We, as well as local residents in Waltham Forest, are extremely concerned about the Thames Water Depot site in Waltham Forest where free school providers are already advertising places – despite no planning permission being sought or approved – on a piece of land which is part of the Lee Valley Regional Park and Metropolitan Open Land (with the same level of protection as Green Belt) and as such a strategically important asset for all of London. MOL is becoming increasingly important to London as a strategic ‘green asset’ which contributes to air cooling, flood management etc, and is becoming more and more important as London densifies.
As you know, the Mayor has pledged to protect both Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land and he will be required to consider whether he feels this is justifiable development.
We are particularly concerned that:
- ‘Exceptional circumstances’ must be proven to exist to justify building on Metropolitan Open Land. We cannot see that demand for school places constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’ when this is a generalised pressure across London. If we take that argument to its logical conclusion, all of London’s protected green spaces could be given over to schools.
- Applications should be able to show that other alternative sites have been exhaustively considered. The free school providers were shown a number of sites in Waltham Forest, i.e. alternatives sites, and we fail to understand how none of these could have been suitable, in particular in light of the fact that the site which they ‘prefer’ is a piece of a regional park and MOL. Presumably the free school providers have no interest in considering the downside of loss of Metropolitan Open Land to London as a whole – i.e. I can only assume this has not been considered in deliberations. But since this has all be behind closed doors we cannot tell. Perhaps you have more information?
- The proposed free schools are not located in an area of need for the majority of Waltham Forest residents, according to local campaigners.
This case is part of a wider pattern of the Government’s Education Funding Agency acquiring protected land in London to put free schools on and we strongly object to their approach, which effectively bypasses local planning procedures by doing deals behind closed doors and effectively putting pressure on the council to approve a planning application.
Green Spaces Campaigner