Camden decision to sell possible free school site ‘perverse’ say campaigners

Parents have labelled a Camden Council decision to sell off two buildings they wanted to turn into a free school as “perverse”.

The timing of the decision to sell two adjoining hostels in Fitzjohn’s Avenue and Maresfield Gardens in Belsize Park was criticised as it comes just weeks before the Department of Education (DoE) decide whether to award funding to set up a new school.

Campaigners confirmed they are taking legal advice to try and block the planned sale.

Parent and campaigner Harriet Nowell-Smith said: “I think it is irresponsible of the council not to wait three weeks to hear what the DoE decides.”

The council confirmed it would sell the buildings as part of its Community Investment Programme, which it estimates will raise �100million to be ploughed back into the borough’s schools and housing.

Ms Nowell-Smith, who joined the campaign after her three-year-old daughter was refused a nursery place at Fitzjohn’s Primary despite living in nearby Belsize Lane, said: “I understand the council needs to raise money, but why it would prefer to raise it from the private sector rather than the DoE seems perverse.”

Cllr Theo Blackwell, finance chief, said: “The intention was always to sell the property to repair and modernise council homes.

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“We put the two properties on the market for �6million and we got a bid in excess of �11million which is enough to provide external works to 800 council homes in Camden.

“The free school campaign had their eye on the hostels but they don’t have the money.”