MP Barwell barred from speaking at academy planning meeting

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.

Paul Scott: the "open and transparent" chairman of Croydon's planning committee

Paul Scott: the “open and transparent” chairman of Croydon’s planning committee

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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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Education, Environment, Gavin Barwell, Oasis Academy, Paul Scott, Planning, Ryelands Primary and Nursery, Sarah Jones MP, Schools, Tony Newman, Woodside and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to MP Barwell barred from speaking at academy planning meeting

  1. Peter Rogers says:

    Well done Paul Scott, I was hopeful of getting through Gav B’s full term without agreeing with or siding with him once and you’ve ruined my perfect run, I feel somehow dirty now

  2. davidcallam says:

    The local authority is the guardian of the planning system. So why would the council undermine the system by signing a contract in anticipation of a potentially controversial decision? And why would a different administration uphold the somewhat underhand decision of its predecessors?
    We need to know!

  3. I have to report this to the fairness commission. Whether it is a done deal or not an MP should be able to represent the views of his constituents.

  4. Just to clarify, I didn’t say that the planning committee decision was a ‘done deal’. That was a view put to me by residents who came to see me about several issues to do with the school, not least the importance of ensuring the council get the traffic measures right if this school goes ahead. It was a good and useful meeting in which several concerns were put to me, some of which I had not been aware of. I have written to Cllrs and Officers setting out the arguments. I have been reassured on some of the issues, but remain concerned about the built up nature of the area and how we can mitigate the impact of a new school, if planning permission is granted.

    • That’s odd. Because the views expressed to us by the various residents who attended the meeting, and from at least two members of the planing committee itself, is that the Oasis Arena Academy decision is too far down the line not to go through, despite the various planning issues which ought to be foremost among the considerations at the meeting on Thursday night.

      Perhaps the three governors of Oasis schools, who are also Conservative councillors with places on the planning committee and who are expected nevertheless to vote on the matter tomorrow, or Councillor Scott, who is a former governor of an Oasis school, can enlighten us about whether or not a contract has been signed with Oasis in advance of the granting of planning consent for a too-large-school on too-small-a-site?

  5. Rod Davies says:

    An interesting counterview in support of the council’s decision to limit MPs’ ability to make presentations was provided at the recent communities meeting.

    It was alleged that in certain instances MPs in pursuit of popularity have become involved in planning proposal objections and made multiple presentations to Planning; having never actually visited the site in question; having never spoken to the applicants for planning permission; and being apparently unaware that they have unwittingly been drawn into a racially motivated campaign against a householder. If we place this in the context of an MP desperate to garner support from any and every quarter in marginal seat it becomes credible.
    I cannot attest to the veracity of the claim.

    The local MP has plenty of opportunity to present his / her written views regarding planning applications, and certainly has access to officers in a way that residents do not. MPs also have access to ministers and civil servants who are influential in respect of major developments. If an MP is using the attendance at a planning hearing to raise his / her profile, he /she may be also crowding out other voices who might have equally reasonable & legitimate views and may represent communities other than the one that voted for the MP.

    In the East Croydon area, I can readily think of strategic planning issues where the interests of the ECCO area are not shared in anyway by the rest of the Addiscombe ward or Central Croydon constituency, and Mr Barwell has shown little real interest in these issues if they might threaten his core vote.

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