Residents in South Croydon, living close to the site of the £30million free school which has been granted planning permission by Croydon Council, fear that the decision will make the 180 11-year-old first-year intake vulnerable to the high volume of traffic which races along Coombe Road when the school opens in September.
Croydon’s Labour-run council removed Green Belt protections from the Coombe Wood playing fields to allow them to push through the scheme which provides a site for a selective school that will eventually accommodate 1,200 pupils, aged 11 to 18, plus staff.
That means a possible 2,000, or more, additional journeys to and from the site every weekday.
But residents living nearby are concerned that the transport plan agreed at last week’s planning committee is rushed, ill-considered and inadequate.
The elected councillors on the planning committee and the council’s planning staff even ignored the warning given in the officers’ final version of the planning report which set out the dangers:
“Due to the size of the site, the Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) varies between 2 (poor) and 0 (worst). The entrance to the site has a (PTAL) rating of 1b (very poor).”
Residents accuse the council planning department of “waiving away all objections and settling for a quick-fix road scheme offering little protection to the 11-year-olds walking to their first ‘big school’”.
One resident told Inside Croydon: “They have left them vulnerable to injury from the volume of fast-moving traffic using Coombe Road and others roads close by.”
Croydon’s planners have insisted on only providing an uncontrolled pedestrian crossing point in Melville Avenue, changing part of the road to one-way and banning access to it from the busy Coombe Road.
“None of this is sufficient to protect youngsters on their way from the tram stop and Lloyd Park car park vehicle set-down point,” according to another resident who opposed the scheme.
“Sadly, in their rush for approval, this wholly ineffective road scheme ignored that pupils need also to cross Castlemaine Avenue, which by then will be carrying an even higher volume of rat-run traffic entering it from Coombe Road.”
A new in-out entrance off Coombe Road has been recommended for the school, to enable staff and pupils to arrive and depart in greater safety. Requests made at last Thursday’s planning meeting for the highways department to deliver this in time for the September opening of the school (which initially will be housed in temporary buildings) were quickly batted away by Paul Scott, the controversial chair of the planning committee, as was a call for a two-week deferment of approval to consider alternative transport plans.
Another suggestion, to install a light-controlled crossing in Coombe Road about 100 yards up from its junction with Melville Avenue, was also rejected.
With the school due to open to its first cohort in little more than six months’ time, Scott and the planning department, clearly keen to allow building work on what was until a month ago untouchable Green Belt, would not consider anything that delayed the scheme.
Croydon Council’s planning and highways departments have something of a track record of pushing through large school construction schemes with poorly considered transport plans: the Oasis Arena school went ahead despite some very reasonable objections from the residents nearby who were having the academy imposed upon them.
Of the Coombe Wood School decision, “They’ve rushed head-long into approval to meet the September opening with little regard for the safety consequences,” according to a South Croydon resident.
Meanwhile, a pre-planning application is already submitted for the school’s permanent buildings, which the committee will hear at the Town Hall this Thursday.
And today, just up the road from the school site, in the Beefeater at Coombe Lodge, there’s a public exhibition of the plans, organised by a firm of consultants with a swanky Pall Mall address.
Residents who have seen the plans for the permanent build are unsurprised that they are missing some of the safer access points that were discussed the planning meeting just a week ago. “The public document pack no longer includes a specific reference to the previously proposed new in-out access route from Coombe Road.
“Any parent of a potential Coombe Wood pupil or anyone interested in the safety of the 1,200 pupils needs to make a noise now before letting the planning committee again railroad approval without proper road safety crossing solutions greater to safeguard these young lives,” they said.
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