Potten End Parish Council rejects village school enlargement plan due to traffic fears

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Politicians have shot down a planning application to enlarge the first school in their village so it can become a primary from next September.

The proposals are part of a scheme to switch the education system for Berkhamsted and the surrounding areas from three-tier to two-tier.

Under the plans there would be a new single-storey, three-classroom building, four extra staff parking spaces and pedestrian entrance to the on-site pre-school at Potten End School.

A temporary classroom now at the school would be removed and the other two would house 30 pupils each, bringing its total pupil numbers to 210.

But the County Hall application has been shot down by Potten End Parish Council, which says not enough has been done to help the village cope with the new influx of cars.

Councillor Mike Wallis said at a meeting last night that the changes would lead to an extra 50 cars going to and from the school each day.

The figure – a 40 per cent increase on the current figure – is based on an estimated 85 per cent of new pupils being driven to school.

An estimated seven per cent – or about four – of them would car share, and three new teachers will drive to and from the school.

Just 20 per cent of the school’s pupils live in the village, said Mr Wallis. It has 25 staff who travel there by car, and live outside out of the recommended 1.2km walking threshold.

New parking spaces proposed for the school would bring the total number to just 18.

Mr Wallis said the parish council supports the changes at the school, but more should be done to lessen the impact of extra traffic.

He said: “Development in the manner proposed without adequate steps to mitigate the impact will be harmful to the village.

“More practical steps need to be taken, but we have been ignored by Herts County Council.”

The education authority suggests that to mitigate the problems, parents be encouraged to walk or park further away from the school - including in Potten End Village Hall car park.

But Potten End councillors said there are just two infrequent bus services to the village school, and most of its pupils live too far away to walk there.

The village hall is a private venue, so parking there may not always be possible, they added.

Other County Hall proposals to mitigate the impact of extra traffic include running an early morning breakfast club – which Potten End councillors said was unpopular in the past.

The councillors instead suggested a uniform 40mph speed limit between Berkhamsted’s Gravel Path and Potten End and more parking bays by the village green.

Councillors also said there should be more double yellow lines and parking restrictions in the village and new pavement areas.

But Mr Wallis said last night: “All of our suggestions so far have been ignored by Herts County Council.”

The council has been told its suggestions would have to be funded through county councillor David Lloyd’s routine £90,000 annual budget for spending on the area’s transport.

But parish councillors said Mr Lloyd, who is also police and crime commissioner for Herts, has failed to communicate with them about this and other village matters.

Mr Lloyd wrote in the Gazette on Wednesday about the importance of police officers and PCSOs working ‘in the heart of the community’ to understand local people’s concerns.

Parish council chairman Simon Barnard said: “He obviously does not choose to follow his own code.”

Dacorum Borough Council will now decide whether planning permission for the school enlargement plan should be granted.