Parents of Year 6 Pupils hoping for a place at the new Bullers Wood School for Boys this September were left reeling last week as they heard that the school’s future was again in jeopardy amongst planning chaos at Bromley Council. The Council has decided to re-consider the application for the school that it approved in October following the outcome of an appeal on an earlier planning decision.
The school has written to parents to inform them that the decision to approve the planning application last October must be reconsidered at a Council meeting on 25 January.
Bromley Liberal Democrat activist Rhian Kanat said: “This last minute uncertainty is an outrage to local Parents of Year 6 boys hoping for a place at this school in September, who have had the rug pulled out from their feet yet again. Bromley Lib Dems have been supporting this school from the outset and we’ve witnessed how poorly this planning process has been handled, with the Council’s traffic report being amended on the day of the meeting last October and a clear lack of cooperation by the Council to assist the school. Bromley is facing a shortage of over 2600 secondary school places by 2022 so this school is desperately needed and has huge support from local parents. The Council will say that they have no choice but the fact remains that had they handled the whole process better from the start, we would not be in this position. The Council must now do all that it can to assist the school to open in September 2018.”
This is a further blow to the school which first applied for planning permission in July 2016 hoping to open in September 2017. That application was refused because of concerns about the impact of traffic on Bickley Road, but the school appealed. The school also made a second application with changes that addressed some of the traffic concerns, and this was approved by a narrow majority at Bromley Council’s Development Control Committee on 4 October 2017, a significant victory for parents in no small part due to their very effective “Say Yes to Bullers” campaign that included a petition with over 2000 signatures. The school is due to open in September and there were over 500 applications for the 180 Year 7 places on offer.
However, because Bromley Council failed to promptly issue the formal planning consent (they couldn’t conclude the details of the conditions to the approval) the school continued with their appeal against the refusal of its first planning application. That appeal was decided by the National Planning Inspector on 11 December who upheld the refusal of that first application, and Bromley Council has now concluded that it “has a duty to give due consideration to this appeal decision” and must therefore reconsider the second decision.
The National Planning Inspector expressed concerns that, with current traffic on Bickley Road at school pick up and drop off times, the school’s plans for a “one-way pupil drop-off and pick-up traffic route within the site exiting onto Bickley Road…would result in a severe and unacceptable impact in terms of highway safety and suitability for those accessing the site”. However, this was based on the traffic along Bickley Road which the Inspector witnessed during his site visit on 15 November 2017, but he failed to realise that there was gridlock that day in the area due to nearby road works to repair a burst water main.
The Planning Officers report to the Development control Committee was issued on 19 January and recommended that: "having regard to the new material considerations set out in the report, Members can ratify their decision made on 4th October 2017". Whilst we are hopeful that the Committee will therefore ratify the approval they gave in October and on which so many local families are banking on, this is by no means a certainty as the approval in October was passed by 9 votes to 7.
We urge all local residents who support this school to attend the meeting on 25 January, 7pm at the Civic Centre to show the Committee, once again, the overwhelming support for this school.