Tuesday 28 January 2014

Battle ahead between Brent Council and Pickles on Gladstone Free School?

Following confusion at yesterday's public meeting about whether the Gladstone Free School school had been in conversation with Brent Council over building on the William Gladstone Open Space and whether the council had indicated its opposition, I have now established:

1. That Brent Council in conversation with school representatives, told them that the Council supported free schools, such as Gladstone, as a way of solving the problem of increased demand for secondary school places over the next two years,

2. That the school had been told that any application to build on the William Gladstone Open Space would not be supported by the Council as it would be in breach of planning policy.

3. The Education Funding Agency, who act as as free schools' 'estate agents',  was given the same response.

The land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and Public Open Space. In such land there is a general; presumption against inappropriate development.

Brent Council's Policy CP18: Protection and Enhancement of Open Space, Sports and Diversity  in Brent's Core Strategy (2010) states that open space of value will be protected from inappropriate development and preserved for the benefit, enjoyment, health and wellbeing of Brent's residents, visitors and willife.

The Unitary Development Plan sets out acceptable uses of Metropolitan Open Land:
  • Public and private open space and playing fields
  • Agriculture, woodlands and orchards
  • rivers, canals, reservoirs, lakes, docks and other open water
  • gold courses
  • allotments and nursery gardens
  • cemeteries
  • nature conservation
This advice may not be sufficient to stop Gladstone Free School  pursuing the site and a battle between the DfE (represented by the Education Funding Agency) and the Council is on the cards and it may well become an election issue.

Brent Council will be up against this guidance published in July 2010, soon after the Coalition took power: LINK
New planning principles for councils to consider when determining planning applications for school developments with local support have been published ahead of the Royal Assent for the Academies Bill.
This initiative was designed to allow school promoters to be confident about progressing their proposals and for new free schools to be set up quickly in response to demand from local people. Education secretary Michael Gove has already stated that the Government is committed to making it easier to secure sites for new schools.

Local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate will be expected to take the statement by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles into account as a material consideration when determining all planning applications for school development.

In determining planning applications, local authorities should:
  • attach very significant weight to the desirability of establishing new schools and to enabling local people to do so
  • adopt a positive and constructive approach towards applications to create new schools, and seek to mitigate any negative impacts of development through the use of planning conditions or planning obligations, as appropriate
  • only refuse planning permission for a new school if the adverse planning impacts on the local area outweigh the desirability of establishing a school in that area. Where a local authority refuses permission on this basis, the Government will ask the Planning Inspectorate to deal swiftly with any appeal that is lodged.
 For a comment on free school consultations see: LINK

1 comment:

Alex Colas said...

This seems to be a similar case: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/hove-vs-gove-education-secretary-michael-gove-accused-of-ignoring-local-wishes-with-plans-to-build-new-free-school-on-playing-fields-8605135.html. I understand Hove prevailed over Gove on this occasion.