Croydon Council ignores residents’ concerns and grants planning permission for Arena school
Last night, Croydon Council’s Planning Committee granted permission for the proposed new Oasis Academy on the Croydon Arena and Ryelands School sites. The vote was 6-3 with all six Labour councillors, including two of the councillors for that area Paul Scott and Hamida Ali, voting in favour and the four Conservative councillors either voting against or abstaining.
The whole process has been a farce from start to finish. Several local residents tell me that when they met my Labour opponent Sarah Jones a few weeks ago she said planning permission was “a done deal”. And the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Paul Scott, tried to prevent me from speaking at the meeting on behalf of local residents. He only backed down after an outcry from the local media and local residents about trying to gag an elected representative in this way.
As I told the Committee last night, I am not opposed in principle to a school on this site - Croydon’s population is growing so the Council needs to provide additional school places. I’m also a big supporter of Oasis, the chosen sponsor of the school. They’ve done an amazing job turning round Ashburton High, now Oasis Academy Shirley Park, which was recently rated as outstanding in every regard by Ofsted.
However, I have a responsibility to represent the views of my constituents who live in the surrounding area. The report the Planning Committee considered last night claimed that:
“the development would not result in an unacceptable impact on the amenities of nearby residential properties”.
The many local residents who have contacted me dispute that. In particular, they are concerned about the impact on traffic congestion and parking. These concerns appear to be borne out by the Council’s own traffic assessment.
The report admitted that if the Council granted planning permission the traffic at three key junctions:
• the junction of Portland Road, South Norwood High Street and South Norwood Hill;
• the junction of Portland Road, Spring Lane and Woodside Green; and
• the junction of Long Lane, Lower Addiscombe Road and Spring Lane
will exceed the levels at which these junctions can function effectively. Put simply, the area is going to be gridlocked during the morning rush hour, the afternoon school run and the evening rush hour.
The Council’s proposed traffic management measures - making some roads one-way and introducing 20mph speed limits - will do nothing to solve that fundamental problem. I argued that the Council should look at more radical measures - for example, re-opening the link from Sunny Bank to Regina Road to take some of the pressure off Portland Road. Cllr Scott wouldn’t even consider this suggestion.
The report also admitted that:
• if the Council granted planning permission, the number of parking spaces on the site would reduce from 152 spaces to 94, which is bound to lead to more people parking in the surrounding roads when there's an event at the Arena; and
• there aren’t enough vacant spaces in the surrounding roads to cope with the number of parents expected to drive their children to and from school.
And the Council’s analysis did not take into account:
• the loss of 34 parking spaces due to the introduction of double yellow lines and the extension of school waiting restrictions on Albert Road;
• the reduction in on-site staff parking at Ryelands when it moves to the former CALAT building; or
• the reduction in parking spaces in Sandown and Oakley Roads.
The introduction of double yellow lines along Albert Road will also reduce the number of parking spaces in the evenings and at weekends - the report didn’t even mention that. I argued that the Council should insist on more parking on-site and rethink the double yellow lines on Albert Road. Again, Cllr Scott wouldn’t even consider these suggestions.
The area is already heavily congested and consists of narrow roads where parking spaces are already at a premium. I accept the need for a new school, but it is depressing that the Planning Committee - including two of the councillors for the area concerned - weren’t prepared to amend the scheme to reduce the impact on the local community.