Mystery surrounds the sudden emergence of opposition to a scheme to build a primary school on Aberdeen Road in South Croydon, just behind Bar Txt on South End.Large, migraine-inducing coloured leaflets (it is long-overdue that a criminal offence was introduced, that of “driving a word processor without due care and attention”), printed on expensive glossy paper, were being thrust through some residents’ letter boxes this week.
Headlined “Disaster on your doorstep”, the leaflet illustrates the doom which awaits us all with large arrows pointing at a primary school, as if it is some sort of Godzilla monster, about to devour high street businesses.
The leaflets’ overstatement is almost as gaudy as the design: “a huge 3 storey primary school” is to be built. “Save this area from disaster that will cause hardship for years to come, affecting both businesses and homes”, the A3 sheet claims, adding that the noise from the proposed rooftop playground will be “worse than the M25”. The “disaster” will include 176 additional car journeys in the area twice a day, and people using the nearby Spices Yard car park to… park cars.
The Aberdeen Road primary school has been proposed for more than two years, having been first suggested when Tim Pollard, now the leader of the Croydon Tories, was in charge of school provision on the council, attempting to increase the number of available school places to match the rapidly rising demand.It has been agreed that the new school will be run by the STEP academy organisation.
Efforts to get the local businesses to object to the proposal, led by some within the South Croydon Business Association, failed to coalesce. Indeed, more than 20 local businesses have come out in support of having a new school on the site.
There is no name attached to the leaflet, but it calls on people to lodge objections with the council, and with local councillor Vidhi Mohan and Croydon Central’s Tory MP Gavin Barwell, before the end of the statutory consultation period in a fortnight. The anonymous leaflet carries a gmail account for someone called “disasteronyourdoorstep”.Helen Pollard, Conservative councillor for Fairfield ward, has denied that the leaflet is anything to do with her Tory colleagues (which would be a tad hypocritical, even by local Tory standards, since the school was first proposed by her husband).
Emails sent to “Mr Doorstep” (“… or may I call you ‘Disaster’?”) have failed to nudge Croydon’s newest pamphleteer out from the shadows to reveal their true identity.
Charlotte Davies, the chair of the South Croydon Community Association, describes the leaflet as “alarmist”. She says that, contrary to the claims in the leaflet that there has been a “lack of neighbour consultation”, “This proposal has been out to consultation in this area, we have accepted that we are going to get a primary school and that … this is a spacious development.”
Davies dismisses the leaflet’s claims that the school will be open from 7am to 9pm – it is, after all, a primary school with children aged from four to 11. She also makes light of the suggestion that parents bringing children to the school and dropping off in Spices Yard will impact parking for businesses in the Restaurant Quarter, since local bars’ trade will tend to arrive long after the school bell sounds for the end of classes (no one has yet made the point that the school could even be persuaded to have a healthy policy of encouraging parents and children to walk to and from school each day. Maybe that’s too beedin’ obvious?).
“A school development may well be really good to reinvigorate the area and make it more attractive… That is why we wanted the high street improved, to calm the area down. Many of the local businesses are looking forward to a school opening,” Davies said.
In an email sent from the leaflet’s gmail account, the anonymous pamphleteer claims, “We are just a group of local residents who do not want to have our lives blighted by this monstrous development.
“We are completely non-political but feel that it is necessary to let local residents know what is being planned, something that it appears Croydon planning are failing to do.” What they don’t want local residents to know, it would seem, is who it is who has paid for and distributed the leaflets.
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