Editorial comment: Abacus Belsize hearing is nothing if not comprehensive

Harry Taylor attended the virtual hearings into Abacus School.

Harry Taylor attended the virtual hearings into Abacus School. - Credit: Archant

By the end of the planning inquiry into Abacus, nobody will be able to argue they haven’t had their say.

The virtual hearings have turned the affair into something resembling a Soccer Saturday-style football results TV show - floating heads telling us the air pollution scores from Rosslyn Hill, except we won’t know the result for two months or so. Which by that time might still be quicker than the average waiting time for a Covid-19 test result.

In terms of community engagement, inspector Paul Jackson has played a master stroke. Seemingly everybody with a passing interest in the proposal has been able to address him on why Abacus should or shouldn’t be able to move into the former Hampstead police station.

The hearing is only meant to be on planning grounds. However we’ve heard parents line up to praise what a wonderful school Abacus is and a nursery worker say how many of their children end up at the school. Of course they’re likely to say that. The shock would be if they said anything different.

Pro-Abacus campaigners even got a pupil to tell Mr Jackson why he should let them move into the school. Children’s voices are, of course, important in this decision. But even the most precocious child is unlikely to have developed their own nuanced views, free of the influence of their teachers or parents. Certainly not on planning matters.

The inquiry will now run into October, and possibly beyond. These things always run on, but legions of parents and objectors on both sides, each raising the same issues won’t have helped. It’s more pounds and pence of public money to be chalked onto the balance sheet for an already expensive project. Hopefully it will be worth it for the final result.

Either way, Mr Jackson deserves a knighthood. He certainly has the patience of a saint.