Welwyn Garden City free school plans ditched

Srimath Agalawatte

Srimath Agalawatte - Credit: Archant

Plans for a new free school in Welwyn Garden City have been ditched after the county council said there was no need for it in the town.

Herts International Christian School (HICS) had been given pre-opening permission in October 2015 by the Government, and was set to open in Peartree this year.

However, the Department for Education (DfE) has since rejected the plans.

HICC trustee Srimath Agalawatte told the WHT: “We are naturally extremely disappointed.

“We put in years of work to try to establish the school in WGC and we think the community would benefit if it was.

“We have received messages back from parents saying they are really disappointed for it, and thanking the trust for all the work it has done.”

Free schools are set up by an organisation, funded by the Government, but not controlled by the local authority.

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Mr Agalawatte added: “We were just told there was no need for a school, we asked them why they would think that and they told us that the county council had revised its forecasts.”

A Hertfordshire County Council spokeswoman confirmed it had told the DfE there was no need for another school in WGC.

She added: “The DfE deal with applications. When it goes in it’s normal for them to grant first-stage planning permission.

“All that really means is they will start investigating what it really is, and as part of those investigations it’s normal for them to come to the local authority.”

Peartree councillor Malcolm Cowan welcomed the decision – citing concerns over the group’s lack of educational experience

“Now I trust the county council will push ahead to design and expand Peartree School to take in children from all the housing being built nearby,” he added.

County council cabinet member for education David Williams said: “We have invested over £200million in recent years expanding schools across the county to ensure there are enough school places in the right areas for every child that wants one.

“While we currently have no immediate plans to increase permanent primary school places in WGC, we will continue to work closely with Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council through its Local Plan process to ensure that there will be sufficient primary places in the town to meet the demand for school places arising from new housing in the medium to long term.”

He added: “The county council has identified that Peartree Primary School could be expanded, if required, to meet the potential need for primary provision arising from the new housing that is currently proposed in the centre of Welwyn Garden City.”