Air pollution means pupils at new school will be kept indoors

WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest example of a school development which the council concedes could put the long-term health of generations of children at risk

The Krishna Avanti primary is to be built within yards of this junction on the Croydon Flyover

The planning committee last night gave the go-ahead to build a school for four- to 11-year-olds so close to the Croydon Flyover that the council’s own senior planning officer says will, at times, have restricted use because of the pollution from passing traffic.

The Hindu ethos Krishna Avanti School will be built on what councillors were told was “a difficult site” on Southbridge Place. It will use the site previously used by the council’s educational psychological service known as Victoria House.

All but one of the councillors on the planning committee voted in favour of going ahead with the school build, despite the planning officer stating that there will be occasions during the summer months when the poor air quality around the school will mean that the children will have to be kept inside.

The school plans have been drawn up by TP Bennett, the firm of which Councillor Paul Scott, the chair of Croydon’s planning committee, is a director. Scott excused himself from any active role in this part of last night’s meeting.

The Krishna Avanti is the second primary school to be built close to a major road in Croydon at which poor air quality caused by car pollution has raised concerns for the health of pupils. Last year, permission was granted to build a 540-pupil primary for the Harris academy chain right next to the four-lane A23 Purley Way, where the pollution is already so bad that extra money is being spent to make the school “hermetically sealed” against the noxious air.  

The proposals approved last night are for a two forms of entry school which will have a playground on top of the school, just below the A232 between Croydon and Duppas Hill.

Bensham Manor councillor Jamie Audlsey, a member of the planning committee, raised concerns about pollution at the site. In response, Pete Smith, a senior council planning official, told the committee that – according to a report by the applicant’s own experts – the site was below the recommended limit for pollutants.

The Krishna Avanti School site is within a quarter-mile of the point where Inside Croydon and Friends of the Earth recently conducted a street level air quality test, and found that pollution levels are almost twice the legal limit. The monitoring station is further removed from the Croydon Flyover than the proposed school, which would suggest that pollution levels there will be higher still than the findings of the Friends of the Earth test.

Traffic on Southbridge Place is regularly jammed at rush hour, before parents start to ferry their primary aged children to the planned new school

But this is not the first time that the council has fobbed off pollution concerns at a school planning application. When the Harris Purley Way Primary was going through the planning process, an unnamed council environment official reported that there was no need for undue concern about pollution from the A23, since it would be carried away on the prevailing winds.

Smith is Croydon Council’s head of development management. At last night’s meeting, he told Audsley that there would be times when the playground on top of the building would be off limits to children when pollution was high, “particularly during the summer months the playground might not be used during the rush hour”.

Audsley asked how the school’s teachers would judge whether it was safe to let children to play on the school roof. Smith said that it was “a judgement call by the teachers” and that it was “unfair to ask the school to have air quality equipment”.

Audsley asked for the matter to be deferred to allow councillors to understand the situation better. But he was the lone dissenter on the committee, which passed the application by seven votes, with Audsley’s abstention.

Andrew Pelling: his ward will soon have places for 6,000 children

The application had to be brought before the committee after Waddon councillor Andrew Pelling, who is not a planning committee member, asked for the matter to be heard in public.

Pelling expressed concern that in future councillors would be criticised for giving permission for a school use of the site “when standards on pollution are likely to be tightened”.

Smith responded by suggesting that pollution levels could fall “in the future through less car use”. No one at the meeting thought that Smith was joking, even though Croydon’s head of development management really ought to know that the A232 Croydon Flyover will be one of the main routes into the new Westfield supermall, with its 3,500 car parking spaces, when – or if – it is ever built.

Pelling had pushed for pupils and their parents to be encouraged to walk to the school by having surface level crossings between the site and Old Town. But he was told by Smith that the application for a 360-pupil school was not big enough to justify such an idea. Pelling said that the underground subways underneath the flyover connecting the site to Old Town are dangerous.

Pelling said that the applicant’s advisers had told him that demand for school places from Croydon’s Old Town area would be limited; the school’s trustees expect most of its pupils to come from Hindu families in South Croydon.

That this will be another school in Waddon ward with pupils travelling into the area for schooling has led Waddon’s councillors to raise concerns about the Croydon Plan, which is currently subject to review by an independent inspector.

The Southbridge Place school will be Waddon’s 11th school, bringing the total number of pupils attending schools in the ward to more than 6,000.

Waddon councillors are outspoken on the pressure being put on local roads by the number of school places well above local demand.

Today, Pelling told Inside Croydon: “I am concerned for the future personal liability of individual teachers who are going to have to make the call as to whether it is safe to let the children out to play. I know from contact with previous staff at this site that filth from the road above is a persistent challenge.”

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This entry was posted in Andrew Pelling, Croydon Council, Education, Jamie Audsley, Joy Prince, Krishna Avanti Primary, Paul Scott, Planning, Robert Canning, Schools, Waddon and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Air pollution means pupils at new school will be kept indoors

  1. Interesting interview with Mayor Khan in the Times that Croydon’s decision makers need to read. He wants to ban cars from roads near schools to cut pollution. That would mean the A23 and A232 in Croydon where these schools are proposed. He also suggests that today’s Politicians are repeating the mistakes of yesteryear when the health risks of smoking were ignored.

    I think the Labour group need to be a bit more joined up with their colleagues at City Hall.

  2. How could the Committee members let Pete Smith get away with saying that it would be “unfair to ask the school to have air quality equipment”. Surely the health and lives of the children come first and the equipment would probably have been less than TP Bennett’s fees.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Wonder what the residents in the vicinity think about having this school plonked here. It will certainly change the quality of their lives as such a “faith” school will attract long distance commuters from beyond walking distance with the usual holds up twice a day in an already congested area. This all reveals the absurdity of “free” schools opening up anywhere they like with no consideration of local educational needs and the environmental effects which follow.

  4. Lewis White says:

    It is a true tragedy when intelligent and knowledgeable council officers and councillors end up approving school projects which are so clearly in the wrong place as this one, and the Harris Primary School at Purley Way.

    Children, who will spend a very great proportion of their young lives at school, and for whom these years form the foundation of adult health, should all be given the right start in life, by being educated in places that are not in the heavy pollution zone next to busy roads like the flyover. The NHS will be picking up the tab for asthma inhalers –and the children’s chances of a long and healthy life are reduced.

    We need a new Clean Air Act not just for London but the whole UK to ban such places for school developments. In the mean time, Croydon Labour should add a section to the Borough Plan to stop new schools being built or moved to polluted locations, and heed the reasoning behind Sadiq Khan’s move. In reality, no one is going to ban traffic from using the Croydon flyover or the Purley Way on days of high pollution. But the Council could surely devise a way of stopping new schools from being built or moved to polluted places, by revising the Borough Local Plan as a matter of urgency ?

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