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Decision tonight on plans for new Swiss Cottage academy

PUBLISHED: 15:03 05 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 07 September 2010

Susanna Wilkey COUNCILLORS are tonight due to grant planning approval to the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage despite its future still hanging in the balance. Camden Council and UCL are still waiting for a decision from education minister Michael Gove on whe

Susanna Wilkey

COUNCILLORS are tonight due to grant planning approval to the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage despite its future still hanging in the balance.

Camden Council and UCL are still waiting for a decision from education minister Michael Gove on whether the government will pay for the construction of the Academy and the Swiss Cottage special education needs (SEN) school as well as the refurbishment of South Camden Community School (SCCS).

These are the first three schemes in Camden's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme - the rest of which has already been cancelled by the new coalition government.

Tonight councillors will consider the application for the new school which will be located at the junction of Avenue Road and Adelaide Road and which, together with SCCS, will create another 1,200 secondary school places in the borough.

A total of 73 people have objected to the plans on the grounds that the building is too big, there will be increased traffic and congestion, disappointing architecture, loss of amenity for neighbours and an adverse impact on the character of the area and the adjacent conservation area.

Officers have, however, recommended the application for approval, although work on the scheme by the council and contractors BAM has stopped while they wait for a final decision.

Schools boss Heather Johnson said: "Because the scheme had already gone to the planning committee there was no point in taking it out and it means if we do get the money the planning will already all be in place which will make it easier to start work.

"We still have no idea whether these proposals are going to go ahead so work has effectively stopped on the three sample schools - the academy, Swiss Cottage special school and South Camden Community School because we cannot afford to throw good money after bad.

"If we do not get the money we are still going to look at how we can provide those extra secondary places which we need in Camden. Not immediately but at some point we will need to look at how we can fund a school and planning permission is part of that.

"But it is all so up in the air at the moment and I certainly do not feel there is any point in pulling the plug on the planning application.

"Everyone is really hoping this will come through. We have no idea when we will get a decision - we were told by the summer recess but that has already started now so we do not know. Camden really needs this school."

A spokesman for UCL added: "We are pleased that this planning hearing is going ahead and that things are moving forward. We are still confident that the academy will happen. This project is under discussion at a time when a lot of other things are being pulled so we are confident.

"We do not know when there will be a decision. There was some talk of it being before the summer recess but now it is unclear."

A spokeswoman for the council said they are hopeful that the government will see how desperately the borough needs a new secondary school and are hopeful they will get funding so are continuing to work on the project with the aim of opening the school in September 2011.

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