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UCS head slams Barnet Council for ‘baffling’ rejection of sport pavilion plans

PUBLISHED: 11:45 04 August 2014

UCS headteacher Mark Beard. Picture: Dieter Perry.

UCS headteacher Mark Beard. Picture: Dieter Perry.

Dieter Perry

The headteacher of a top Hampstead independent school has slammed Barnet Council for rejecting the school’s plans for a new sport pavilion, describing the decision as “baffling”.

An artist's impression of the proposed pavilion. An artist's impression of the proposed pavilion.

University College School (UCS), in Frognal, had applied to demolish the current Eve pavilion on its sports ground in Ranulf Road, Cricklewood, and replace it with a new building, as well as moving the main entrance to the sports ground.

The application attracted 58 letters of objection from neighbours living close by, who were particularly concerned about the proposal to make the ground’s secondary entrance - at the junction of Hocroft Road and Farm Avenue - its primary access point, which is currently in Ranulf Road.

On Monday last week, Finchley and Golders Green planning committee ignored a recommendation from officers to approve the scheme and rejected the application, citing safety concerns about the new proposed entrance being located on a sharp bend.

UCS headteacher Mark Beard told the Ham&High: “Barnet Council’s extraordinary vote to go against their own planning officer’s recommendation to approve an upgrade in the sports provision for over 1,250 children is quite astonishing and, indeed, baffling.

“The three councillors who voted against the scheme appeared to take no heed of the detail of the application itself and, instead, preferred to conjecture on hypothetical, unproven and unlikely scenarios as a means to scaremonger, whilst supporting those who did not want a new - and to our mind, along with that of Barnet’s own Highways Authority - safer access point near where they live.

“UCS has simply asked to modernise its pavilion and groundskeeping facilities from the 1920s to the 2020s, and it is disappointing that the local authority appeared to lack the vision and strength to recognise this need.”

Mr Beard insists the facilities in Eve pavilion, which dates back to 1923, are no longer fit for purpose and are in need of replacement, while the current Ranulf Road entrance is unsuitable for coaches entering the site.

He said new parking facilities on the site were also required in order to stop match day parking in residential streets, which is the current arrangement.

Mr Beard added: “The educational benefits of sport are well documented. That is why successive governments agree that school sport is very important. It is a shame that local government felt unable to help and we are currently reviewing our options on how to move forward.”

Childs Hill councillor Jack Cohen, one of the committee members who rejected the application last week, had serious concerns about the plans to move the main access point to the site.

He said: “This is about the sixth application to have the access on the bend made the main access and every time its come in front of the committee its been refused because of concerns about highway safety and the impact on the amenity for neighbours.

“It is a dangerous bend. If cars and coaches were to come out of that access I’d have real concern for road safety.

“The second issue is that there is a very green and open feel about that field and if you start introducing a large car parking space, I feel that will impact on the amenity for residents.”

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