Mayor of London bypasses Town Hall to approve plans for seven storey flats on top of Dalston school
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 November 2013
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been accused of being "undemocratic" after he passed unpopular school redevelopment plans that were rejected by the town hall.
On Monday, the mayor approved plans for Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School in Beechwood Road, Dalston, to be knocked down and rebuilt with seven floors of flats above it. The flats will be sold to a developer to finance the plans.
This is despite uproar from residents living nearby and Hackney Council planning committee’s rejection of the proposal on the basis of poor design principles in June.
The move means that children at the school – where numbers will double from 223 – will have a rooftop playground and the 11-storey development will overshadow houses in neighbouring streets.
Emily Laidlaw, of Dalston Square, who was one of three residents who spoke against the planning application at the Greater London Assembly, said: “We are really disappointed and we do not think our objections were taken into consideration by the planning officer or the mayor.
“Cllr Vincent Stops spoke on behalf of Hackney Council and said that there are all kinds of problems with this building which is why the council refused it. He spoke about problems with the size, appearance, lack of affordable homes, the reduction on sunlight on neighbouring buildings, and the number of trees that will be cut down to make way for it.
“Yet the whole focus was on the number of school places, which is an important issue, but that does not mean you pass through plans which have a negative effect on people.”
Cllr Stops, who represented the council at the meeting, said: “The mayor’s powers of call-in were supposed to be used to deal with poorly performing planning authorities that were not delivering against the London Plan, not those that are out-performing the plan like Hackney. Calling in Hackney’s decision is an extraordinary view of localism.
“This proposal was non-compliant in principle with the recently adopted Dalston Area Action Plan that the council consulted widely on.
“The planning committee supported a mix of uses on the site with a school and high-density housing.
“However, we didn’t want to see an 11 to 12-storey slab building with too little articulation, that would provide a poor quality of accommodation for future residents and pupils. The Mayor of London’s decision is short-sighted.”
Another local Anna McSweeney, a mother from Dalston Square, said the process had undermined her faith in the democratic process, saying: “I’m really upset it has gone past a local council.
“It does not feel democratic. We go through the proper processes and it’s taken out of our hands by people who do not understand local needs.
“It makes me feel powerless.”
Meanwhile, London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold believed the Mayor was picking and choosing his own agenda, saying: “While I am aware of the growing and urgent demand for more school places in Hackney, the fact the Mayor brought the planning application for Holy Trinity Primary School to City Hall in order for him to act as the Local Planning Authority is puzzling and flies in the face of local democratic process.
“I believe the Mayor may have abused his power by overruling the Council’s decision and has set a worrying precedent that could see more planning applications – particularly those associated with schools – taken out of the hands of boroughs. While I appreciate that the development at the Holy Trinity site in Dalston involved residential units, as well as a school, it seems to me that, when we consider that the Mayor refused to intervene in the case of Sulivan Primary in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, he could be accused of picking and choosing to suit his own agenda.”
Mr Johnson said: “The design for the redevelopment of Holy Trinity School is pioneering and cleverly tackles the need to provide more housing and more primary school places.
“The plan also includes a commitment to enable local people to use the building, increasing community facilities in the area.”