GENE BRODIE reports on how residents’ concerns have forced developers to re-think their proposals a massive new selective school
No sooner has planning permission been granted for a selective school to move on to what was, until recently, Green Belt playing fields at Coombe Wood, than the school trust has unveiled its plans for the permanent buildings on the site.
There was a poorly publicised, one-night-only consultation session at the nearby Beefeater restaurant last week which demonstrated the huge scale of the school and the hefty chunk of real estate which has been handed to the free school trust, Folio.
Folio, which was set up by a Sutton-based grammar school, says that when Coombe Wood School is fully open it will have eight forms of entry, providing 1,680 pupil places, including a sixth form of up to 480 pupils. This, in a borough which has a surplus of 5,000 secondary school places.
The consultation session will be followed swiftly by an application for planning permission, as the trust has no desire for its over-subscribed Year 7 to have to spend too long learning their 3Rs in temporary buildings.
Discussions around last week’s consultation session suggested a major scene shift in road safety thinking compared with two weeks earlier, when Paul Scott, the chair, and the rest of the council’s planning committee were first shown a permanent school plan before debating and granting immediate approval for the temporary buildings, which are due to open opposite Lloyd Park this September.
The consultation session was attended by architects, a deputy head, builders, transport consultants and logistics experts, and they all emphasised that children’s safety travelling to and from the school was their highest priority.
Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?
But one source at the meeting admitted that they are reassessing completely the previously discussed road crossing arrangements for the temporary school, as they were clearly not fit for purpose.
The source gave a verbal assurance that the plan for Melville Avenue to be partly one-way with an uncontrolled raised pedestrian crossing had been dropped and a more permanent solution was being worked on which would also meet future needs.
Subject to planning permission, the permanent school will be built in two phases, with the first starting this autumn (did we mention that they are keen to rush this through?). The cost of the build overall is expected to be £30million.
The Melville Avenue access gate will be used for the first couple of months to enable construction vehicles and materials to reach the top of the site. There, they will first construct the car park area with its two in/out accesses into Coombe Road. From then on, all vehicles will use those entrances into the site to deliver building supplies.
Once stage one is completed in September 2019, the temporary school will be removed and access from the Melville Avenue gate will only be used for service vehicles such as refuse and school deliveries.
Among the additional highways improvements being considered are proper light-controlled crossings and a new pavement running alongside Coombe Road on the same side as the school, to improve the safety of pedestrian pupils heading there from Melville Avenue.
Many residents voiced concerns over the current speed of the vehicles travelling along Coombe Road, particularly those heading towards Croydon, and they favoured an additional speed camera to deal with this, rather than just flashing indicator signs, as highways monitoring had shown speeds clearly in excess of the 30mph limit.
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