Government spent £750,000 on doomed bid to build academy on protected green land

By Grainne Cuffe

The Department for Education spent three quarters of a million pounds on a doomed planning application to redevelop a free school.  

International Academy of Greenwich in Lee was forced to announce its closure in October after the council refused planning permission for its redevelopment in July.

The government has also poured £6.3million into funding its creation and wage bill.

IAG planned to build a 765-pupil school on Bowring Sports Ground but was unanimously blocked by Greenwich councillors over its proposed use of Metropolitan Open Land, which is protected from development unless there are special circumstances.    

A need for school places would have qualified but council planners said the school “failed to provide a convincing case” that it existed. 

Now a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the cost of preparing the planning application was £766,509, “which included surveys, design and consultant fees e.g. architectural, planning, transport, ecology”. 

The figure is on top of at least £6.3 million previously spent on the school since 2012 – the DfE paid a 10 per cent deposit worth £400,000 to secure the Bowring site it planned to use for redevelopment.   

A DfE spokesperson said: “The International Academy of Greenwich will close in Summer 2020 to all pupils from years 7 to 9.  

“However, it will maintain open for year 10 pupils until summer 2021. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly.  

“Our priority is to ensure that pupils continue to receive a strong education, and the trust and local authority are working together to ensure appropriate provision has been found for students following the closure.” 

The IAG has been contacted for comment on the figure. 

One parent, with two children still at the school, said: “Should the school have been built and Greenwich not misled us, it would have been a sound investment for the future education of the children in the school and future generations. 

“The current situation sees those children cast aside, with no thought about the impact on them, and that is where the real waste is.” 

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