Knebworth Neighbourhood Plan 2019 - 2031
The Schools working group was established following a clear indication from the initial survey that schools and education were of great importance to the residents.
Old Knebworth School was built in 1897 and enlarged in 1902 as the number of school children rose to 150. The current Knebworth primary school was built by HCC in 1912 to accommodate the ever-increasing population. Four extra classrooms were added in 1924 and it has been extended again since then. The new school originally accommodated all the elementary school children from the newer part of the village. Both schools taught children up to the age of 14, however, after serving the community for 93 years, Old Knebworth School was closed in November 1963 but continued as a private nursery school until the early 1990's.
From the comments received in the initial survey and at the KNP Open Days, it was evident that residents were extremely worried about future school provision and, in particular, the strain on the local primary school. Although considered to be a good school, concerns were raised about the challenges and capacity issues that would result from the large proposed housing developments. Comments included the view that history would be repeating itself, as with the developments in the 80s and 90s when local children had to travel to primary schools in other settlements due to lack of forward planning of capacity.
The following objectives relate to the policies on schools:
O. Ensure future school and pre-school provision meets local needs, is high quality, offers choice, and includes appropriate accommodation, adequate facilities and safe and convenient access routes
KBS1 Existing Primary School
Provision of new primary education facilities either through the construction of a new school or the expansion of the existing primary school should be designed to facilitate the joint use of spaces and equipment by the school and by the wider community. This will necessitate independent access to the school's facilities out of school hours.
Knebworth School has been identified as of local heritage value (now termed a Non-designated Heritage Asset) as it takes the form of a typical early 20th century school which represents an early element of the social and educational growth of Knebworth (Register of Buildings of Local Interest, 2008, p. 69) Figure 34 (right) picture credit for Knebworth School in 1912 (Madgin, 2011).
KBS2 NHDC Proposed New Primary School
The site for a new primary school identified on KB2 in the NHDCLP should be safeguarded as green space at least until 2031 or until the school is built. If a school is to be built on KB2 all the following criteria will apply:
- the building of a school on this site should be thoroughly justified including assurances that there is no better alternative;
- the school should be located to the east of the site, as far as possible from the A1(M);
- air quality on the site is measured and monitored to ensure pollutant levels meet current standards in relation to schools at the time planning permission is sought, immediately prior to construction and as an ongoing requirement during the operating life of the school.
The grounds of Knebworth School, the existing primary school, border the southern portion of the District Council's proposed development site KB4). The option of expanding the school as part of the development of KB4 should be investigated as an alternative to the provision of a new primary school at the western edge of the village on the District Council's proposed development site KB2. HCC's preference for a school on the west side of Knebworth is only in the absence of an alternative option being presented to them. Knebworth Parish Council will work with HCC to achieve the best outcome for the siting of additional primary school accommodation to meet the needs of children in the village.
Proposals for a pre-school either within or adjacent to the existing village school, or within or adjacent to a new primary school (co-located), to ensure that the facilities can be jointly used, will be supported.
Throughout the consultation exercises conducted during the preparation of the Neighbourhood Plan, comments were received about the lack of Pre-School provision for very young children with working parents. Pre-school provision should be provided in conjunction with increased primary school accommodation.
KBS4 KB4 School Site
The site for a new secondary school has been identified in the NHDCLP on the north side of Watton Road within the site allocation KB4. Proposals for development on this site should not be "inappropriate in the Green Belt," as defined in the NPPF, until such time as the land is needed for a school.
Residents voiced their opposition to a proposal to build a secondary school in the village when it was last mooted in 2009. Feelings were voiced at a public meeting about the proposed school such as the comment that "Knebworth is a village and it's important for it to stay a village" (The Comet, 2009). In 2011 plans for the secondary school were turned down by the government after 2000 residents signed a petition against it. The then Department of Education said that the plan could not proceed because of a lack of suitable sites (The Comet, 2011)
During the first round of hearings for the North Hertfordshire District Local Plan, Week 7, which took place in the last week of February 2018, HCC submitted a statement in relation to Matter 10/11 - Stevenage (Great Ashby, Graveley (including North of Stevenage) and Knebworth. The document number is 16452 Matters 11 Knebworth HCC (education) and can be found here: https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/planning-policy/local-plan/local-plan-examination/hearing-sessions/hearing-timetable-and-statement-5
The opening comments of their hearing statement said, "Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) considers that the proposed allocation of four hectares of land for education purposes at KB4 in Knebworth does not meet the identified demand for secondary school places in and around Stevenage." Knebworth is included within the Stevenage secondary education planning area and included within the pupil forecasts for the area. There is no need for a secondary school in Knebworth." (HCC, 2018, p. 1)
HCC went on to say that the proposed site allocation at KB4 does not support the County Council's model of secondary schools. Secondary schools of at least 6FE are large enough to be financial sustainability and viable in the long-term. 4FE secondary schools face significant challenges in the current financial climate and are at a much greater risk of being unsustainable. HCC was very clear, that it does not support the establishment of new 4FE secondary provision on KB4 (HCC, 2018, p. 4).
Of even greater significance for this Neighbourhood Plan, HCC went on to say that as secondary education provision is not required in Knebworth an adjustment should be made to the proposed Green Belt boundaries to site KB4 to ensure that the allocation is reduced to exclude the land allocated for this requirement (HCC, 2018, p. 6).
In 2018 parents at the primary and pre-school were asked whether they would like to see a secondary school sited in Knebworth on KB4. Of the 36 replies received 58% said yes and 42% said no. This is reflective of the mixed feelings of residents in the village and the balance between the pros and cons of siting a secondary school here. At a Youth Forum meeting in October 2018 the young people present felt that the benefits might be outweighed by increased traffic congestion and that they wanted to choose their secondary school rather than being forced to go to a secondary school in Knebworth just because it was the nearest.