Sutton Council’s plans to build a special school on playing fields at Sheen Way would see them break their own stated policy of protecting green open spaces and playing fields, while avoiding building a larger SEND school at Rose Hill, in the ward represented by council leader Ruth Dombey.
A planning application for the Sheen Way scheme is expected to be approved by the council’s LibDem-dominated planning committee, although officials still failed to comply with the usual formalities and notify the three councillors for the affected ward, Beddington North.
The councillors – Tim Foster, Jillian Green and Nick Mattey – are independents, not part of the Liberal Democrat-controlled one-party state in charge of the borough. The Beddington North councillors all oppose the proposal to build a school on the site.
The building has been designed by TP Bennett – the central London architects firm where Croydon’s de facto chair of planning, Paul Scott, works.
In Croydon, Scott has already overseen Green Belt land de-designated in order that a selective school run by a Sutton-based grammar can be built on what used to be playing fields.
Opposition is growing to the Sheen Way proposals, with a residents’ meeting arranged for next Wednesday.
When Inside Croydon conducted an entirely unscientific poll on the scheme in June this year, 77 per cent of respondents said that Sheen Way is an entirely unsuitable site for a school.
Sutton Council, though, appears determined to push through the scheme, regardless of the impact on the children who will attend the school or the 2,000 residents living on the High View estate.
In the 1920s, when the land was sold to Sutton to build housing, it carried with it a covenant which explicitly banned any building on the playing fields.
Inside Croydon has obtained the official documents from the Land Registry. Under the “Schedule for Restrictive Covenants”, it states: “No buildings whatsoever shall be erected on any part of the land agreed to be sold except a pavilion or other building used in connection with a playing field and no trade or business shall be carried on thereon.”
Further clauses banned even “the erection of hoardings” or fences on the site, which was retained as playing fields specifically to provide a public amenity for the people who would move into the houses being built in the period between 1923 and 1931.
But the council was released from the terms of the restrictive covenant in 1957.
The proposal to build a special school on Sheen Way would free up the heritage buildings at Carew Manor for alternative – more lucrative – uses by Sutton Council.
But there is another site available on which to build a special educational needs school, at Rose Hill. A new school on the larger, easier to access site at Rose Hill would offer 112 additional pupil places.
Sheen Way’s school would only accommodate 20 additional pupils.
Rose Hill happens to be in Sutton North, the ward represented by Ruth Dombey, the LibDem council leader. The council’s actions over the special school appear to have been determined through a classic piece of Nimby-ism by the council leader – just at a time when the council’s treatment of SEND children, those with special educational needs and disabilities, is coming under ever greater scrutiny and criticism.
Next week’s public meeting is organised by the High View Residents’ Association, who describe the development proposals as “both impractical and irresponsible”.
They estimate that the school would create an additional 600 vehicle movements per day on the narrow residential streets around their estate. Construction work is due to begin on November 1.
The meeting is at 7pm on August 28 at Croygas Sports Club on Mollison Drive, with space limited to local residents.
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