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Now that the Department For Education have approved the new school, what are the next steps?
The Department For Education has confirmed to the Harpenden Secondary School Trust (HSST) that their proposal can progress to the pre-opening phase. This means that work on next steps can now take place.
Has Site F been confirmed by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) as the preferred site for which a planning application will be made?
The Department For Education has made the approval conditional on the county council agreeing to fund the necessary site acquisition as well as leading on the negotiations for acquiring the site.
On 23 September 2013 the County Council Cabinet provided delegated approval to senior officers for the acquisition of site F for the purposes of a new 8 f.e. secondary school in Harpenden. At its meeting of 13 February 2015, the County Council’s Enterprise, Education and Skill’s Cabinet Panel considered a report which provided Members with the outcome of further work undertaken by Vincent & Gorbing. The report, in consideration of all the supporting evidence, identified site F as the preferred site.
The EFA has considered the work undertaken by the county council. They will undertake their own due diligence tests before employing a technical team.
Who will be making the planning application?
If HCC are able to acquire the site through negotiation it is likely that the EFA will submit a town planning application.
What is the current status of the planning application? Has a professional team been appointed yet to work up the planning application? If not, when will this happen?
The EFSA appointed a technical team to work on the town planning application in collaboration with HCC and the Trust. It was submitted in September 2017 and passed unanimously. Subsequently the decision was not ‘called in’ for review by the Secretary of State for Environment but a judicial review has been requested by Right School Right Place. This will be heard at the high court on 10th/11th July 2018.
Has an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening opinion been requested? If this is required, what is the impact on the timetable?
No, an EIA screening has not been requested. An assessment of whether an EIA is required is to be undertaken.
What is the timetable for submitting a planning application and the forecast timetable for the progression and determination of that application?
Planning has been passed. It is the subject of a judicial review in July 2018.
What are the contingencies for providing additional school places if a school cannot be constructed on site F in time?
The decision to defer opening the school until September 2018 left many families with a school place that they did not relish, often involving extensive, costly and unmanageable travel distances. The three Harpenden schools agreed to increase their intake for September 2018 on a absolute one off basis in order to alleviate this issue as best they could. This is not an option for subsequent years. Therefore all parties are committed to working towards the quickest possible route to providing a new school opening in September 2019
Why couldn’t the school open temporarily from other premises earlier?
As the new school will be a Free School it will therefore be a matter for the ESFA and the Trust whether they are willing to open elsewhere before a permanent site solution can be delivered. The ESFA policy, which has been agreed with Treasury, is to not open a school in temporary accommodation until a permanent site has been secured. This ensures parents have assurance on the establishment of the school and avoids schools being accommodated in expensive temporary accommodation indefinitely. The Trust has indicated that it does not want to open the school on an alternative temporary site while the permanent school is being built.