path to the junction. Most people do not understand how they can use this as a drop-off point. You don’t just drop a five-year-old off - you have to walk them into the school. People will also object to the amount of traffic it will create. It is already difficult to get around the estate in the mornings.
"It’s not right. You have to think of the safety of the kids and do what is right. I am not sure what that is, but this does not seem to be it."
The problems with the new school come against a backdrop of a looming shortage of primary school places, which has led to a series of new schools being planned and current ones expanded.
The Watford Town Community Free School is one of two schools the West Herts Community Free School Trust hopes to open in the next few years.
The Lanchester school had been due to take 60 pupils from September. However, that number has temporarily doubled after plans to build another new 60-pupil primary in Ascot Road, West Watford, hit problems, delaying its opening until next year.
The trust plans to accommodate the Ascot Road pupils at the Lanchester site while their new school is built for opening in September 2015.
This week, Susan Poole, project manager for the free schools trust, said whether the Lanchester school would be ready for September depended on the council passing its planning application to make improvements to the building.
She said: "It is anticipated it will be ready for 2014. There are a number of minor amendments which we can get on with if [the application] goes through."
Asked what would happen to the 120 pupils if the Lanchester building was not ready on time, Ms Poole added: "We have contingencies we are working on at the moment but we won’t be making them public until they are needed."
The council’s development control committee is due to vote on the application on Thursday, January 30.
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