The pubic gallery was packed at Hendon Town Hall on the night of the 25th of January as residents, teachers, school governors and teaching assistants listened to the councillors question and discuss the issues.
Barnet council 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 toFree Schools in general.
The decision from Barnet shows how important it is to get involved at 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 miss use 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 but again please consider looking for info on CASE.