We finally have a date for the planning inquiry into the OLSPN redevelopment, the 9th and 10th February 2021. Due to COVID-19, it will be a virtual meeting; if you wish, you can follow proceedings live on MS Teams. This is quite straightforward, and many council meetings are being done online now, so it’s worth getting the hang of. Each side has requested that the Inspector should visit the site in person, so they can understand the issues, but that has not yet been confirmed.
The documentation so far (the full information will arrive 4 weeks before the inquiry) is very strange. The Archdiocese admits that the long list of planning breaches are true, but at the same time are arguing that they didn’t have to follow them…(?!) Frankly, as the Council lawyers can’t make sense of it, I’m not even going to try.
The Archdiocese says that they haven’t damaged the character and appearance of the area, because the area isn’t that attractive anyway. Astonishingly rude! I think Fairlawn Park is beautiful. They are claiming that Lewisham has been discriminating against them on religious grounds, and quite a lot of other accusations along those lines.
In addition, these kind of claims are also made in third party comments, supporting the Archdiocese. These include Bishop Patrick Lynch, auxiliary bishop (SE), saying:
" In Our Lady and St Philip Neri Primary School there is a very high percentage of students from BAME communities……. These include many single families on Universal Credit, housed in the area by by the Local Authority. There are, however, a few people in the local community who have reacted negatively to this change in the demographic of the area…." (ie. he thinks we’re racist… ?)
Two parents, one also a governor, imply objections are based in anti-catholic feelings. Most interestingly, a standard letter, copies signed by over 80 parents, says
“… . as a parent, I am very disappointed that the school remains unfinished. It seems to be that the needs of the pupils are being ignored in order to placate one or two vociferous residents who do not want a school near their homes.”
I am sure I could reasonably be described as vociferous, but I love living next to a school, I grew up next to a school, and like hearing kids in the playground. It’s the associated adults I have issues with. I am disturbed that this has been distributed, apparently with the cooperation of the school. I’d be happy to be told this was not distributed by the governors.
In the autumn of 2019, the Archdiocese submitted, as letters of support, a large group of letters from pupils. Having seen copies (redacted for privacy), I discovered that these are actually letters to the Archdiocese, giving their positive and negative views of the new building. A huge proportion of them ask (very politely) for blinds in the classrooms, because glare from the sun made it hard to see projectors and screens, and also made the rooms miserably hot.
I would point out that these problems are the result of the wrong windows being fitted; they were to be deep set, not flush, to cut glare. Ventilation panels should have provided fresh air, while keeping it soundproof to traffic. Many other issues were raised by the pupils, including health and safety concerns, and the general impression is that they were finding the school buildings uncomfortable.
Anyway, please spread the word, and ask anyone who is interested in joining the mailing list, to email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you join the mailing list, I can give you access to the main documents.