Hackney's failure to progress a controversial planning application affecting Grade II listed Colvestone Primary School has resulted in the decision being taken out of the Council's hands. Last May the developer of a neighbouring site appealed against Hackney's delay and the decision whether to approve the scheme will now be made by the government's Planning Inspectorate. Although the Inspector will have professional qualifications, s/he is unelected, has limited local knowledge of this very sensitive site and will only consider written and not personal representations
Grade II Listed Colvestone Primary School
The development scheme, which would see a three storey building across the southern boundary of the nursery school's only open space, has had a controversial history. Hackney's approval of a previous scheme was overturned on a judicial review in 2016 when the High Court found that the Planning Committee had been misled about the extent of overshadowing which the development would have on the Nursery School's open space. The current three storey proposal, by new owners, has also attracted considerable community criticism and objections.
The new building will see a 9 metre high featureless wall across the nursery schools southern boundary
To help protect the school's open space an application was made successfully last August by the Friends of Ridley Road to designate the site as an Asset of Community Value. You can read the background story here.
Despite these widely known community concerns it appears that Hackney not only failed to require an independent environmental assessment of the scheme's impact, and particularly its overshadowing, but also failed to progress the application to a Committee decision.
The nursery schools outdoor space is presently used for a range of play and learning activities
Hackney's dereliction of duty has only come to light as a result of months of persistent enquiries by our local community champion, Judith Watt, who brought the earlier judicial review. Finally, on 27 September, the Council issued an explanatory letter to objectors but it wrongly stated that the developer had appealed because Hackney had refused the planning application. On 29 September Hackney issued a second letter acknowledging that the appeal was in fact due to Hackney's failure to decide the application. (Given Hackney's planning officer was to recommend the grant of planning permission, is it possible that a political decision was made to let the developer appeal to the Planning Inspectorate rather than take the controversial decision itself Ed.)
Judith Watt at the High Court which overturned Hackney's previous grant of planning permission
Hackney's planning case officer recently advised that the fact that the School's open space is an asset of community value "is not a material planning consideration
". This advice has now been corrected by the Council's Head of Planning who has stated "The designation of the site as an Assets of Community Value is a material consideration.
" It is understood that Hackney intend to make representations to the Inspector setting out the grounds on which it would have refused the application (Let’s hope Hackney don't miss their 11th November deadline! Ed)
If the new planning application is granted future generations of toddlers will be left in the dark