|1.1. The issue of primary school places is taken very seriously and the county council is committed to ensuring that it meets the rising demand. In response to 10,000 more children under the age of four in Hertfordshire today than a decade ago, it is has spent more than £200m providing additional places across the county. 1.2. In St Albans, an additional nine forms of entry (equivalent to 270 extra permanent reception places each year) have been created since 2008 ensuring there are sufficient places for every child who needs one. This has included a new 2FE primary school (Alban City), providing additional capacity for the city centre, and a 2FE primary phase at Samuel Ryder Academy, both opening in 2012. 1.3. It is recognised that there is a concentration of demand in and around the city centre. However, identified expansion capacity is extremely limited, with town planning and/or highways issues making permanent expansion undeliverable on many sites. Therefore additional permanent places have, of necessity, been provided in the wider area. Expansions including those at Garden Fields, Bernard’s Heath and Prae Wood schools have all provided additional high-quality places for St Albans families. 2. 2016 Primary Allocations 2.1. On allocation day 2016, every St Albans applicant was offered a place. However, while there were sufficient places across the wider area, it was recognised that there were clusters of pupils in and around the city centre that were not allocated a school in the immediate area. 2.2. To help ease this pressure and support families in the city centre to secure places as close to home as possible for September 2016, an additional 30 reception places were made available at Maple Primary School; a popular and outstanding school in the city centre. 2.3. As a result, the number of children allocated a school over the 2 mile statutory distance decreased during the ‘continuing interest’ process and at the start of autumn term 2016 there were almost 2 forms of entry (60 reception places) available across St Albans City. 3. Meeting the Future Demand 3.1. The latest reception place forecast indicates that in the short term there are sufficient places across St Albans City. The table below shows the latest Summer 2015/16 forecast for the area. 3.2. The forecast indicates that there are surplus places across the period, with lower levels of demand forecast beyond 2017/18. It is recognised, however, that there continue to be areas that have a high concentration of demand within the city centre, particularly in light of the significant developments in St Albans City and around London Road. As such pupil numbers will continue to be monitored. Officers will work with local schools in and around the city centre to discuss temporary expansion, should it be required. 3.3. While in the shorter term there are sufficient places available, longer term projections suggest primary pupil numbers will continue to rise. St Albans City and District Council (SADC) Strategic Local Plan (SLP) proposes over 9,000 dwellings across its plan period to 2031, of which over 5,000 are currently expected to be in St Albans. 3.4. Creating permanent school places to meet rising pupil numbers is not always straight forward and the county council must work within the constraints that already exist in relation to many school sites. As part of the county council’s annual primary expansion programme and ongoing representations to districts on local plan infrastructure needs, feasibility work is continually refreshed to assess potential options to permanently expand schools. Currently, detailed feasibility work is being carried out on the capacity of St Peter’s Primary School to expand permanently, which is scheduled to be completed in the autumn term 2016. If expansion is deemed deliverable, any proposal to provide additional permanent reception places will need to be considered in the wider context of demand and capacity within the City as well as the overall expansion programme. 3.5. In the longer term, given the limitations on existing school sites and the level of proposed new housing, further growth in pupil numbers in St Albans is likely to need to be supported through the provision of new schools. The county council has for a number of years made, and continues to make, representations to SADC, to ensure appropriate provision is made within the Local Plan to support growing pupil numbers and new housing development in the City. This includes identifying new school sites, especially in areas where there is little or no potential to expand existing schools such as in and around the city centre. 3.6. The recently published SADC SLP recognises the need for additional primary school capacity in central St Albans, to be delivered in the form of new 2 f.e. and 3 f.e. primary schools. The county council will continue to work with SADC to identify and promote suitable schools sites to ensure that every child can be offered a place. In September 2016, County Councillor David Williams, Member for Enterprise, Education and Skills, together with Officers, attended SADC Planning Policy Committee to present and reiterate the need for new school sites, particularly to serve the city centre, to enable future school place demand to be met. 3.7. The next step is for SADC to produce a Detailed Local Plan (DLP) for public consultation, currently expected in late 2016. In the meantime Officers will continue to work with SADC to help ensure education provision is made through the local plan, including the identification of new school sites within the DLP. 4. Summary 4.1. The issues raised in this petition are recognised and understood. Officers have also met with members of the Central St Albans Facebook Parent Action Group to better understand their concerns, discuss their suggestions and answer questions on what action the county council is taking to secure future city centre education provision in St Albans. 4.2. This includes monitoring pupil numbers in and around the City, refreshing feasibility work on the expansion potential of schools, continuing to work with SADC and making representations to the Local Plan to ensure that new education provision can be brought forward to meet the growth in pupil numbers arising from development proposed.