Public Inquiry into New 10 storey school at 1 Westmoreland Road Concludes

The public inquiry into whether a 10 storey secondary school with no playing fields should be built on one of the Borough's busiest and most polluted junctions concluded on Friday 23 November 2018. Lib Dem campaigner, Rhian Kanat, spoke at the hearing as part of the residents group opposed to such a large school on this site. You can read her speech in full here.

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There was disappointment amongst the local residents who have campaigned against locating the school here.  The Council failed to defend its refusal of planning permission, leaving local residents to try and fill in the key gaps in the defence, and the Council's transport expert did a U-Turn a week before the hearing and then gave evidence that he had "changed his mind" and no longer believed the school could be refused on transport and travel grounds.   Rhian Kanat commented: "It was a great pleasure to work with and support the core local residents group who led the campaign against this school, all of whom spoke intelligently and passionately at the hearing but the council's behaviour was nothing less than disappointing."  

The other major issue working against the Council at the hearing was the role of their own Draft Local Plan, which allocates the site for Education Use with specific reference to a 6-8 Form Entry secondary school on the site. This was used to great effect by the school's legal counsel to make cogent arguments that the Council itself had already approved a school of the size, height and scale of this proposal when it approved the draft local plan (given that it would be impossible to get a 6-8FE school on such a small site without a very high rise building). It was also repeatedly noted that the Area Action Plan for Bromley Town, another key piece of planning policy, designated the site for a tall building. It is hugely disappointing that the same Development Control Committee of the Council that refused the school planning permission in December 2017 had not also effectively challenged the designation of the site for a school in the Draft local Plan that they approved in June 2016. In fact the minutes of that meeting show that whilst several amendments were proposed, no comment was passed on this site being used for a large secondary school.

The Inspector also noted that there had been a public consultation about the Draft Local Plan and no residents had commented on this site's designation as part of that consultation. However, residents were never specifically alerted to the plans for such a large school on this site, despite Bromley Town's Conservative Councillors having been consulted about the Department of Education's plan for a 6-8 form entry school on the site.   It is surely the role of ward councillors to alert residents to policies in such a complex document that might impact residents.   Instead, residents only became aware of the plans for this school when planning permission was applied for in January 2017, conveniently, although perhaps not coincidentally, just a few weeks after the public consultation on the draft local plan had closed.

We remain hopeful that common sense will prevail, and the Inspector will uphold the Council's refusal of planning permission for this high rise school on this site, but the Council's defence was certainly far more of an uphill struggle than it needed to be. The Inspector's decision will be known on or before 18 February 2019. 

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Bromley Well Represented on Brexit March

Bromley Liberal Democrats joined people from other parties, and many people from no party, in the historic march of 700,000+ people through Central London on Saturday calling for a People’s Vote. 

 The Lib Dems travelled up by train collecting members along the route from Orpington Bromley and Beckenham.   We knew something special was happening as the normally empty mid morning train filled up to capacity with people travelling to the march” said Rich Wilsher, one of the organisers of the Bromley contingent.  “There were people of all ages, some family groups, some with placards, some with face paint and some just came as they were, all just wanted to go there and be counted.”

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Police Take 54 minutes to Respond to ‘999’ Calls in Bromley

In Bromley Police are taking an average of 54 minutes to respond to 999 “priority” calls – an increase of 10 minutes in just 6 months – and in more than half of the London boroughs this has increased to over an hour.  Particularly worrying for Bromley residents is that there is a clear increase in waiting times in boroughs where police forces have been merged into larger command units – this is due to happen to Bromley in early 2019 when Bromley is merged with Sutton and Croydon forces. 

 

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Lib Dems are the Only Party to 'Grasp Main Issues Blighting Education'

We have long spoken out about the issues facing our Borough’s schools - chronic under funding by the Conservative Government, a lack of secondary school places, the weakness of Ofsted, and the damage caused by league tables.  The need for a radical overhaul of the school system featured strongly at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton from 15-18 September and received whole hearted backing from the National Education Union.  

Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary, said: “The Liberal Democrats have grasped the main issues that are blighting our education system. A chronic shortage of funding and low pay alongside an inspection and assessment system that is not fit for purpose has led to unmanageable workloads and the recruitment and retention crisis. Teachers are leaving in their droves and many graduates do not consider teaching as an attractive option”.

School Cuts

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrats spokesperson for Education, and former teacher herself, told the Conference: ‘The Government is failing our children. Funding pressures mean that we’re dropping subjects from the curriculum – shrinking the scope of learning and limiting horizons for the future at the very point when we need those horizons to be stretched to the limit. School inspections should look at the culture of a school and focus on the wellbeing of teachers and pupils as much as academic results. And where a school is struggling, an inspection system should support that school to improve, not punish it.”

She also reiterated our opposition to league tables – all of us in Bromley saw the damage that league tables cause in the scandal that hit St Olave’s School in 2017 when Year 12 students were illegally refused places in Year 13 based on their likely exam results.  “It beggars belief that we insist on publishing league tables which cultivate a damaging system where schools compete so ferociously that they forget their true purpose: to improve education for all”.

Education is for all and for life, not just the very rich, the very fortunate or the very clever.

To find out more about our Education policies visit:

https://www.libdems.org.uk/education

You can read Layla Moran’s speech in full here:

https://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-18-layla-moran-speech-in-full


Two-thirds of plastic in packaging pots and trays unrecyclable

Manufacturers must scrap the “smorgasbord” of plastics which are used in packaging for key foods so that Bromley Council can reduce waste sent to landfill and increase recycling, Bromley Lib Dems are warning.

Analysis from the Local Government Association suggests that only a third of plastic used by households is able to be recycled. It found 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households a year but just 169,145 tonnes of this waste is able to be recycled.

The Lib Dems are calling for manufacturers to work with councils, including Bromley, to develop a plan to stop unrecyclable packaging from entering the environment in the first place. 

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Vision Zero Road Safety Strategy

This week Transport for London (TFL), the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police released details of the ‘Vision Zero’ concept: aiming to eliminate all road deaths in the capital’s boroughs by 2041. The £2.2 bn strategy aims to tackle dangerous junctions, introduce 20mph zones in specified locations, and encourage sustainable modes of travel.

Bromley Lib Dems welcome this strategy, and call upon the Conservative Bromley Council to adopt many of the measures proposed. We would introduce 20mph zones around schools and around local blackspots. We would extensively consult local residents to determine where there was a desire for 20mph zones in residential areas, relying on local needs rather than town hall decree. We would also bin the ridiculous policy of relying on Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) figures to determine where action is needed. To achieve this, we would maximise Bromley’s share of central funding – something the Conservatives have consistently failed to do - in order to deliver safer road junctions and crossings across the borough.

 

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Healthy Streets for Bromley

There was a sense of frustration and missed opportunity at a meeting to discuss healthier streets in Bromley on Monday.  Hosted by Bromley Cyclists the meeting heard from representatives of TfL, Bromley Council and London Cyclists to discuss funding available from TfL for “Liveable Neighbourhood” schemes and other schemes to improve environments and promote safe and healthy modes of travel.   While there is funding available from TfL – as well as vision and inspiration from other parts of London that have seen huge benefits from imaginative schemes to help local areas – there’s still that overriding sense in Bromley that we’re different, we need our cars, what works in other parts of London won’t work in Bromley, and there’s little support for such schemes from within the Council. 

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St Olave's School Condemned in Official Report

In a report commissioned by Bromley Council, St Olave’s school has been condemned for the harsh, unequal and illegal treatment of year 12 pupils who were refused a place in year 13 in July/August 2017.  The report also reveals gross misrepresentation of the school’s financial status in order to pressurise parents to increase their financial donations, funds for under privileged children that were never distributed, a questionable relationship with a private company that owned the St Olave’s brand, and huge profits made by the school from the sale of mock exam papers to prospective parents keen to help their children pass the entrance exam. 

 

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Rally for Peoples Vote

Over 100,000 people marched through central London on Saturday 23rd June to demand a vote on the final Brexit deal.  Thousands of Liberal democrats joined the march including many Bromley Lib Dem members.   

 

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