Apr 25 2013

Vaughan School Expansion – An Open Letter

writing-150x150Barely had we published the article about the Vaughan School Expansion, that this open letter arrived via email. We’ve edited it to remove identifying details.

[ redacted] Dorchester Avenue
North Harrow

I have been handed a copy of your letter to parents dated 24th April in which you are seeking their assistance in raising a petition to support the planning application for the Vaughan School expansion which was deferred by the planning committee on the 17th April

Your letter also seeks class representatives to be available for a meeting next week for you to run through the “school’s, parents’ and children’s coordinated response in support of the design and redevelopment”.

As many of the parents may not be local residents who reside in neighbouring streets I would very much like to attend the meeting to be able to put forward the views of these nearby residents and to be able to point out the many planning issues, some of which were raised at the planning committee meeting last week.

I would add at this point that we do not disagree that the school needs replacing and that it needs to increase in size. What we are against is the current plans for this to be achieved. This is not a case of NIMBY’ism but it is in the firm belief that;

  1. This application will result in inappropriate overdevelopment
  2. It will breach planning policies, and
  3. That residents have not been given full and proper opportunity to have their voices heard

I very much doubt that you will invite me to the meeting so I list the reasons below;

The school is located on a category 3b flood plain and National Planning Policy Statement 25 only allows certain types of building to be made – schools aren’t included.

The proposed compensatory flood alleviation will be ineffective as it will flood the proposed new multi usage games area and a car park. I understand from Stephen Kelly the Head of Planning at the Council that you have signed a letter accepting this.

An increased risk of flooding has been acknowledged, requiring the school to monitor the water levels in the culvert by having monitoring equipment in the school offices, and draw up a flood evacuation plan – the school has never needed one before.

The monitoring outside of school hours has not been considered – there is a real risk of flooding to neighbouring properties who have no way of being notified and evacuated.

Due to the lack of space, there will be a loss of 4 parking spaces despite the increase in staff and visitor numbers – are the surrounding roads supposed to accommodate the increased parking requirements ?

There is no capacity for on street parking to accommodate the extra numbers as on one side of the school is a CPZ and the other side, residents parking.

More pupils means more parents driving to and from school. Especially, as you point out, the catchment area has increased fourfold meaning people will have further to travel.

The surrounding roads are already congested and at times at a stand still, particularly as they are narrowed by the parked cars – increasing their use is an accident waiting to happen.

The building being proposed is too big for the site and is literally being “squeezed in”. In fact the building is being squeezed in so much that it fails to meet minimum BS99 guidelines for the size of the classrooms.

Putting it another way – the site is not big enough for the building.

6 classrooms overlooking residential properties is an unacceptable loss of privacy. 28 metres between houses is different from affording a view to hundreds of children into our houses (and affording a clear view into the  classrooms by the residents)

There will be a total loss of residential and visual amenity, replacing a view of open space and gardens with a two storey building very close to the boundary fence

The proposed building is taller than the houses surrounding the site affecting, visual amenity, sunlight, and is totally out of character with it’s surroundings.

“…..development will not be permitted on designated Open Space as identified on the Harrow proposals map”.

That proposals map shows the school playing field as designated Open Space.

It also says; “…..there is a presumption against any net loss of open space”.

There is in fact a net loss of outdoor play space of some 18.6% despite an increase of 50% in pupil numbers and a decrease of 45% to the area designated as Open Space.

As you will be aware, it has previously been upheld that there were issues with the original consultation.

Letters sent to residents informing them of the proposed development in January and July 2012 were inadequate in as much as they did not mention that a 2 storey building on the playing field was being considered.

It was the view of the Councils independent investigating officer that there had, and I quote, “clearly been a failure to engage with that part of the local community that immediately adjoins the proposed new building.”

By supporting this application you will be building a school that will flood despite a flood alleviation plan and increasing flood risk and associated dangers for the neighbouring properties.

A building of this nature is inappropriate in a 3B Flood Zone and goes against the National Planning Policy Statement 25.

Granting the application would be contrary to the councils Open Space policy in their Core strategy.

Granting the application will contribute to the unacceptable surrounding parking problems and will exacerbate the dangers that will be caused by over congesting the neighbouring roads.

Parking and Highway issues are inadequate and pose real dangers.

The site is not big enough for the building and does not meet BS99 guidelines.

The development is totally out of character with the surroundings. The school field is surrounded on three sides by residential properties. Building a 2 storey building incorporating 12 classrooms, 2 halls, and a kitchen is overdevelopment and will result in unacceptable loss of privacy.

Due and correct process has not been followed.

Finally, as I have said, this is about the planning merits of this application – and there are none.

Please be kind enough to pass on my comments at your meeting next week – you know this application is wrong and you should tell the parents the full facts.

Your response by Friday 26th April would be welcomed.

[Redacted] on behalf of local residents and parents

We’ll add further detail once we have it.

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