Coulsdon residents demand Philp delivers new primary school

Chris Philp, Croydon South’s new MP – and a man who sits on a platform with The Taxpayers’ Alliance where one of their number seriously advocates that the Tory government should cut pensioners’ benefits because many affected would “not be around” at the next election to vote against them – has a new cause to consider, delivered by a constituent who is worried that Coulsdon needs a new primary school.

Croydon South MP Chris Philp with his developer mates at Cane Hill: can he get a new primary school for the area?

Croydon South MP Chris Philp, centre, with his developer mates at Cane Hill: can he get a new primary school for the area?

Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader will recall that Boris Johnson, as London’s Tory Mayor, made a gift of a substantial tract of publicly owned real estate, valued as being worth at least £250 million, when he handed over Cane Hill to Barratt’s to build 660 new homes.

But neither Boris nor the then Tory-controlled Croydon Council bothered to insist that as part of this very generous deal for Barratt’s, that the house-builders should provide some of the basic infrastructure to service their 660 new houses.

You know the sort of thing, just what every vibrant community might expect to have within easy reach: a GP’s surgery (Croydon Council is building that for the Barratt’s village), a community space, a school for the hundreds of kids living in these family homes, or even more than one proper access road to the housing estate.

The PR company working for Barratt’s (the seemingly ubiquitous Croydon-based firm of Grey Label), tried to fob off locals by putting the case that the Cane Hill “Village” will have no need for any school for the 660 family homes, because there would be fewer than 220 children living there, and they could all be educated within the existing schools provision.

Cane Hill comprises nearly one-third of all the new homes planned for Coulsdon over the next five years, and “…unbelievably, no new school for all the new children is planned”, says Liz Marsden, who has set up the petition.

A Community Infrastructure Levy – CIL – of “around £9 million” will be contributed from the Cane Hill development towards Croydon’s school expansion plan. But that’s chicken feed compared to the value of land provided to Barratt’s, and the potential profits the company might expect to rake in from flogging houses, rather than providing an important public building such as a school.

There are understandable local concerns that if existing schools are forced to expand or increase class sizes, the quality of education offered there may suffer.

Developers Barratt's somewhat idealised vision of the new Cane Hill village, due to open next year

Developers Barratt’s somewhat idealised vision of the new Cane Hill village, due to open next year. Without a school. And with only one access road

“My children are at one of the local schools which is being expected to cope by just getting bigger. Croydon Council needs a better long-term plan for our future generations – for all our children.

“Croydon Council departments – housing and education – seem to be competing rather than collaborating. A great outcome for everyone would be getting them to work more collaboratively.”

She accuses the council of “short-termism”.

Marsden launched the petition just two days ago, and it has already attracted more than 500 signatures. Croydon Council’s consultation on the potential expansion of local schools finishes on October 19.

“The developers are keen to start building more flats,” Marsden said. “We want to point out to the council urgently that they cannot keep on building more dwellings without providing necessary facilities.

“Smitham, Chipstead Valley and Woodcote primary schools are all being asked to permanently expand by one extra class in each year (210 extra pupils each). However their facilities – such as dining halls and assembly halls – would be stretched far beyond their intended capacity.”

Evermore congested roads and a lack of other amenities for families with young children – libraries, swimming pools, sports fields – also appear to have gone unconsidered by the local planners, creating what Marsden describes as “misery for local residents”.

Even with the school expansions, there is the possibility of there not being enough school places in the area within 10 years.

“Potential sites in Coulsdon exist, where the new school which the area so desperately needs could be built,” Marsden said, “yet it seems all this land is earmarked for yet more housing developments.”

About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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