The appeal against Bromley Council’s decision in January 2018 to refuse planning permission to build a new school on St Hugh’s playing fields in Bickley is being heard this week (6 to 9 November 2018). The major revelation from the first day was the Council’s U-turn on a key reason for their refusal. Having maintained that the impact on local traffic as a result of the new school would be “severe” and therefore qualify as a valid planning ground to refuse permission, at the 11th hour the Council team admitted that in fact the traffic impact would “fall short of severe”. One can only guess at the waste of public funds arguing for that point only to concede it at the last minute.
The Planning Inspector deciding the appeal has confirmed that her decision will come down to road and pedestrian safety only; so looking at crossings of Bickley Road and the fact there is a narrow pavement on one side of Chislehurst Road only. We have always been of the view that if improvements need to be made here they are within the gift of the Council (funded under s106 by the ESFA/school) and so should not be a grounds to refuse but instead a condition of approval. If we are right about that, whatever the outcome of the appeal it seems an avoidable waste of public money (costs of such an appeal would easily exceed £1m).
The hearing will however hear from all those who requested to speak and on all issues including the shortfall of school places without the new Boys School and impact on residential amenity. It is notable and disappointing that no Tory Cllrs (who represent the wards closest to the school site and most in need of a local boys school) will speak at the hearing despite repeated requests by the school and parent campaign even those who had been very vocal and supportive of the school in the run up to the May local elections.
The hearing runs from 6th to 9th November inclusive 10am to 5pm at the Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley and si open to all members of the public.