Planners reject free school bid on site which has already cost taxpayer £15m

Janet Downs's picture

A plan for a new ten-storey secondary academy on a site which has already cost taxpayers £15m has been rejected by Bromley councillors.  

The Science, Health and Wellbeing (SHaW) Futures Academy would have squeezed 1,260 pupils and 110 staff on the site of former DHSS offices, the latest issued of Private Eye* reported. 

The then Education and Funding Agency (EFA) purchased the £15m site in 2013 for a proposed free school, the Bromley Bilingual School.  At the time, no change of use approval was needed to change the offices into a school.  The thinking was that any old building could be used for education.

The free school plan ‘morphed into La Fontaine Academy’, Private Eye said, but a letter to parents from the proposers said the site was ‘deemed to be unsuitable for the school as it grows in size’ to 630 pupils.

The site was used as temporary accommodation for Harris Primary Academy Shortlands.  There were just 60 pupils but even then parents complained about lack of outdoor space.

When Harris left, the EFA had to find a use for the site so latched on to Bromley’s shortage of secondary places.  SHaW Futures Academy would do nicely despite the site having been rejected by former free school proposers for a school half its capacity.

But the ‘health and wellbeing’ academy, sponsored by London South East Academies (formerly Bromley Educational Trust), seem to be rather unconcerned about, er, health and safety.  Concerns have grown about traffic, fire evacuation and lack of space outdoors for PE.

Councillors recognised there a need for ‘additional education uses’ but the building’s size, its impact on locals and traffic concerns meant the committee rejected the application.  The proposal also didn’t concur with Bromley’s Area Action Plan.

The Department for Education now has a costly empty site which has been rejected by Bromley planners for education because it didn’t meet local area policies.  This has cost taxpayers £15m for the site plus cost of refurbishment for temporary accommodation at Harris Primary Academy Shortlands.   The site can’t just be abandoned so more money will be needed to keep the building safe and in good repair. 

This purchase appears to be a white elephant.   

*Print edition only

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