Special school offers its stones to plug gaps in park’s walls

Croydon Council officials have given Cressey College a free pass over the “disappearing” rocks from ornamental walls around Park Hill Recreation Ground, assuring residents and friends’ groups that the stones used by the private special school’s builders over the Easter weekend had not been taken from elsewhere in the park.

Mind the gap: the gaping holes in the walls around Park Hill Recreation Ground are nothing to do with Cressey College, say Cressey College

But despite assurances issued on behalf of Horizon Care and Education Group, the business that operates the school, that a planning application for their 10-foot-high security fence on the boundary with a public open space has been submitted to the local authority, no record of it can be found on the council’s planning portal.

Cressey College provides places for up to 188 pupils with SEND, special educational needs and disabilities, with their fees of up to £81,000 per pupil per year usually paid for by Croydon and other local authorities.

In 2023, Cressey College failed its Ofsted inspection, being rated as “Inadequate” in four out of five inspection categories.

Josi Kiss, of the Friends of Park Hill Park, raised the alarm about ornamental granite missing from supporting walls around the park site last week. This coincided with contractors working on site at Cressey College to erect the new fence urgently for “safety reasons”. Park users say that they had been given no advance warning of the works, and because of the four-day bank holiday, there was no one available at Croydon Council who could check the status of the works being carried out.

Work on the fencing was completed last Saturday. Horizon, in a series of often conflicting and somewhat confused statements, denied that any rocks had been taken from anywhere other than within the school boundaries.

They claimed at the time that the missing rocks must have been taken by “others”.

A site meeting between some of the parties was held yesterday morning, after which a message was posted on the Friends of Park Hill Park Twitter feed: “The council’s park manager has assured the Friends that he has personally checked all the granite stones used by Horizon’s builders and he says they do not match the areas where stones went missing last week.

“Horizon has offered stones within their boundaries for repairs.”

Fenced in: Coombe Cliff after the Cressey College contractors had worked tirelessly over the Easter weekend, when there was no one around to object

In a statement issued by Horizon, they said, “We met this morning with representatives from Croydon Council and Friends of Park Hill Park who have acknowledged and accepted that the granite stones found inside the boundary of Cressey College when replacing a security fence are not from retaining walls outside the boundary – as we have stated all along.”

Horizon said that their fence “had to be replaced at short notice to protect the children at Cressey College and members of the public who would have been at risk if the old fence had fallen”.

They said, “While the work was being undertaken, our contractors found stones underneath the fence line as well as ones on the ground and stacked them up. These have been offered to the council to replace stones that are missing from other boundary walls in the area.”

In their statement, Horizon said, “An application for planning permission has been submitted for the fence and we are working closely with the council to ensure that all procedures are followed.”

By the time of publication, Horizon had not responded to Inside Croydon’s requests for information about when and how they had filed their planning application for the fence.

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