Just when it looked like the Ashlyns School sports hall could be built after a long struggle against planning bureaucrats – the plan has been thwarted.
This website recently reported that Berkhamsted Town Council’s planning committee – after rejecting the proposal twice previously – has finally backed it, subject to support from conservation officers
But they too have now objected to the £2.3m development, which would be built out of concrete in the Green Belt grounds of the Grade II-listed school.
In an official response to the planning application, a Dacorum Borough Council conservation and design officer criticises the design and ‘longevity of materials’ proposed for the building.
She says: “I do appreciate the limitations of funding placed on the school.”
But she puts this down to Herts County Council failing to understand the heritage and green belt constraints of the site, and to accordingly set a realistic budget.
She says: “This could easily have been overcome by HCC seeking pre-application advice from the local planning authority; however this was not carried out.”
She said the county council’s ‘failure’ to do this should not override the borough council’s requirement for development to favour good design and the conservation of heritage assets.
The school has a historic place in Berkhamsted, as it is on the former site of the Thomas Coram Foundling Hospital.
Civic and amenity society the Berkhamsted Citizens Association (BCA) also opposes the planning application, which will be considered Dacorum Borough Council’s development control committee next Thursday.
The BCA official objection says: “Concrete, however imaginatively presented, is still concrete; and this is a large amount of it.”
But there are 51 letters of support for the development. Sport England says the school’s current 1930s gym – the size of one badminton court – cannot adequately meet the needs of its 1,200 pupils. Ashlyns also has no permanent changing facilities.
One letter to the borough council said: “Children have to change in a portacabin. This is not the legacy of the Olympics.”