‘You can have your ghastly concrete!’ Planning bureaucrats change their mind about school sports hall


Plans to build a £2.3m sports hall in the Grade II-listed grounds of Ashlyns School won the narrow backing of Berkhamsted’s planning bureaucrats at a meeting last night.

The politicians had previously objected twice to the proposals on the basis that the concrete used in the facility’s construction would not be in fitting with neighbouring buildings.

The school’s main property next-door has been used as a set in hit programmes Call The Midwife and EastEnders, and is surrounded by Green Belt land.

The sports hall will help Ashlyns cope with 570 extra students in Years 7 and 8 after it switched from being an upper to a secondary school in September.

It had been hoped that the development could be built by the start of the next academic year.

But after Berkhamsted Town Council’s planning committee objected to the plans twice, it was thought that the opening date may have to be set back.

School headteacher James Shapland had said if the hall was built as the committee wanted, with more expensive brickwork: “We could end up with an empty shell.

“Personal views on exterior finishes are impacting on our ability to provide the very best facilities for our young people.”

But the committee voted by three votes to two in support of the application, subject to the views of Dacorum Borough Council’s conservation team, at last night’s meeting.

Committee chairman Laurence Handy was mysteriously absent from the meeting.

Chairman of the Berkhamsted Citizens Association (BCA) Susan Johnson described the hall’s design as ‘disrespectful’ to Ashlyns, the former site of the historic Thomas Coram Foundling Hospital. She said: “The BCA is extremely disappointed.”

Two people representing the school spoke in favour of the sports hall application at the meeting, saying its design had been adapted to meet the committee’s initial concerns.

Dacorum Borough Council will now decide whether planning permission for the sports hall should be granted.