West Hampstead free school campaigners prepare to fight for land earmarked for Kingsgate Primary expansion
11:28 04 February 2014
Campaigners for a free school in West Hampstead have named their preferred site as an industrial estate that is already earmarked by Camden Council for a primary school’s expansion.
The NW6 School campaign has set its sights on the Liddell Road Industrial Estate, but it faces a battle with Camden planners after a scrutiny committee approved proposals to provide 120 homes and expand Kingsgate Primary School on the land last week.
The approval of the plans has raised serious concerns in West Hampstead with the leader of the free school campaign, Clare Craig, accusing the council of “railroading” through the decision.
“It’s public land in a community and that gives the community a certain number of rights to fight for it,” said the mother-of-four, of Fortune Green Road. “It’s big enough, it’s public land and it’s right in the middle of the area without a school.
“We now need to fight for it when it goes to planning. Having more than 100 private homes goes against the local planning policy and in pushing [the proposals] through, they have left themselves open.”
The council said the expansion of Kingsgate Primary on the Liddell Road site, half a mile away from the school, will provide 420 “much-needed” places.
Dr Craig, 38, who is a pathologist, believes the council failed to properly consult residents on the plans to make Kingsgate Primary a four-form entry school.
“They said at the scrutiny meeting that they received only five responses from parents but I know from parents and my neighbours that more than five responded.
“There were really good speakers saying why they should say no and there weren’t any good arguments as to why they should do it but they voted to do that.”
Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Theo Blackwell, said: “There were months of discussions about the proposals and everyone had a chance to make their views heard.
“It would be like a mini-Canary Wharf and certainly against our planning protections to try to fit everything people are asking for on the site and afford it, so we have to reach an affordable compromise.
“We want to open a new primary school by 2016, if we don’t because of delay or another scheme jumping the queue, there will be a huge schools places crisis for many local families.”
Dr Craig said the Liddell Road site is the campaign’s preferred site of three options for the free school, which will be named the West Hampstead International School.
She was not prepared to name the other two sites but said they are brownfield sites near the railway line in West Hampstead.
The campaign for a free school, which would be both a primary and secondary, was launched last summer.
Many parents believe there is a dearth of school places for children in West Hampstead.
Parents will need to prove the school is doubly oversubscribed to win approval from the Department for Education and will have to sign up 120 primary children and 700 of secondary age.