Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Fairview school for Enfield?

There were strong words and strong feelings at Joan Ryan's coffee morning yesterday. In fact, it rapidly became a protest meeting against Fairview Homes' proposal to build a school and 300 homes on land just off Enfield Road.

Here are the facts as far as I know them. There's nothing about this proposal on Fairview's website and its all subject to change and negotiation - especially with the council.

School places
There is a need for more secondary school places both here and in other parts of the borough. The council believes that this area will need a new school by 2018. However, Southgate school is currently under-subscribed.

The land
The land, 34 acres, is a triangle bounded by Enfield Road, Lowther Drive and Cottswold Way. It's now owned by the (CoE) Diocese of London who sold Fairview Homes a 15 year option to buy the land in about 2004.

The proposal
Fairview proposes to exercise its option (ie buy the land). It will give the community about one third of the land for a school and build 300 dwellings (flats and houses) on the rest. Fairview has already started detailed work on these proposals. The meeting was shown a mocked-up aerial photo of the site. Fairview plans two access roads off Enfield Road making a one-way system possible at rush hour.

About 60 homes (20%) would be so-called 'affordable'. It's important to recognise that this does not mean that people on average incomes swill be able to afford them! What it does mean will doubtless become known in time. But whatever it means it's half the London target.

Fairview can do nothing without planning permission. This will be difficult because the land is part of the Green Belt and an Area of Special Character (sic) and because there will clearly be a lot of opposition from local residents. One told the meeting that her house would lose £40,000 in value.

The process
It's likely that Fairview is already discussing these plans with Council officers.

Fairview has written to 16 local schools asking if they want to be its partner in the new school. The governors of Highlands have expressed interest. The headteacher has said that if Highlands is to be the partner it will be necessary for it to become an Academy.

It is, I struggle to find the right word, STRANGE - ABSURD - OFFENSIVE, that a property developer should be deciding who will run a new state school!

To gain local support (presumably) Fairview will start a consultation exercise in September. To be involved contact

Fairview may submit a planning application in October, If so they will clearly have ignored the results of the consultation. If the application is rejected Fairview may appeal. Such an appeal would have a good chance of success as the Planning system is biased in favour of developers.
    The alternatives
    1. Eight-form entry implies a huge school. Since smaller schools work better we should think about several smaller schools.
    2. The old Middlesex Uni. site at Trent Park is still unused and could host a school.
    3. St. Anne's Catholic school is due to move to Palmers Green leaving that site clear.
    The path to privatisation
    Local authorities are losing control of schools as they become academies, reversing over 100 years of democratic responsibility. Many academies have a commercial sponsor so Fairview's initiative is just part of the privatisation process.
    State schools are still non-profit but the need to compete with other schools encourages a competitive mindset. An increasing number now have marketing departments - a thing unthinkable even 20 years ago.

    The Tory government believes that the private sector does almost everything better than the public sector. Since it knows that immediate privatisation would be unacceptable it is encouraging a variety of forms of commercial involvement. This is one.

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