Watford Town Community Free School plans for Lanchester building at West Herts College recommended for approval despite parking concerns

Watford Observer: The Lanchester building has been vacant since the new college took over the Hempstead Road site in 2009. The Lanchester building has been vacant since the new college took over the Hempstead Road site in 2009.

Plans to use turn an unused West Herts College building into a new primary school have been recommended for approval despite serious concerns being raised by police and traffic officials.

Planning officers have urged councillors should approve the scheme to turn the Lanchester building on the Hempstead Road site into the Watford Town Community Free School due to the "unprecedented demand" for school places.

The school places of 120 pupils hinges on the application, which will determine whether the new free school will be able to open in September.

The school was slated to take 60 new pupils, but will take an extra 60 from another new school being built in Ascot Road, which will not be ready in time for September.

However serious concerns have been raised about the lack of parking the scheme will provide and plans to reopen a path from the campus to the Cassiobury estate as the main entrance.

The proposals are also facing strong opposition from residents on the estate who say using Cassiobury Drive as the main drop-off point will create a dangerous situation on the cul-de-sac.

Watford Borough Council’s development control committee is due to vote on the plans this evening.

In a report to the committee, planning officials said the Lanchester building was constructed between Planning history 1938 and 1953 but had been vacant since the new college took over the Hempstead Road site in 2009.

It had since been earmarked to become a two form of entry primary school, eventually housing 420 pupils as part of a scheme to avert a looming primary school places shortage in the area.

As the building had already been used as a college building there is no planning issue with using it for another educational purpose.

However, the school has had to apply for planning permission to make extensions and alteration need for it to be a primary school.

The building is also locally listed and part of Civic Core Conservation Area, which includes the Grade II listed Little Cassiobury building that was part of the original Georgian estate.

Watford Observer:

The Grade II listed Little Cassiobury building

The report said that the school will not have a drop-off point in Hempstead Road and its main entrance will be via a currently disused footpath onto Cassiobury Drive, which will be reopened.

Officers proposed adding ‘no loading’ restrictions on the existing double yellow lines and ‘zig-zag’ school markings to the Cassiobury Drive as part of the scheme.

It said the West Herts Community Free Schools Trust, which is opening the school, will promote walking and cycling to ease congestion.

Hertfordshire County Council officers raised a number of concerns about the proposals including that the school was providing only nine parking spaces for its eventual 420 students and 45 staff members.

However the department said it did not want to its concerns to "restrict consent" for the plan and asked the school to submit a "Green Travel Plan" to ease the congestion it would cause.

Mike Sibley, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Crime Prevention Design Advisor, also commented on the traffic issues saying: "There must also be some way of parents dropping children off to school and leaving the site."

Regarding plans to reopen the footpath to Cassiobury Drive, Mr Sibley added: "The college wanted the footpath opened up but accepted our arguments regarding permeability into the car park and the increased criminality risk to the properties backing on to the college grounds.

"I would certainly oppose any application to open this pathway."

Education officials from the county council also wrote to the committee saying the new school would provided new places in an part of the town that badly needed them.

They also provided a table that showed if no new primary places were found, there would be a shortage of 156 in Watford by September 2016.

Watford planners told councillors to consider the pressing need for more primary school places when balancing traffic issues and harm to the conservation area.

The report concluded: "Nevertheless, having regard to the unprecedented demand for primary school places in Watford, it is considered that the harm to these heritage assets is outweighed by the benefit of providing a new primary school on the site."

Today the education trust released a statement saying: "West Herts Community Free School Trust’s application to open the Watford Town and Ascot Road Community Free Schools was approved by the Secretary of State in June 2013. 

"Ascot Road Community Free School has always been based on an opening in September 2014, whether it be in a temporary or permanent location.  The project is therefore running on time and the school will open in September 2014.  The new building will be ready for occupation in Spring 2015."

Comments (8)

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12:46pm Thu 30 Jan 14

jasonwatford says...

Walk to school !!!!
Walk to school !!!! jasonwatford

12:59pm Thu 30 Jan 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

The council needs to sort this out before approving the school.

You can't force people to walk and cycle, life doesn't work that way and everybody but theLibDem councillors knows that.

Parents will do as they please and the problem will not be solved, causing aggravation to the residents of Cassiobury.
The council needs to sort this out before approving the school. You can't force people to walk and cycle, life doesn't work that way and everybody but theLibDem councillors knows that. Parents will do as they please and the problem will not be solved, causing aggravation to the residents of Cassiobury. Phil Cox (UKIP)

4:09pm Thu 30 Jan 14

Felinefrenzi says...

The council is desperate for primary school places and are happy to shoehorn our children into a building 'not fit for educational purposes' as soon as a Free School shows up, a place with no parking, no drop off area, no outdoor playing areas and in an heavily congested part of town, frequently at grid lock. The college was built with no student parking, look at the impact that caused, do these planners not learn anything??
If they think that 100% of parents are able to walk their children to school then they are living in cloud cuckoo land.
To make matters worse, the Free School are squeezing in a private Squirrels nursery to the building, that has been kept quiet from the traffic 'consultants'! with no drop off area for busy parents to delivery their very young children.
Lets just create more congestion and stuff those living nearby who will have to battle thought the gridlock.
Little Furze Primary School, is still laying empty, since the council closed it.... primary school anyone??
The council is desperate for primary school places and are happy to shoehorn our children into a building 'not fit for educational purposes' as soon as a Free School shows up, a place with no parking, no drop off area, no outdoor playing areas and in an heavily congested part of town, frequently at grid lock. The college was built with no student parking, look at the impact that caused, do these planners not learn anything?? If they think that 100% of parents are able to walk their children to school then they are living in cloud cuckoo land. To make matters worse, the Free School are squeezing in a private Squirrels nursery to the building, that has been kept quiet from the traffic 'consultants'! with no drop off area for busy parents to delivery their very young children. Lets just create more congestion and stuff those living nearby who will have to battle thought the gridlock. Little Furze Primary School, is still laying empty, since the council closed it.... primary school anyone?? Felinefrenzi

4:35pm Thu 30 Jan 14

Cuetip says...

If it is car free school why are demanding 35 car parking spaces from the already well used near by car park on the round about plus the 9 on site and where will the regulars go?

West Herts College is supposed to have a green travel plan with SAFE cycling routes for students. Has any student or staff member heard of it or where is the evidence that it is monitored on a yearly basis?

Will the children in the nursery be asked to cycle or is there a proficency / age / height test before one risks venturing on the Hempstead Rd in order to use the 60 bike racks which is more than the whole West Herts College?

Check the Hempstead Rd congestion now, the lights of which is controlled by the M25 congestion.
If it is car free school why are demanding 35 car parking spaces from the already well used near by car park on the round about plus the 9 on site and where will the regulars go? West Herts College is supposed to have a green travel plan with SAFE cycling routes for students. Has any student or staff member heard of it or where is the evidence that it is monitored on a yearly basis? Will the children in the nursery be asked to cycle or is there a proficency / age / height test before one risks venturing on the Hempstead Rd in order to use the 60 bike racks which is more than the whole West Herts College? Check the Hempstead Rd congestion now, the lights of which is controlled by the M25 congestion. Cuetip

6:24pm Thu 30 Jan 14

TRT says...

Can someone correct all the errors in this article please, so I don't have to feel like my eyeballs are being punched in order to understand what people are saying?
Can someone correct all the errors in this article please, so I don't have to feel like my eyeballs are being punched in order to understand what people are saying? TRT

8:35pm Thu 30 Jan 14

Nascot says...

Any wonder why there will be a chronic shortage of school places?
Answer - over development.
Any wonder why there will be a chronic shortage of school places? Answer - over development. Nascot

10:20pm Thu 30 Jan 14

Cuetip says...

TRT wrote:
Can someone correct all the errors in this article please, so I don't have to feel like my eyeballs are being punched in order to understand what people are saying?
It's being promoted as a car free school yet it is demanding 44 car spaces and sending parents on extended journeys for the drop off points.
[quote][p][bold]TRT[/bold] wrote: Can someone correct all the errors in this article please, so I don't have to feel like my eyeballs are being punched in order to understand what people are saying?[/p][/quote]It's being promoted as a car free school yet it is demanding 44 car spaces and sending parents on extended journeys for the drop off points. Cuetip

11:26pm Thu 30 Jan 14

TRT says...

"The school places of 120 pupils hinges on the..."
"In a report to the committee, planning officials said the Lanchester building was constructed between Planning history 1938 and 1953..."
"... become a two form of entry primary school... to avert a looming primary school places shortage in the area."
"...extensions and alteration need for it to be a primary school."
"...and part of Civic Core Conservation Area..."
"...school markings to the Cassiobury Drive as part of the scheme..."
"...the new school would provided new places in an part of the town ..."
"...Ascot Road Community Free School has always been based on an opening in September 2014..."

It's like the article has been computer translated into Japanese and then back again.
"The school places of 120 pupils hinges on the..." "In a report to the committee, planning officials said the Lanchester building was constructed between Planning history 1938 and 1953..." "... become a two form of entry primary school... to avert a looming primary school places shortage in the area." "...extensions and alteration need for it to be a primary school." "...and part of Civic Core Conservation Area..." "...school markings to the Cassiobury Drive as part of the scheme..." "...the new school would provided new places in an part of the town ..." "...Ascot Road Community Free School has always been based on an opening in September 2014..." It's like the article has been computer translated into Japanese and then back again. TRT

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