‘It’s the children who will suffer the most’: Headteacher blasts politicians for delaying his sports hall plan


The headteacher of Berkhamsted’s Ashlyns School says he is ‘very disappointed’ that town councillors have again rejected plans for a new £2.3m sports hall for his students.

The development blueprint was drawn up to help the establishment cope with the extra 570 pupils it has been accepting in Years 7 and 8 since September.

Headteacher James Shapland said: “Fundamentally, this is a project to provide high-quality sporting facilities for the students at Ashlyns School and the local community.

“We should be pulling out all the stops to achieve this – they deserve it.”

The influx of new pupils came when Ashlyns switched from being an upper to a secondary school as part of the area’s three- to two-tier education shake-up. The sports hall was due to be built by September.

But on Monday, Berkhamsted Town Council’s planning committee objected to the plans.

Councillors said the sports hall would be out of sync with the Ashlyns environment, which has been a set for hit programmes Call The Midwife and EastEnders.

The politicians said the design relied too much on the use of concrete – the same reason they objected to the plans when they were originally put forward in January.

Mr Shapland said this was ‘particularly frustrating’ given the school’s extensive discussions with planning and conservation officers from Dacorum Borough Council.

He said: “We are proud of our buildings and their heritage and recognise the importance of good design – one that is not a pastiche or poor imitation of our listed buildings.

“The biggest disappointment is that this has set back the completion date for the sports hall significantly – the main people to be disadvantaged will be our students.”

Ashlyns was informed by schools authority Herts County Council of the budget that would be made available to build the sports hall in November. Discussions with planning officers had begun in summer 2013.

Mr Shapland told Monday’s committee meeting that under new plans the sports hall would be smaller with more use of bricks and less concrete.

He and the school’s governors say that using concrete will allow them to spend more money on the hall’s internal facilities, including a dance studio and fitness room.

In a letter to parents, they say that in order to satisfy the more expensive construction requirements suggested by councillors: “We could end up with an empty shell.

“Personal views on exterior finishes are impacting on our ability to provide the very best facilities for our young people.”

The letter from Mr Shapland and chair of governors Jacqueline Webby even says that the town council initially supported the school’s plans.

They say to parents: “We are sure that you, like us, are both disappointed and frustrated by this turn of events.

“We believe our students deserve the very best, modern sporting provision and we will continue to fight for that.”

Dacorum Borough Council’s development control committee will now decide whether planning permission for the current sports hall blueprint should be granted. The group’s next meeting is on Thursday, May 8.