‘Planning Scandal hits cc£100m Holland Park Academy’

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(left) Councillor Robert Atkinson, Spokesperson on Family and Children’s Services committee
Almost £100m of public money spent building the new Holland Park Academy will deliver little benefit to local residents, who are left fuming at the latest turn of events.
Borough residents are already stunned at the cost of the new building, which did not provide a place for one single additional student. Originally estimated at £40 million, costs spiralled out of control to almost £100 million as the aspirations of the former Leader of the Council, Sir Merrick Cockell and Head Teacher Colin Hall went unchecked and uncontrolled. RBKC Property Services state they have ‘learnt lessons’, which in the context is deeply ironic.
Part of the planning permission, which was long, complex and hotly debated, concerned public use of the swimming pool and other sports facilities. There has long been community use of the Holland Park School building, with adult education evening classes and sporting events held by outside organisations. The new school was to allow public access to the pool outside school hours and this was enshrined in the Planning Agreement.  However, the Governors of the new Academy are now resisting public access and a fierce debate has ensued.
In a new twist, Councillors have been told the following:
‘The Academy met with Council officers in recent weeks, and in response to the advice given, is preparing a new Community Use Agreement to replace the existing draft agreement. [our italics]
‘The new agreement will aim to make the swimming pool available to a number of local organisations. Whilst there will be no open public access, these organisations will represent a wider section of the community than originally proposed by the Academy [our italics]. The draft agreement can then be submitted to the Planning Committee’.
Along with resident outrage, the matter was brought to Family and Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee on 13 November, where Councillors pointed out that the agreement was not a ‘draft’, it was enshrined in the planning permission as a Planning Condition. The view at meeting was almost unanimously that Holland Park Academy is acting ultra vires. The Committee agreed to summon Head Teacher Colin Hall and Anne Marie Carrie, the new Chair of Governors, to a scrutiny meeting to respond.
Unfortunately, this meeting is not due until January, which may be too late and not until after the new Community Use Agreement might have been approved by a planning committee. It was therefore agreed that the committee Chairman Cllr. David Lindsay will go to the planning committee and oppose the new agreement.
Cllr. Robert Atkinson, Labour Group spokesperson for Family and Children’s Services, said: “Although Holland Park School is now unfortunately an Academy, this does not give the school the right to ignore the community within which it is located. Over the years the Council has been very generous to Holland Park School and the ongoing failure to cooperate with the Council and local residents to achieve community access to the outstanding facilities at the newly built Academy is unfortunate and a very worrying precedent. The Council must now enforce, to the letter, the planning conditions under which permission for the new building was granted”.
Labour Leader Cllr. Judith Blakeman added: “it is ironic that this is happening at a time when the government is trying to persuade public schools to make their facilities publicly available. Here a state school is attempting the opposite, to privatise a publicly funded swimming pool”.

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