Abacus Belsize Primary School: Inquiry closes but arguments over benefits of police station scheme continue
PUBLISHED: 12:53 30 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:01 30 October 2020
The planning inquiry determining the future of Abacus Belsize Primary School has concluded, with parties continuing to argue over the impact of moving it into the old police station in Rosslyn Hill.
Planning inspector Paul Jackson will deliberate on whether to allow the development and overturn Camden Council’s November 2019 to reject it. His judgement could take a number of weeks.
Campaigners – the Hampstead Community for Responsible Development group (HCRD) – brought up a newsletter sent by the trust to parents back in 2015 which described the site as “inappropriate” for a school.
On Thursday, October 29, in her closing speech on behalf of HCRD, Esther Drabkin-Reiter reiterated that the school move was the “wrong development in the wrong location” and said this was borne out by the letter from Chris Tweedale, the then-chief exec of Abacus’s parent trust.
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She said: “The inappropriateness of the appeal site for a school was a view shared by the trust which manages the school.”
The trust – Anthem, then known as CfBT – argued it was only referring to the unsuitability of the site as a temporary location for the school.
Ms Drabkin-Reiter continued by suggesting “a proper approach” to alternative possible locations should have been taken, suggesting Gloucester House in Daleham Gardens.
For Camden Council, Morag Ellis QC finished the town hall’s arguments by saying: “The public benefits are all marred and outweighed by the policy conflicts which reveal that this is the wrong proposal for this building, in the wrong location.”
Ms Ellis cast doubt on the school’s ability to guarantee children would travel to school sustainably. She said: “Great reliance was placed on the Abacus ethos (being a ‘walk-to-school’ school), but in future the permission might be utilised by a different type of school.”
Reuben Taylor QC, for Anthem, emphasised the wider benefits of finding the school a new home. He said: “Giving this school a permanent home will raise educational standards and will transform children’s lives by helping them to reach their full potential. Granting permission for this school is significantly in the public interest.”
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