Osterley folk have won a skirmish they could have done without with just a few phone calls, an e mail or two and their local councillor. Like the Grand Old Duke of York, Michael Gove’s Education Funding Agency has now skulked back from its trespass on public land.
The big grey fence has gone.
Earlier this week, contractors began removing the fence they skilfully but illegally erected a fortnight ago. A response to the letter written to Peter Lauener, chief executive of government quango the EFA, is still awaited with detail of the cost of dealing with this wasteful and unlawful use of public money. Hounslow Council’s head of property forwarded me the following,
Andy Hamer of the EFA had a short meeting with Marilyn, David and me after the main planning meeting today [Monday 27.4.2015].
Andy apologised on behalf of the EFA for the erection of hoardings beyond the property boundary and without planning permission, which he said was due to a misunderstanding about the boundary location.
We have been advised that all unlawful construction will be removed without delay and resulting holes in the ground will be filled and made good. Temporary ‘Heras’ fencing, within planning rules, will be put up well inside the boundary to provide short-term security against trespassers, and a planning application will be submitted to seek formal approval for all proposed longer-term fencing.
Site security is an issue for the EFA, but Andy assures us that particular care will now be taken to ensure all future fencing enclosure works are carried out lawfully.
A good win for local people and reminder of how much taxpayers’ cash the EFA continues to waste on the Conservative Party’s expensive free school ideology. It is a shame that resident, council officer and councillor time was wasted. Back to square one but now with added suspicion and resentment as well as a loss of goodwill, precious wildlife and public money.
That is now two planning applications awaited: for a fence and for a school.
I have said to LBH’s head of property that in the short term, the following will be expected and pursued:
- The Education Funding Agency should declare all its intentions for the site and provide a timetable for any planning applications, temporary or otherwise.
- The removal of noisy and aggressive dogs from the EFA’s security scheme – their claims of risk are farfetched and another example of its bullying paranoia (Contact Hounslow Council’s Noise Team on if you are disturbed by anti social barking – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Neighbours and ward councillors to see proposals to reinstate the amenity strip damaged during erection and dismantling of the fence trespass.
- A trees survey prior to any installation of fencing whether temporary or permanent.
I was only elected to represent this area in May 2014 but from working with residents since and stories heard it has become obvious, the Nishkam Trust’s ambitions have been longer term as has been Mary McLeod’s complicit support.
One (non Labour Party supporting) neighbour told me,
It is obvious to all of us around here that Nishkam believe this is a “done deal” when one considers that,
- they have had people checking out this site for over a year now but flatly deny when approached that anything is happening
- we have requested a meeting with them but they have ignored our request
- the land has been sold (we understand for £2m) and contracts exchanged
- substantial funds are now being spent on dangerous security measures and illegal fencing (yet “nothing has been decided”).
Yet when we raise it with the local MP and other councillors all we hear is “no planning application has been submitted” which completely misses the point!
Something has happened in private without us being consulted which gives Nishkam reason to believe they can go ahead and design and build the school without needing to be worried about our views (i.e. planning approval is already a done deal).
Whilst there is still no planning application, there is no doubt that much work on this application has already taken place with the resource available to the Nishkam Trust and Education Funding Agency in allowable pre planning enquiries to the local authority which would not, it has been advised, be publicly available until a planning application is submitted.
Needless to say there are likely to have been the normal behind the scenes lobbying involving the Department for Education and Mary McLeod. As far back as November 2013 she wrote about her active support for Nishkam throughout the process of being established locally and seeing as it continues to operate from a temporary site, there is no evidence to suggest her non involvement since.
A local small firm had been using the Conquest Club car park for 11 years but given just 24 hours that this would stop when the Earl of Jersey’s company sold the site to the EFA. For all Mary McLeod’s newspaper claims of support for small business, her participation in this matter has not only impacted local trade but has brought more parked cars on to this semi rural stretch of Wood Lane affecting pedestrian and road safety.
A local query made of Mary McLeod on when to expect Nishkam’s planning application, consultation and traffic proposals was forwarded by her for a response to Hounslow Council as recent as last month.
An honest person might suggest that if Mary McLeod was asked about these matters then this would have been better sought from her close contacts with the Nishkam Trust and EFA than shifting it and taking up busy council planning officers’ time. This approach is neither impressive nor open and, particularly, she appears unable to appreciate the wider picture: how the development process pans out here will have serious implications for other Metropolitan Open land in the area.
Mary McLeod has failed and continues to fail to represent Osterley residents.
I am a just a backbench councillor but continue to assure my constituents that this major planning application will be heard in public by the Hounslow Council Planning Committee and as far as I am concerned the deal is not done until councillors there decide. Whatever else Mary McLeod may have in mind, this should follow stringent examination of any application against all applicable current Hounslow Council, London and national planning policies in relation to development on Metropolitan Open Land. Residents, whether individually or collectively, will not be prevented from being consulted or disallowed their right to make comment.
This is for two reasons: if a 1,400 pupil school is allowed to be built on this site then everything that can be put in place to cause the least inconvenience to the neighbourhood and its residents, businesses and their workers and other local recreation facilities and their users. This should be agreed at the planning stage otherwise it would be difficult to fix should problems arise after.
Secondly, this part of the borough has other MOL and without stringent planning here negative precedents could be set for ambitions other than sports, recreation or education.
Many residents have been asking whether any thought has been given to the reuse of long empty buildings. One reminded how the Gillette building, now that three hotels have opened on the Great West Road, is still lightly used, has parking, is served by regular buses and Syon Lane Station. “If it can be converted to a hotel the same could be done for a school and solve the problem of a historic building potentially falling into disrepair and avoid abuse of MOL.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Hounslow requires up to three new secondary schools within the next four years but the consideration here is planning: what can be built on Metropolitan Open Land and why it would be better for the Education Funding Agency to only buy brownfield sites for the projects they sponsor. Indeed, the Marlborough Motors site next to the Nishkam Academy’s is almost vacant.
I shall continue to keep residents informed and continue to welcome comment and news on this matter.