MP Gavin Barwell has been banned from speaking on behalf of his constituents at a crucial planning meeting at Croydon Town Hall on Thursday night.
The meeting is due to consider controversial proposals to shoehorn a six-form-of-entry Oasis academy secondary on to the site of a primary school next to Metropolitan Open Land by the Croydon Arena.
The ruling against permitting the Conservative MP for Croydon Central to speak at the meeting has come from the chairman of the planning committee, Paul Scott.
Scott is a Labour councillor for Woodside, the ward most affected by the scheme to spend £22 million of public money to build the 1,000-person academy for Oasis. Scott is also a former governor of an Oasis academy.
Scott is a close working colleague of Tony Newman, the leader of the council and also a Woodside councillor, who last year fought and won the local elections on a platform promising more open and transparent conduct of Town Hall meetings. This ban appears to be another example of Newman’s administration’s ineptitude, as they somehow manage to make Barwell look good, while causing deep-seated disaffection among residents in their own ward.
Scott has ruled that Barwell may only speak at Thursday’s meeting as part of the residents’ objections, when they are allowed no more than three minutes to deal with the many and complex issues raised by the proposal.
Barwell’s own website was down this morning (might the MP have sacked his gobby fac totem for inappropriate Twitter activity?), but a source in his Westminster office told Inside Croydon that “he’s not very happy” about Scott’s decision.
Residents’ objections include the inappropriate nature of such a large school in a mainly residential area, with narrow streets which would not be able to cope with the additional traffic; the misuse of the Metropolitan Open Land, part of the South Norwood Country Park; and growing doubts about the need for such a school in the area.
In a meeting with Sarah Jones, the Labour candidate challenging Barwell for his Central Croydon seat in the General Election, the residents were told that planning permission for the Arena Academy is a “done deal”, because the council’s previous Tory administration had signed a contract with the organisation which runs Oasis academies.
Katharine Street sources have confirmed this view, which seems to suggest that a planning decision is likely to be made in which planning considerations will be utterly prejudiced. It seems unlikely, however, that this will open the Labour-run council to any legal challenge, since the residents are unlikely to be able to raise the £20,000 “entry fee” to pay lawyers to launch a Judicial Review.
In the meantime, even without planning permission, the school has been taken applications to start in September 2015: just 29 pupils have made the Oasis Arena Academy as their first choice school.
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