Neighbours fume over Berkhamsted Prep School blueprint

What the new facilities at Berkhamsted Prep School could look like.
What the new facilities at Berkhamsted Prep School could look like.

An independent school has come under fire after submitting plans for a larger netball court, three new Eton Fives courts, a drop-off facility and a huge amphitheatre.

Berkhamsted Prep School says the amphitheatre would be used as an ‘outdoor classroom’ – but its plans were criticised at a meeting of Berkhamsted Town Council’s planning committee on Monday.

Councillors said the scheme should be refused planning permission after neighbour John Higgins said any other decision would be a ‘tragedy’.

He said the Doctors Commons Road school had promised to its improve parking and traffic facilities after winning permission to expand from 120 to 380 pupils in 1998.

But he said: “At every step the school has gone back on what it said in its original planning application.

“It has blatantly grabbed spaces and encroached onto the roads with staff parking nearby and with the increase in cars blocking garages and so on.”

The Doctors Commons Road neighbours of Berkhamsted Prep School have long complained about mums and dads causing a nuisance for other road-users.

Councillor Peter Matthews: “It is not a drop-off, it is a park your car, have a chat with your mates, ‘Oh, I have just got to pick something up from the office,’ have another chat and ‘I might move off later.’

“More and more people are creating yet another single-track road that leads to another single-track road, Charles Street.”

Mr Higgins said school staff allow lorries to park on its keep clear lines while off-loading school equipment, and staff do nothing to improve congestion in Doctors Commons Road.

Berkhamsted School headteacher Mark Steed says parking problems will be eased when the prep school’s younger children are moved to its new Haresfoot campus in Chesham Road from September.

But councillors were concerned that schools visiting to compete in fives, and any drama productions in the amphitheatre, could cause new parking problems.

The school already has six Eton Fives courts on its Castle Street campus for older students.

The prep school competed in its first Eton Fives fixture this academic year. The game – rarely played outside public schools – is a outdoor handball game, like squash but without the rackets.

Councillor Penella Warren said the new facilities could become a hang-out for people who are up to no good outside of school hours.

Meeting chairman Laurence Handy said: “We object, but we object because there’s no sufficient evidence to answer most of the concerns we have got.”