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Parents protest group blasts decision to narrow down future school sites
A DECISION to eliminate possible locations for a new secondary school in Three Rivers has been blasted by a parents' protest group.
A public consultation on five potential sites ended in January, with two in Mill End / Maple Cross receiving overwhelming support compared with three in Croxley Green.
As reported in the Gazette, Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) earmarked Â£82.5million to increase school places where pupil numbers have risen, to plug a projected deficit of 259 places by 2016.
At a Three Rivers District Council (TRDC) executive committee meeting on Monday (28), councillors declared Froghall Farm and adjoining land in Mill End / Maple Cross as their preferred option, with land north-east of Baldwins Lane, Croxley Green as a contingency site.
The second site in Mill End / Maple Cross, on land east of the A405 / north of the A412, will not be supported, nor will land north of Little Green School in Croxley Green, amid fears about the impact on Green Belt land.
The fifth site, on land west and north of Little Green Lane, Croxley Green, has also been excluded from further investigations.
But Mark Sutton, chairman of the WD3 Schools Action Group, which has led an ongoing campaign for a new secondary school, described the decision as 'short-sighted'.
The father-of-two said: "Public opinion has stated a strong, equal preference for either of the two Mill End / Maple Cross sites and HCC has stated that the second site offers an optimal education and highways solution.
"In its rush to narrow down future school site options early, TRDC is ignoring public and expert opinion.
"Further investigations may demonstrate neither of the recommendations are suitable - this means we will have to start again, further delaying a new school.
"We have been told by HCC that the best decision would be to keep all options open.
"TRDC is not explaining the rationale behind these decisions - there needs to be better communication and more transparency."
In response, leader of TRDC, Councillor Ann Shaw said: "The county has told us they wanted two options and there must be a Croxley Green site.
"Many councilors have spent years campaigning for a new school in this area and we have discussed the potential sites in great detail.
"But we cannot abandon our important planning responsibilities and will continue fighting to protect the Green Belt."
A HCC spokesperson said it was too early to comment on the stance adopted by TRDC.
But he also added: "We will now test the district council's preferred options against the statutory and policy matrix, to see whether we can achieve an acceptable solution.
"When we have completed that process, we will make appropriate representations to the local planning authority.
"We do have the ability to place this council's case before the independent inspection if we are unable to reach a satisfactory position. That would be a binding descision on all parties, subject, in certain cases, to call in by the Secretary of State.
"Our commitment to the provision of additional, much needed, quality secondary places in the area remains undiminished."
What do you think? Email Gazette reporter Siba Matti at email@example.com or post a comment below.
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