The Planning Committee approved the application to build a new school, the Bolder Academy, at its meeting on 3rd August 2017. The school, which will be on the current Grasshoppers Rugby Club site at the end of MacFarlane Lane, was the main item on the agenda and took up the greater part of the meeting. Speakers from the Educational Funding Agency spoke in favour of the application and OWGRA, which is generally supportive of the school, argued that it should not be approved until long-standing traffic and access problems had been resolved.
OWGRA’s argument was that the case for approval presented by the planning officers was seriously flawed and contained misleading and even incorrect information. The Association’s basic concern was that the traffic situation along Syon Lane had not been properly explained and that alternative access routes to the school had not been properly explored, or even explored at all. We had circulated all the members of the Planning Committee with a summary of our objections to the application in its current form. You can obtain that summary HERE.
Barbara Stryjak, OWGRA secretary, said that it was necessary to consider the cumulative effect of both the Bolder Academy and of the Nishkam School (under construction) which together would be bringing almost 3000 pupils and staff to their respective schools both along a highly congested Syon Lane, in turn near the highly congested junction at Gillette Corner.
You can hear Barbara’s presentation and the Q&A session that followed
Speaking to the officers’ report and recommendation for approval Planning Officer Marilyn Smith responded by saying that Nishkam should not be part of the discussion because it had already been approved.
Most of the detailed objections raised by OWGRA and some councillors received no response at all. Thus the residents had proposed that an alternative access route though Harlequin Avenue should be considered. This required an agreement with Sky and it was asked what efforts had been made to arrange this with Sky. Neither the applicant not the officer offered any sort of response. It was the same on a series of other questions. Thus the officers’ report claimed that Tesco had agreed to the use of their car park for park and stride purposes for parents taking their children to school by car. OWGRA said that they had spoken to Tesco who said that there was no such agreement. Similarly the officers claimed that access to the school was possible through gates which were open and in use. OWGRA presented photographic evidence that they were closed and not in use.
In the end, and even though some councillors asked questions about these issues (without receiving answers) and even though some clearly thought that insufficient effort had been made to solve the traffic and access problems and that the safety of the very large number of children involved had not been given proper consideration, the majority on the committee voted for approval on the basis that the problems were not sufficiently serious to require a resolution prior to approval.
Barbara Stryjak said “I think that we managed to get our message across to at least some of the committee. Certainly, our detailed points are now a matter of record. Our efforts, hard work and tenacity since last December have had some effect in making sure that these matters have been taken more seriously and will be addressed. We will await with interest what the conditions for approval are and what the s106 agreement contains.” (A section 106 agreement is an agreement between a developer and a local planning authority about measures that the developer must take to reduce their impact on the community.)
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Where we have them these reports contain written accounts, photographs and recordings of the talks given.