During extensive consultation with the community, residents have repeatedly raised concerns about school places in the village and told us that they wanted Education to be a key part of the Neighbourhood Plan. Unfortunately legislation has changed over the last 4 years since work on the Neighbourhood Plan began and therefore rules on school places have changed.
Sites identified for housing-led development in Redbourn will provide approximately 144 homes over the 15-year period of the plan (on average about 10 new homes per year). Therefore knowing how important the Education objective was to such a significant proportion of the village, members of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Party have been working closely with Herts County Council Forward Planning team (as the Education Authority), together with their own town planner to find out how this could be addressed.
Unfortunately rules outlined by the Education Authority state that in order to extend the existing Redbourn Infant and Junior Schools by one form entry (i.e. one class of 30 per year group) and/or deliver a new school then a need has to be demonstrated. In both cases 500 new homes would have to be built. Feedback from the community tells us that this level of development would be considered unacceptable by residents and in terms of available and sustainable sites in the parish, not deliverable.
There are however times when ‘bulge years’ occur where 30 children are without a place in a local school and temporary classrooms have been installed as happened with the current year 3 children. If in the future the number of school age children increases and permanent expansion is required, then a more rigorous process must be followed. If this were to be the case, both Redbourn Infant and Junior Schools would have to seek permission from Sport England to extend buildings onto the playing fields in order to expand to 3 form entry instead of 2. This would only be granted if detached playing fields could be acquired less than 400 metres away. In addition to this, Highways would have to assess the likely increase in traffic and give their permission. Given the problems with traffic and parking near both schools currently, it is likely permission would be refused. However again if alternative parking could be identified nearby and initiatives like ‘park and stride’ set up it could be possible.
The Neighbourhood Plan can only prepare planning policies which are supported by evidence and can be delivered and unfortunately there is no planning policy we can propose to ensure increased school places. Reluctantly therefore, we have had to remove Education from our vision statement and main planning objectives because it is not within the remit of the Neighbourhood Plan to deliver it. We can and will however, include Education in our non-policy section of the plan, and will encourage and support the Parish Council and community to work together to ensure school places for every Redbourn child.
Herts County Council have told us that their main aim is to ensure that Redbourn children have access to a local primary school and they will continue to monitor the situation and take any action needed as and when numbers increase. To read their latest report on Redbourn click here Herts County Council Education Needs Statement July 2016