New all-boys free school in Penge causes a stir with ‘eyesore tower block’ concerns

By Kiro Evans, local democracy reporter

A new all-boys free school is facing a backlash after residents have said they don’t want a “tower block on their doorstep”.

Proposals for a new school in Penge have caused a stir after concerns have been raised that it will become an eyesore and create traffic problems.

But supporters insist it will create much-needed school places for children and stop them having to travel hours to get to the classroom.

The issue came to a head at last night’s Children, Families and Education Scrutiny Committee in Bromley, after the opposition attempted to halt plans to move forward with the development.

Labour claimed that while they supported a new school in principle, they believed it had to be the “right fit”, with Cllr Simon Jeal arguing that residents feared a “tower block on their doorstep”.

One resident Mick, who attended the meeting, said: “It’s going to be dangerous for kids who come and go. There’s very little parking in the area already. And two or three times a day there will be traffic chaos, which won’t help anyone.

“A smaller school, fine. But depending on where they build it, and if it’s going to be a tower block, lighting will possibly be an issue.

“A school of that size will cause enormous disruption. A school 60 per cent that size will be less [disruption], but I understand the need for a school. I don’t think there’s a need for a thousand-strong secondary school there, especially if it’s all boys.”

“They talk about it being for the London Borough of Bromley, and I understand children from anywhere have a right to go to any school, but have they actually done their sums on how many kids will be coming in from Lewisham and Croydon? I’m not sure that Bromley residents will be getting complete value for money.”

Andrew Sands, 55, said: “They don’t seem to be taking proper account of residents’ views and there was a lack of transparency from the start.

“They seem to be railroading it [through]. There’s a lack of respect.”

Cllr Kevin Brooks told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it would cause a “real problem for traffic.”

He said: “I think it’s important to say we absolutely support a school. We need a place in the north of the borough which has been neglected. We don’t want our kids having to travel an hour a day to get to school and we would support the council 100 per cent in that.

“All we’re saying is it’s got to be the right fit, and there’s got to be a balance between making sure we have enough places for our children and making sure the amenities of our residents are not affected to a huge extent.”

Conservative councillor Graham Arthur told the council meeting he did not understand the timing of Labour’s objections.

He said: “We all agree that children in that part of the borough should not be sent out of the borough to be educated. We should educate them in our own borough.

“If you look at the terms of the recommendations the executive has approved, I don’t understand specifically what part of that is being called in.”

It is not yet clear when planning proposals will come before Bromley Council for the new free school after the executive gave the plan the green light in September.

A report from last year warned of a growth in demand for secondary school places in the South London borough due to an increase in Bromley’s school-age population since 2010.

The areas of Hayes, West Wickham and Central Bromley had seen the most growth, according to the report.



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