Campaigners hit back in village school debate

CAMPAIGNERS for a new secondary school in Times Territory have insisted they don’t want to build on village Green Belt land, if plans were to be approved.

The We Need A School campaign (WNAS) – which is proposing to build a secondary school for children living in Knebworth, Woolmer Green, Datchworth, Oaklands and Welwyn – have responded to concerns raised by villagers at a public meeting held in Woolmer Green last month.

Residents at the meeting had questioned the proposals amid speculation that the school, should it be approved, would be built on Green Belt land in their village.

Now the WNAS has moved to quell fears about the project – and hit back over claims it has misinformed the public over its intentions.

WNAS head of communications, Andrew Payne, contacted the WHT to clear up the confusion.

“There is no firm plan at the moment, but an idea, to build an excellent secondary school to serve children of nearby villages and relieve pressure on the oversubscribed town systems of WGC and Stevenage,” Mr Payne said.

“Please reserve judgement until a firm plan for a site has been written and published. Only then will people have all the facts available to form their opinions.”

Most Read

The WNAS campaign was recently given approval by education secretary Michael Gove to submit a business plan to the Government under the Free Schools programme.

But Mr Payne said: “The Department for Education told us [last] week that it could be a long time before we are given a firm site proposal and this will obviously only happen if a site is found to be suitable.

“Green Belt is rightly very difficult to build on, which is why we’ve asked the agency concerned to thoroughly investigate other options, such as splitting the site for the school if two smaller brownfield sites can be found.

“We don’t want a school that damages any village, raises traffic issues or spoils views. We’re confident we can create such a school.”

Meanwhile, a mother living in America has explained why she put her name on the WNAS petition.

Former Knebworth resident Kari Nollendorfs has come forward as the American that appears on the WNAS’ 1,200-signature petition.

As previously reported by the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Woolmer Green residents questioned the validity of the petition at a meeting three weeks ago, citing the inclusion of parents from the US on the list.

Kari, who now lives in Minnesota, said she had been put off a return to the area by the lack of a secondary school.

“I truly care about this issue and wish all the wonderful people of the Knebworth/Woolmer Green/Datchworth community a happy solution to a huge problem,” she said.