A private school that charges £81,000 per year for some of its pupils is accused of doing work on the ‘cheap’ with its proposals, including ugly 9-foot-high fencing around a listed Victorian building
A Croydon alderman, and former cabinet member responsible for the borough’s heritage architecture and parks and gardens, has joined a growing chorus of complaints about proposals to convert Grade II-listed Heathfield House into a special school.
Timothy Godfrey, who was a Labour councillor until 2018, tweeted his reaction to a report on Inside Croydon earlier this week that the council is considering a planning application which will shut out the public from large sections of the house’s gardens, and instal a 9ft prison-style fence around the elegant Victorian villa and its sunken Italianate garden.
Croydon Council wants to lease Heathfield House to Cressey College, a special school operated by Horizon Care and Education Group.
Horizon is a multi-million-pound health and education business. Cressey charges local authorities up to £81,000 per year for a pupil to attend its school. It seems likely that some of the school’s 50 pupils have their fees paid for by Croydon Council.
Inside Croydon understands that as part of the long-term tenancy agreement, while Horizon will conduct the repairs and works required to make Heathfield House more suitable accommodation for Cressey, they will be given at least 12 months rent-free by the council, and only then be charged rent of a mere £5,000 per month.
The council’s planning portal is open to any objections to the planned alterations, including the prison-style wire fencing to go all around the site, until tomorrow, June 30.
Alderman Godfrey has already made his view public.
“Heritage assets like this need love and care in their re-use,” he tweeted yesterday.
“If this profitable company needs security fencing, perhaps it is the wrong user for such a sensitive site.”
And Godfrey was equally dismissive about other elements of the Cressey College plans.
“The secondary glazing also looks grim. Hate to think what they are doing to the french windows!”
Further examination of the proposals also drew Godfrey’s concern. “Oh dear me,” he wrote later. “This application gets worse.
“They plan to box in the staircase and fireplaces to ‘protect them’ – the sports court is right next to the building, too. Given the size of the grounds, no reason they couldn’t be away from the building.
“It strikes me as the cheapest possible amount of work to make it work for as the reports say 10 to 15 years…”.
Godfrey also highlighted the highly profitable nature of Horizon’s health and education business. “They make over 6per cent profit,” he wrote, while asking, “How many [school] places does the council buy?”
There is, Godfrey observed, a “brewing scandal in wider sector of care homes for children and adults [and] excess profits”.
Godfrey wrote, “No reason this sort of education should be profit-driven. In a publicly-owned building.”
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One of the best views of Stalag Heathfield, once the public are banned from access to a listed formerly publicly-owned building will be from passing trams ?!
Heathfield House maybe a victim of the Councils failure to maintain it properly as an asset and also to cross subsidise there own activities at little to no cost. The council should show the usage and the amount of money they then did not spend on premises and also exactly how much money they have spent on the maintenance since being in receipt of the property.
There is now the problem that it does need maintenance and that does cost money. A lease/repair agreement is normal to get that to happen but this is also a listed building and one wonders what measures are being used to bend to those requirements.
I wonder what kind of Consultation this Council have done with Historic England and the National Amenity Societies if they have an interest. Perhaps this should be checked to see if it has been done if required?
It will be interesting to see how the new Council Planning committee deal with this and all the objections – It is possible that if this goes ahead our New Mayor will have shown where his priorities actually are with respects to the Planning department. Roll on the scrutiny committee!¬
There are many buildings, sites, works of art and other bequests that are given in trust to the Community in perpetuity. It is perhaps time that either the laws are updated so that rapacious local officials are prevented from excessive disposal of assets given to them in trust for public use and enjoyment.
Perhaps in the meantime people wishing to give back to communities by donating assets should cease to do so. It would be better to give them to an independent trust that could ensure that the gift and its purpose was as stated ”in perpetuity”.