Controversial plans to build a free school in the middle of a Grade II-listed public park have been abandoned.
The Crystal Palace Primary School wanted the public to pay for its buildings in the middle of the south London park, as part of the development scheme put forward for London Mayor Boris Johnson by a company run by former Olympic chief Lord Coe, and which will have required the demolition of the athletics stadium, teaching pool, indoor training area and other sports facilities.
But today, trustees of the school – which originally planned to open its gates this month to a first-year entry of five-year-olds – released this statement:
“The Trustees of the proposed Crystal Palace Primary School announce with deep regret that, owing to the lack of availability of a viable site in a suitable location, they have decided to withdraw from the free schools’ programme. We have asked the department to advise us if a suitable site becomes available in the future.
“The school will therefore not be opening in September 2016 and events have been cancelled with immediate effect. This includes all planned family days and open evenings.
“The Trustees would like to thank the Crystal Palace community for their support since the inception of this project and wish all 2016 parents the best of luck in finding a school of their choice.”
Thing is, many in the Crystal Palace community, sport centre users and Tory-run Bromley Council, opposed the scheme to build in the park on a range of grounds, including the loss of sporting amenity and the inappropriate nature of locating a school within the public park.
Someone at the top of Anerley Hill told Inside Croydon: “Proposals for the school to be part of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre redevelopment caused a lot of local controversy and alternative locations have not managed to get any traction.
“But a reduction in demand for primary school places in the area may have been another important issue: in August, Lambeth got planning permission to turn Paxton Primary off Gipsy Hill from one-form entry to three-form entry.
“There is a down-scaling of primary place projections across south London and other local primaries in the Crystal Palace area, which were perceived to be struggling, have upped their game.”
Without the school trustees pushing for their plot of parkland, the other proposals for the park may now undergo urgent re-evaluation. Bromley’s management agreement with Greenwich Leisure to run the park’s sports facilities expires at the end of March 2016.
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