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School campaigners' dismay over indecisive council

PUBLISHED: 14:07 10 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 07 September 2010

Charlotte Newton CAMPAIGNERS hoping for a firm Yes or No on whether a dilapidated Crouch End primary school can be redeveloped on land adjoining Parkland Walk were left disappointed after councillors baulked at making the decision on Tuesday night. Member

Charlotte Newton

CAMPAIGNERS hoping for a firm Yes or No on whether a dilapidated Crouch End primary school can be redeveloped on land adjoining Parkland Walk were left disappointed after councillors baulked at making the decision on Tuesday night.

Members of Islington council's north area planning sub-committee were meant to decide whether Ashmount School can move from its site on Ashmount Road to metropolitan open land (MOL) on Crouch Hill.

Supporters and opponents of the plan took part in an impassioned debate at Islington Town Hall with contributions from police, teachers, governors and residents.

But after two hours of discussions Labour's Cllr Wally Burgess, chairman of the committee, and his wife Cllr Janet Burgess voted to delay making the decision.

Cllr Burgess said: "I just don't trust these reports or feel comfortable about making a decision on developing metropolitan open land. I don't feel confident the officers have fully looked at the refurbishment option."

Ashmount received a glowing Ofsted report last year but has been deemed not fit for educational purpose because of the state of its building. The 1950s Cadbury-Brown building has major heating problems, a roof that leaks when it rains and only ground-floor toilets.

Under the proposals, which the majority of parents, governors and teachers at the school favour, the school would be rebuilt on the Crouch Hill Recreation Centre site, alongside new facilities for Bowlers Nursery and the CAPE youth project. The scheme would also include restoring and enhancing the open space.

The councillors' indecision infuriated campaigners at Ashmount who have spent months researching and lobbying the council for the move.

The actress and comedian Arabella Weir is a parent-governor. Ms Weir, who lives in Crouch Hill, said: "Leaving all personalities and nimbyism aside, this should have been passed on planning credentials alone.

"There was exhaustive research on the pros and cons of moving Ashmount and the committee should have been able to decide at the meeting.

"This is not just about the school, it's about enhancing a public space in an area which is used by a nursery school, youth centre and dog walkers.

"The proposed site is largely derelict and is used by crack addicts and youths on motorbikes. You'd think from the debate last night that we were trying to build on Hyde Park."

But some residents near the current site opposed the plans. They fear new homes will be built on the Ashmount Road site when it is sold off to fund the £15.2million redevelopment plan.

This, they argue, would push the local infrastructure to breaking point by bringing more homes and cars into the area. They were relieved at the lack of a decision on Tuesday.

Dorothy Ellis of Gresley Road said: "This was absolutely the right thing to do. Our main objection was that the council doesn't seem to have fully considered refurbishing the school. They needed more time to read these reports."

Mike Taylor, who also opposes to the plans, added: "Common sense is beginning to prevail. The council seems to be ready to look at what you can do on the existing site.

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