On Tuesday 21st January a Special meeting of the Council's Childrens, Families and Schools Scrutiny was held to consider a Call In request by West Hampstead Councillors that the Cabinet decision to develop the Liddell Road site to accommodate an expanded Kingsgate School to be funded by the sale of 140 flats and business space. The Ward Councillors John Bryant and Gillian Risso-Gill were supported by three deputations and an audience of concerned local residents.
John Bryant presented the Education case (that should have been the main concern to the CSF Scrutiny):
- No education arguments have been presented by Officers to justify the current proposal for a split school site other than expanding an existing Outstanding School. Alternative solutions to provide extra school places in NW Camden, such as a free school or academy (where Government funding would have been available) have not been considered.
- The move to a 4-form entry from the originally proposed 2 form entry is a recent addition to the proposal for the Liddell Road site without consideration whether the existing Kingsgate site would be able to accommodate 4-form year groups.
- The move from a 2-form to a 4-form entry carries risks however good the current management might be and particularly on split sites.
-Children in all age primary schools gain benefit of having children of different age groups as part of their school community. This would not be possible in a split site school.
-The examples provided by Officers of split school sites in other areas, eg Emmanuel School were not comparable to the proposals for Kingsgate School since all the sites were on the same road.
-If the Council proceed with selling market homes on the site, there will be an estimated profit of £3 million.
- Since the Cabinet decision, the Council has been awarded £6.7 million from the Government to fund new school places. This would mean that the need to fund a new school or expand an existing one by selling market homes would not be needed. Nor would the need to displace the existing businesses as the site is large enough could accommodate both businesses and a school.
James Earl, Chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum argued that:
- The plan to remove all the existing 25 businesses, resulting in loss of jobs, was against Camden Planning Policies and questioned the suitability of the site for the uses proposed
- The Consultation process was flawed with a very low response rate and the views of local groups had not been included.
- A co-sited school, with sites a walking distance of a mile apart would not be acceptable
Sue Measures, Manager of Sidings Community Centre and Elizabeth Pearson, mother of two toddlers argued:
- The practical and logistical issues for parents of having children at two sites
- The travel issues to Liddell Road and presented photos of pedestrian congestion that morning at the West Hampstead Interchange that parents would have to contend with
- The loss of early years provision in central Kilburn, currently provided at Kingsgate but if moved to the new site would be adjacent to the existing provision at Sidings.
- The consultation with parents was inadequate and misleading, leading to a low response rate
Branko Viric led a deputation of 3 businesses currently trading on Liddell Road
- The proposal will lead to the closure of 25 businesses, many that are unable to afford to move,the loss of jobs, services to local residents, and the loss of rent and business revenue to the Council.
- The businesses will no longer be able to offer apprenticeships to local residents.
- There has been no meaningful consultation or discussion with the businesses by the Council, other than the setting up of an online portal.
- There are no suitable premises available or affordable for the displaced light industrial businesses within Camden . The nearest potential space is in Tottenham, so the local customer base would be lost.
- Alternative sites for a new school in West Hampstead have not been fully explored, eg. 156 West End Lane.
- The pedestrian route between Kingsgate School and Liddell Road along narrow pavements that cannot be widened could be dangerous to young children and parents with buggies.
- The low response rate on the Council's flawed consultation demonstrates a lack of support or awareness.
Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill supported all the above and argued:
- Many of the families whose children currently attend Kingsgate live in the social housing estates around Abbey Road in South Kilburn. Many travel to school by bus with a short walk to the Kingsgate School. There are no bus routes serving the new site and journey times would double by bus and congested pavements through rush hour. This may not be acceptable to parents with toddlers. They may not be in the catchment area of the new school. The only alternative schools would be St. Mary's or St. Eugene de Mazenod, both faith schools and over subscribed.
- Six employment sites have already been lost in West Hampstead recently for housing development which has impacted the local weekday economy.
- No consideration has yet been given to the new housing developments of 380 homes that are under construction in the immediate vicinity of the proposed site in West Hampstead Square, Iverson and Maygrove Roads which will put additional strain on local services as well as traffic and pedestrian routes.
- The proposal for new employment on the new site would not be suitable for the existing light industrial businesses. The new employment space proposed would be office based and may not be attractive to businesses due to Camden's insistence on car-free developments.
The Officers rejected all the arguments by the local community and only referred to the overall Camden Plan
- They could not explain the disparity between their estimate of 80 job losses against the 250 of the businesses.
- They could provide no examples of successful split site schools with 4-form entry
- They could not justify a response rate of 5 from parents as an acceptable reflection of local opinion
- They had not considered Free School or Academy options
- They would not commit that the new £6.7 million would be spent on providing extra school places in NW Camden.
The Committee Chair was reluctant to have all the issues presented to be debated by the Committee. After a cursory discussion, the Committee moved to a vote on accepting the Cabinet's decision to expand Kingsgate School by developing the Liddell Road site to provide new school places. The vote was 7 for and 3 against. All the Labour Councillors voted for and the 3 Opposition Councillors voted against. This meant that the option of the decision being reconsidered by Officers, given the evidence provided by the deputations was not discussed.
We therefore conclude that Camden Labour:
- do not listen to business or are concerned about job losses and livelihoods
- have not considered the logistical problems their split site plan presents to parents
- are not concerned about children's health and safety presented by arduous journeys to school
- are in the market to make £9.7 million from property speculation from a flawed education model.
- put their own political ideology before the education of Camden children and views of residents
We will continue to represent the views of residents at every stage of the development of this proposal. There is still a long way to go!