OLSPN planning inquiry: Fairlawn Park Planning Objectors Group

The best coverage is from Inside Croydon. It seems there is a long history of warnings about the state of the buildings, but the Convent /Archdiocese’s Education Commission failed to act until, eventually, Croydon Council took action. Its the same team who brought you the OLSPN problems. Sigh.


Meanwhile, back at OLSPN, the pupils don’t have enough playground space, and what there is is quite rough. Do the parents realise quite how much space has been screened off, and left derelict? To the right of the Home Park entrance, you can see this area, which would be a really useful amount of playground space. Why hasn’t the Archdiocese made it available?

Marked in purple is the cordoned-off area, as seen from above. It is almost the same area as the unfinished rooftop playground. Why are pupils unable to use this area, to ease overcrowding? Go and check it out for yourself, and see what you think.

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Finally, a belated response of sorts to my EIR. I have been sent a copy of the OLSPN School Development Agreement, between @RC_Southwark & @LewishamCouncil. It confirms that the Council gave a £3m contribution to the Archdiocese for the rebuilding, in addition to the free land.

@LewishamCouncil has chosen to withhold their payment schedule, & the Archdiocese’s contributions, saying "it contains information which is both commercial and confidential in nature, & which, if disclosed, would cause harm to the Council’s & the Diocese’s legitimate economic interests.

I don’t know about you, but I think there is something distinctly odd about a local authority and a church enforcing secrecy to protect their commercial interests!


The £3m contribution from @LewishamCouncil, plus money raised from selling the infant school site for redevelopment (offers in excess of £4m, see sales brochure below), means that @RC_Southwark had at least £7m on hand to cover the cost of the new one-site OLSPN primary school.

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@LewishamCouncil may be fighting to keep the details private, as the development agreement shows multiple grounds for getting a refund of their £3m. It therefore begs the question, why they didn’t use the agreement to insist that @RC_Southwark engaged properly with them? The pupils are being let down by both parties, in this asset stripping exercise.

I went to a drop in session with the Archdiocese’s ‘new’ team early last year. They were using a shortage of money as a reason for build quality issues. I asked - what about the money raised by selling the old infant school site on Mayow Road?

I was told ‘we need that money for elsewhere’. This is, and has been from the start, an asset stripping exercise. The Archdiocese wanted to amalgamate two sites into one, very sensibly, but wants to do it on the cheap, and take out as much capital as possible to be spent elsewhere. The pupils have lost out, the neighbours have lost out, and we have to live with the consequences.

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Highlights of the extremely long development agreement for OLSPN school. Highlighted passages show that the Archdiocese is responsible for the entire running of the development, but are obliged to follow guidelines.

They have to repay the entire £3m to Lewisham Council if they fail in any one of the stipulations, including:
Complete by the end of August 2018(!)
Ensure the building complies with quality regs.
Keep the council updated on progress, and provide access to documents and the site on request. Etc etc etc…

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The OLSPN saga gets more and more bizarre.

Lewisham Council paid £3m to the Archdiocese of Southwark, to fund OLSPN school’s redevelopment. This was under an agreement made between the Archdiocese and Lewisham’s Directorate of Children and Young People.

C&YP FAILED to give a copy of the legal agreement to Lewisham’s planning team. Lewisham’s legal team had drawn up a lovely agreement with excellent clauses to ensure compliance with regulations, but FAILED to make this available to planning. Neither team forgot it, both legal and C&YP refused to disclose it, even under FOI requests, TWO YEARS AGO!

None of this excuses the Archdiocese of Southwark’s refusing to follow the development agreement they signed. They could, and should have been subject to the penalties the agreement contains, that is, they should have refunded the £3m to Lewisham. The huge distress and disruption to pupils and neighbours could have been avoided, had we not had a council, apparently re-enacting the War of the Roses.

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This is where the OLSPN story intersects with the NDA payments story. Last financial year saw two executives leave Lewisham Council, one by retirement and one by resignation. We now have new executives in charge of Lewisham Legal, and of C&YP.

Were the leavers’ financial packages supplemented by NDA agreements? And are NDAs making it more difficult to allow public scrutiny of the OLSPN case? Did Lewisham bind itself to stay silent about this mess?

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A belated FOI request has trickled in. I’m not surprised by the content, but I can see why they are fighting so hard to withhold this information.

To be clear, the Development agreement that the Archdiocese signed, in return for £3m funding from Lewisham, makes them entirely responsible for the development, and its quality control. The Archdiocese chose to use their own building control firm, and to exclude Lewisham officers from these aspects of the build. However, the agreement gave Lewisham the right to inspect the documentation and the site, given prior notice and so on. Lewisham could have checked on what our money was being spent on. That £3m, along with the £4m minimum raised by the Archdiocese on the sale of the Infant school site on Mayow Road meant that funding should not have been an issue.

So, neither the Schools Health & Safety advisor, nor the council structural engineer were asked to do any checks in advance of the juniors moving in 16/4/2018, NOR DID THEY VISIT DURING THAT FIRST TERM. No visits at all happened to the site until Viv Evans took charge as Head of Planning.

The entire council involvement is from the Capital Programme Delivery Team. If they knew of the school’s intentions to transfer the juniors on 16/4/2018, it is extraordinary that they made no site visits in the SIX WEEKS before this date. The Capital Programme Delivery Team held the building agreement, without disclosing the details to planning, who could have used its clauses to bring the development into line.

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For their 2019 appeal against planning enforcement, the Archdiocese of Southwark submitted a large number of letters from OLSPN pupils, claiming them to be petitioning against enforcement.

Having got access to scanned copies (all identities redacted), I saw they were articulate witness statements to the pupils’ own experiences of the new buildings in use. Here are some extracts, with my transcriptions.

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Blimey, it’s hard to imagine what can be so difficult to get these poor children some blinds. I mean, I know there are a lot of windows, but it can’t be that expensive to get some blinds fitted :frowning:

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The problem with glare is because the windows were fitted incorrectly. They were supposed to be inset with deep reveals, which should have incorporated soundproofed ventilation panels. Instead, they fitted cheap windows flush with the facade, which lack the shade the reveals would have provided. They say - too expensive. I say - whatever happened to the £7m plus kitty?!


Actually, since people keep demanding solutions… to the mess I first pointed out in July 2017!

A sensible intervention would involve resetting the windows back, creating the missing reveals. It would mean losing the internal window sills, but would allow for the windows to be better shaded, and the approved ventilation system installed. It would improve the visual effect of the building, and combined with a complete rethink of the cladding and roofline, it might just work. Spend that £7m on sorting out the mess the Archdiocese created.


Joy to the world. On Christmas eve, the responsible Lewishambles officer told me that, due to COVID-19 striking the Archdiocese’s agent, the planning inquiry’s statement of common ground hadn’t been progressed. That means there has been no agreement on how to limit the scope of the inquiry, or to save time by agreeing some things in advance.

Covid is grim, and my sympathies go to anyone who catches it. This does not explain, however, why no progress was made in the last year, and why it has all been left until days before the ultimate deadline. There has been plenty of time, and absolutely no progress made by either the Archdiocese, or the Lewisham team.

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The OLSPN planning inquiry will be held online, on 9th and 10th February. Just over two weeks to go now until it starts. The Appeal documents are now all online; search the Lewisham planning website for DC/19/111793.

If you’d like more information, and have any objections you would like to be represented at the inquiry, please email Fairlawnparkplanning@gmail.com

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Well, only two days until the inquiry starts, at 10am on Tuesday, and if anyone wants to listen in, please email Eleanor Morris at teame1@planninginspectorate.gov.uk and ask for the link.

Several of you have wanted to know the schedule: it’s all still to be determined. The Archdiocese is trying to postpone the whole inquiry, but the Inspector has decided to open on Tuesday, and negotiate the legal technicalities then. It will run on all day Tuesday, and probably all day Wednesday.

At that point there will be an adjournment, as the Archdiocese is running so many different arguments that it’s been agreed to need a four day inquiry. The second two days are to be confirmed, some time in March.

Tuesday promises to be a lively event, so do log in for half an hour to get a flavour of it. Would you believe, the Archdiocese and Lewisham only registered the bulk of their evidence in the last week!

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Rejoice! Less than 24 hours before the OLSPN planning inquiry opens, the core documents have been uploaded onto the Lewisham planning website. Search for DC/19/111793, and you will find the treasure trove. The top documents are the most recent, so start from there.

I am trying to get Lewisham to webcast the inquiry, so people can catch up at their convenience. E-enquiries have frequent unscheduled breaks, and people can’t necessarily attend at the specific times. If you think it’s a good idea, please email a Councillor now. The planning inspectorate is OK with it, but both Lewisham and the Appellants would have to agree before it was possible.

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Well, the inquiry opened this morning, and is now adjourned until 16th to 19th March. Very frustrating to have more delays, but it is cautious and therefore sensible. Belt and braces ruling from the Inspector.

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Now they are all in the public domain, I can start putting evidence for the OLSPN Inquiry online.

Pupils’ parents are understandably frustrated by the unfinished building, as are the neighbours. The Archdiocese stopped all major work on the school in mid 2019, and decided to appeal instead of continuing work.

This email shows that Lewisham reassured them in January 2020, that they could finish cladding the Hall building, and install the metal fins during the 2020 Easter holidays. The Archdiocese has chosen to leave it unfinished, and ignore the best interests of the pupils.

This document is Appendix 10 (p. 60) of the Statement of Common Ground between Lewisham and the Archdiocese.
Core document CD-46B - SoCG Appendices.pdf

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At OLSPN, the pupils don’t have enough playground space, and what there is is quite rough. Do the parents realise quite how much space has been screened off, and left derelict? It is outlined in purple on the satellite photo. To the right of the Home Park entrance, you can see this area, which would be a really useful amount of playground space. It was used to stack materials for the builders, but they stopped all work in mid 2019, so why hasn’t the Archdiocese made it available?

Don’t blame Lewisham for your children’s poor school experience… The Archdiocese refuses to allow Lewisham officers into the site, even in the holidays, so they can’t check on the site standards.


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