The Public Inquiry, starting on Feb 5th 2008 into the Redevelopment of Holland Park School and the Sale of the Playing Fields

5th November 2007 David White Chairman

Campden Hill Residents' Association (CHRA) has represented residents in the immediate area of Campden Hill for over 30 years. Most of our time is taken up with bread and butter issues local planning, local policing. We have a good working relationship with both Kensington and Chelsea Council and the local police.

In late 2005 the Council held its first and only public consultation on its proposals to totally rebuild Holland Park School and fund it by selling the playing fields. There were an overwhelming number of local residents who objected to the scheme both by letter and at meetings organised by CHRA. We have always argued that it is in principle wrong to sell school playing fields however tempting the financial argument. Playing fields, once sold, are lost for ever. The Council maintains (a) that the school is in such poor condition that it must be totally rebuilt and (b) the only way of funding that rebuild is by selling the playing fields. CHRA's position is that (a) the school is not a failing school in either educational or building terms what it needs is careful upgrading of existing buildings plus a selective rebuild of some specialist facilities and (b) there are alternative sources of funding, which the Council has rejected out of hand.

The Council made a formal planning application for a total rebuild, which was accepted on 6th November 2006. Throughout the subsequent planning process CHRA campaigned vigorously for the application to be rejected. We suspect that the council's planners shared many of our concerns but in the end political pressure, particularly from the Leader of the Council, triumphed. On 6th June 2007 the Council gave itself planning permission, subject to a long list of unresolved problems. Following a very effective lobbying campaign by CHRA and its members, the Secretary of State called in the application on 13th July 2007.

This means an independent Inspector will hold a Public Inquiry into the whole application. She (for it is likely to be a she) will then prepare a report and recommendations for the Secretary of State, also currently a she. The Secretary of State does not have to accept the Inspector's recommendation but she has to give reasons, if she does not do so. It has now been agreed that the Inquiry will start on February 5th and last two weeks.

The attached four sheets, using the Council's own drawings and a CHRA photograph, graphically illustrate how the Council's proposals will impact on the residents living around the playing fields. It is not good news.

The heart of CHRA's argument at the Public Inquiry will be that it is in everyone's interest for these playing fields to be retained as playing fields, with a single more compact building housing a new pool and gym. This is highlighted in the enclosed copy of CHRA's Alternative Vision, which outlines how the school's campus style layout can be retained and enhanced practically and economically.

CHRA considers it has a good chance of persuading the Inspector to reject the application. However a Public Inquiry means we have no choice but to employ legal counsel, planning consultants, and expert witnesses if we are to put our case effectively. The Council, as applicant and planning authority, has a very deep purse funded out of the council tax. They can afford two top QCs and expert witnesses to put the best spin on their own case and to undermine CHRA's arguments for rejection.

CHRA's members and local residents have already contributed some 50.000 to get as far as the Public Inquiry. This has been spent on legal advice, on planning advice from Indigo Planning Consultants, on specialist advice on Affordable Housing and on preparing The Alternative Vision with the architect Philip Tilbury. To bring our campaign to a successful conclusion we will need an absolute minimum of another 50,000.

To do justice to our case we really need another 75,000 - 100,000. This is a substantial figure but a relatively insignificant one when you consider the effect that an approval of the application at the Public Inquiry would have on the value of houses and flats in the immediate vicinity of the school.

For details of how you personally can contribute to CHRA winning the argument at the Public inquiry please see the attached appendix.

Over the past two years, when at times the odds seemed to be so overwhelmingly stacked against us, CHRA might perhaps have been forgiven for wanting to give up the fight. The 6th of June this year, when the Council gave itself planning approval, was a particularly dark day. But we did not give up and on the 13th of July we won a significant victory with the Secretary of State's decision to hold a Public Inquiry. With the continuing support of you and all the other local residents we can, metaphorically-speaking, go on to win the war!

David White

Chairman, Campden Hill Residents' Association

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