|Vin-dic-tive - Deviant Art|
Guest blog by Jenny Brown
The pubic gallery was packed at Hendon Town Hall last night as residents, teachers, school governors and teaching assistants listened to the councillors question and discuss the issues regarding the Education Funding Agency's application for the building of an all-though Ark Pioneer free school on green belt land. LINK
Barnet Planning Committe rejected the planning application for the Free School proposed by ARK PIONEER.
The EFA/ARK can appeal but the fact that Barnet council turned down the ARK PIONEER application for planning permission has particular reference to Free Schools in general.
The decision from Barnet shows how important it is to get involved at the planning application stage and to have local councillors working with residents and resident associations.
The proposed site is in a Labour ward with active hard working councillors. Conservative supporters lobbied their councillors too so the Conservative dominated planning committee was not prepared to pass this over-development so near to other primary and secondary schools that have scope for expansion.
The message from Barnet is that we (parents, residents, governors and teachers) expect the recommendations and legal guidance for outside play space, safety and standards, to apply to Free Schools as they do to other buildings.
This stand from Barnet should be widely shared to empower other areas to defend themselves from Free Schools especially ARK PIONEER and their low level of education and building design.
Shortage of land for free schools is no excuse for not planning additional housing along with school places and infrastructure.
Last night the EFA /applicant for ARK argued that lack of outside play space was acceptable since in some free schools children play on roof tops. I think this one comment, tipped the balance against the whole project and the public were genuinely shocked.
Need for school places was especially relevant because the proposed site is green belt. The EFA and Tory councillors tried unsuccessfully to argue that although it is a site on green belt, there are officers, toilets and football stands built in the recent past. Even in leafy Barnet, air quality samples are too high and at the proposed site, Barnet Friends of the Earth found that it was high at the site.
Residents and councillors were unimpressed by the EFA offering to purchase roads, widen them and install traffic lights. which would increase air pollution from stationary vehicles at red lights.
Areas with unsound short term arrangements for schools, should let national education organisations such as CASE know.
CASE is aware of these issues for example at Kingston Community School children are in an unsafe building surrounded by main roads with no fire assembly point possible and no plan to get children to safety should there be any type of emergency. Buildings that are unsafe or unsuitable should not be accepted as schools. CASE would like to hear from anyone in the Kingston area who would like to help this particular school. Please visit the CASE website and consider joining.
Finally just to say that Barnet teachers and governors of local schools are shocked at the EFA's proposal to misuse the education budget by spending on roads, especially at this time. Although this issue was not raised last night, as not relevant to a planning committee, nevertheless the waste of money by the Education Funding Agency is utterly unacceptable especially as the amount is enormous. CASE is working on the figures to be released soon. Please consider looking for information on CASE. LINK
Barnet Labour Party LINK published the following statement after the decision LINK
Plans to build an all-through Ark Academy school for up to 1,680 pupils on the Underhill Stadium site have been rejected at Barnet Council's Planning Committee (25 January).
Councillors on the committee ruled that the size and bulk of the school was too big for the site, that traffic and parking resulting from the school would have an unacceptable impact, and that there were no exceptional circumstances to allow the school to be built on greenbelt land.
The plans for the school have caused controversy and concern amongst residents living near the Underhill Stadium site, many of whom were worried about the size and scale of the school, and the parking and traffic problems it will cause.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had also advised Barnet Council in October that the school's planning application as originally submitted did not comply with the London Plan.
Labour Underhill councillors had organised a public meeting for residents in September so they could hear direct from Ark representatives and Barnet council officers about the plans for the school. Over 150 residents attended, and at the end of the meeting an indicative vote showed an overwhelming majority were opposed to the plans.
Underhill councillor, Paul Edwards, who spoke against the planning application at the committee said:
I am very glad that common sense prevailed at the committee last night.
The committee's ruling reflects the concerns that residents raised at the public meeting we organised four months ago.
Their main concerns include the size and height of the school buildings; the resulting traffic problems that will inevitably paralyse Mays Lane and surrounding roads; and the development of local Green Belt land.
The development is excessively large given its very close proximity to local housing. It will take more than three times as many pupils as the Totteridge Academy, which has a much larger site and could accommodate further expansion.
The size of the building means the school will undoubtedly invade the privacy of the homes and gardens surrounding the school – regardless of any of the fine words in this document.
The arrival of more than 120 teaching staff and 1800 pupils every day will exacerbate a traffic problem that has already reached unacceptable levels for local residents. 62 parking spaces is going to lead to increased street parking and will inevitably lead to future calls for a CPZ.
The residents who live in close proximity of this development do not want to see this scale of development in their back gardens, nor would I suggest would any member of the committee.