Consultation results on plans to expand size of Sawbridgeworth primary school reported to councillors

The results of a consultation on plans to expand the size of a primary school in Sawbridgeworth have been reported to councillors.

More than 500 new homes are said to be planned for Sawbridgeworth, as part of East Herts District Council’s ‘Local Plan’, with work on two sites already underway.

Education officials say there are not enough local school places to take the expected number of additional children.

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In response, Hertfordshire County Council has drawn up plans to increase the size of Mandeville Primary School proposing an ‘intake’ of 60 pupils from 2023, instead of the existing 30.

And on Thursday, September 2, the results of the public consultation on the expansion plans were reported to a meeting of the county council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel.

At the meeting, councillors were told that just 30 people had responded to the consultation, which ran between June 8 and July 5.

Of those, 14 had agreed with the proposal, 11 had disagreed and five were recorded as ‘don’t know’.

The positive responses were reported to have recognised the need for the additional capacity.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the change pointed to concerns that include the impact of additional traffic on already ‘problematic’ roads, insufficient outdoor space and the impact on surrounding schools.

There was also a suggestion that a new school should be provided within the new housing developments and at least one respondent said they had specifically chosen Mandeville because it was a one form entry (1FE) school.

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A report from education officials addressed the concerns raised and councillors – who unanimously backed the proposals – were presented with a supportive response from the chair of the school’s governing body Barry Young.

“As a governing body we are excited by the proposed expansion and we continue to work closely with Hertfordshire County Council,” Mr Young said.

“By moving to an intake of 60 children in each year group we will be able to offer more children an opportunity to attend our school and to meet the high demand for primary school places that Sawbridgeworth faces each year.

“We will also be able to provide extra capacity to meet the increased demand for school places arising from the new housing within our local community.

“As a larger school, we will be able to offer even more exciting learning opportunities for all our pupils, as well as offering our community a venue for local clubs and events.”

According to the proposals, the number of places available to new pupils each year would increase from 30 to 60 making it a 2FE school rather than a 1FE and ultimately doubling the size of the school.

But capacity at the school would also be ‘reserved’ to accommodate a further 15 pupils in each new year group if required in the future.

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The cost of the expansion of the school’s premises, says the report to the cabinet panel, would be met through ‘Section 106’ agreements, which are legal agreements between local authorities and developers.

The recommendations of the cabinet panel will now be considered by a future meeting of the county council’s cabinet, which will determine whether statutory notices to enlarge the premises at the Sawbridgeworth primary school should be published.

If the cabinet agrees to publish the statutory notice there will be a further period of public consultation before a final decision is taken on the proposals.

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HertsLive – Hemel Hempstead