Residents in Woodside ward are demanding an urgent meeting with their three Labour councillors, including council leader Tony Newman, and insist that any councillors on the planning committee with links to Oasis academies – including the chairman, Paul Scott, another councillor elected to represent Woodside – should be excluded from future decision-making meetings on the proposed 1,000-pupil Arena academy secondary school, which has already been taking applications for Year 7 entry in September 2015.
The residents accuse the planning committee of “undemocratic bias” if the four councillors with Oasis links remain.
Residents feel that they have been ignored and unrepresented by their councillors over this proposed large development in a residential area, and which proposes to build on Metropolitan Open Land in South Norwood Country Park.
Newman’s appointments to the planning committee have not helped the residents in his own ward. Woodside’s councillors are Newman, who appointed Scott as the chair of the planning committee, and Hamida Ali, who Newman also appointed as a planning committee member. Effectively, these appointments made by Newman mean that residents have been left to feel that they cannot bring their planning concerns to any of their elected representatives at the council.
With the previous Tory council administration having signed a contract with the Oasis evangelical church education body to deliver a six-forms-of-entry school at the Arena, residents feel that all planning decisions in the matter are already a foregone conclusion. A Town Hall source close to the planning committee has indicated to Inside Croydon that the council now has virtually no discretion on the matter – they must build the school for Oasis.
And with three other planning committee members, Conservative councillors, also current governors of Oasis schools, and with Scott being a former Oasis governor, the residents have told Inside Croydon that they face a “stitch-up”.
In a strongly worded letter sent on behalf of the residents’ groups to their Labour councillors this week, Frances Fearon described the Arena Academy as, “A huge new build on an inappropriate site that will inevitably blight the lives of local residents and affect the quality of life of the people living in the local area, as well as compromising a valuable ecological part of a congested area, Metropolitan Open Land and South Norwood Country Park.
“As you are well aware, there is a huge amount of local opposition to these plans,” Fearon wrote.
“We ask that Paul Scott, having made public his previous links with the Oasis evangelical group, having been a school governor, step down from his role as chair of the planning committee for the entire decision-making process of the plans for Oasis Arena.
“The fact that Paul sat on the pre-planning committee does not and must not set a precedent.
“We also ask that Tony Newman replace the other three members of the planning committee who are currently Oasis school governors that they may step down from the planning committee for the entire period of the decision-making process for the plans for Oasis Arena.
“Not to do this would constitute an undemocratic bias which will not be acceptable,” said the residents’ representative.
Newman has responded, dismissing the residents’ concerns by saying, “We have had a number of meetings with local residents and recently conducted a major doorstep consultation.” In plain English, “a major doorstep consultation” usually means telling a few people how the council will push through plans, regardless of what the public want or need. Either that, or Newman really has been consulting doorsteps.
Newman claimed, “Many people were very supportive of our successful efforts to both reduce the size of the school and increase community access to the facilities.”
Newman refused to consider the concerns regarding the bias of the Oasis governors on the planning committee: “Councillors who sit on the planning committee judge applications on planning grounds and nothing else.” Either Newman is no judge of human nature, or he is simply dissembling.
Somewhat grudgingly, it seems to residents, Newman, Croydon’s £53,000 per year full-time council leader, has agreed to meet them, by asking the people he is supposed to represent to make an appointment through his Council Tax-funded personal assistant.
- Is it time to park ill-considered plans for the Arena academy?
- Woodside residents worried over contract for Oasis academy
- Planning committee dominated by Oasis school governors
Coming to Croydon
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
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- Brook recording studio open day and party, Nov 9
- East Croydon Communities meeting, Oval Tavern, Nov 10
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