After 18 months of tinkering and shenanigans, it now seems likely that the extraordinary plans to build the “Athena Primary Academy” and “Barclay Secondary Free School” on the Thames Water site, Lea Bridge Road, will soon go before Waltham Forest Council’s Planning Committee for approval.
Click to the link below for the latest version of the plans:
The developers are continuing to show misleading ‘before and after’ images on their promotional site http://www.leabridgedepot.co.uk/ , which show the existing dense vegetation of mature woodland along Lea Bridge Road retained in an identical state, and screening the site from the view of those passing on Lea Bridge Road.
The plans submitted in the past month disclose that over 50 trees will be felled and the woodland paved over. The present linear woodland that provides such welcome relief from the urban grimness of the main road will be replaced with tarmac, a 2.4m fence and stark views onto the car park and vast school buildings beyond.
Here are the main planning issues that we have included in our objections:
- The site is Metropolitan Open Land which has the strongest protection from development and which the London Plan clearly states should not be developed unless there are “special circumstances”. MOL sites are of strategic importance for all of London. The proposed development is not acceptable under current planning policy.
- There are no “special circumstances” which could justify the proposed development: the pressure for new school places is a generalised pressure not a special circumstance, just as it is for housing or other infrastructure such as hospitals. In any event the pressure for school places is elsewhere in the borough.
- The revised plans propose that almost all the existing woodland habitat with its mature trees along the Lea Bridge Road frontage will be removed, with an unacceptable negative impact on openness and visual amenity from the viewpoint where the largest number of people will be affected.
- The site is flood plain and unsuitable for a school.
- The site should be returned to the Lea Valley Park as intended and re-established as a vital part of the park: losing it would put a huge obstruction in the middle of an otherwise continuously wide green corridor and compromise the green chain both now and in the future, because the development of the site could lead to future attempts to develop in and around it.
- The activity, noise and lighting associated with the schools will be harmful to the sensitive surroundings of wildlife habitat and Nature Reserves.
- Though the applicant says there will be more green space as a result of the development, this will not be true green space but rather school playing fields of limited biodiversity value to which the public will be denied access. Were the site returned to green space parkland, this would be entirely green space and accessible to the public.
- The Travel Plan is fundamentally flawed: it seeks to reduce local traffic impacts to an acceptable level, but this depends upon the assumption that all parking, dropping off and picking up will take place at the school and on the road outside, both of which will be restricted. However immediately opposite the proposed site the Ice Centre provides free parking for 30 minutes and will be ideal for parents dropping off and picking up, rendering ineffective the restrictions at the school itself. Five minutes’ walk away, unlimited free parking is available at the Waterworks and Riding Centre. It therefore grossly understates the increase in traffic that will be generated and associated congestion and pollution.