Monday 6 June 2011

Officers recommend Islamia School go-ahead - including roof playground

The development site
The controversial proposals for the rebuilding of the Islamia Primary School are to be resubmitted to the Brent Planning Committee tomorrow. The previous application was blocked when the Council received a Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol letter on behalf of 'We Love Queen's Park', a group of local residents.

The group's objections included consultation failings, lack of community involvement, lack of an environmental impact assessment and concerns over financial viability. The documentation for tomorrow's meeting attempts to answer each point. Financial viability remains a crucial issue. The key passage states:
It is not envisaged that adequate funding will not be available to allow the development to be
completed if approved and the public contribution envisaged would be contingent on agreement of the availability of overall funds. However, Forsters have highlighted the potential implications of not completing an approved development. If these circumstances were to arise then the likely planning consequences would be the visual impact of any work remaining incomplete on the character and appearance of the surrounding area. Depending on the extent of works carried out this may, or may not; also involve an impact on the setting of the adjoining Conservation Area and nearby Listed structures. Any Health and Safety or Environmental Health issues as a result of work remaining incomplete would be likely to be adequately addressed under powers held by Officers in the Council's Environmental Health & Health, Safety and Licensing Units. The degree of any impact would subject to a number of factors, and in particular the extent and progress of any work carried out. However, it is not reasonable to assume in the circumstances of an interruption to construction that a responsible landowner would leave the development in such a condition as to cause unacceptable harm to the interests referred to above, or be such, as to not warrant granting planning permission.
...Other objectors also raised concerns regarding the Islamia Trust's ability to deliver the project citing another development that they claim is underfunded and behind schedule. However, specific problems associated with another site would not provide sufficient evidence that would lead Officers to believe that there is now a substantial risk that the current proposal cannot be delivered. As such, it is considered that in terms of the delivery of the project there are no reasonable grounds to justify a refusal to grant planning permission
The Planning Committee will need to consider whether these assurances are enough. The rebuild would only provide an additional 30 places (from 390 to 420) but the report notes that there is potential for the expansion of secondary places when the present building is vacated.  Apart from the advantages of new buildings the new school would mean that Winkworth Hall would no longer be used for overflow classes. 

The present school does not have a catchment area (a defined geographical area from which pupils are drawn with those closest to the school getting priority) but the report says that one will be introduced to the south of the North Circular Road and extending to the borough boundary.

The school will be unusual in that it will return to the inner city Victorian school model of having a playground on the roof.  Approval will be subject to a Section 106 Agreement as set out below:
• Prior to Occupation submit, gain approval for and adhere to a Community Access Plan, which
includes details of community accesses to the development, particularly the Gym facilities
which shall be made available to any community groups for not less than 20 hours a week, at
rates covering administration costs only and not more than other Council facilities.
• A financial contribution of £10,000 towards the highway works, including bus cage works and
the reinstatement of the footway adjoining the school, required to mitigate the impact of the
development on local transport infrastructure and provide street tree planting, index-linked from
the date of committee and due on Material Start.
• Sustainability – BREEAM Excellent Construction Assessment and Certificate shall be
submitted prior to occupation; achieve 50% on the Brent Sustainable Development Checklist,
demonstrated through submission of a Detailed Sustainability Implementation Strategy prior to
construction; compliance with the ICE Demolition protocol, demonstrated by submission of an
independent report detailing demolition and new build material use and recycling; and 20% on
site renewable energy details to be submitted and approved, which shall be maintained
throughout the lifetime of the development.
• Join and adhere to the Considerate Constructors scheme.
• Prior to Occupation, submit gain approval for and adhere to a Travel Plan.
• Payment of the Council's legal and other professional costs in (a) preparing and completing the agreement and (b) monitoring and enforcing its performance
The Officers recognise local concerns but 'on balance' think these have been appropriately addressed and that the proposal is 'in general compliance with the Council's Development Plan'. They recommend approval subject to the Section 106 Agreement being met.