Planning (Free Schools)
This Assembly condemns the Mayor’s cavalier approach to the relaxation of planning rules applying to free schools and his depiction of those who oppose free schools as “nimbys” who “dislike school children”.
The Assembly notes that, as of 30th May, the coalition Government has watered down the planning laws, so as to especially favour free schools over the interests of local people. The Assembly further notes that free schools are now not subject to the same planning regime and controls as are other developments, with very relaxed rules making local opposition to unsuitable free school developments much harder and that this is even more so for temporary sites. The Assembly further notes that there is no requirement on a free school to demonstrate the suitability of its premises for educational purposes to the planning authority, nor to show that it has adequate outdoor space for its pupils.
The Assembly notes that premises in B1 (business), C1 (hotels), C2 (residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) can be permanently converted to a state-funded “free schools” without need for planning permission. The only obvious exceptions are police stations and fire stations in relation to which the Mayor’s policy is to offer them to free schools after they are closed down from their original purpose; and even these buildings, just as those in other uses classes, can be converted to a free school for one academic year, without planning permission.
The Assembly notes that, contrary to the Government’s originally expressed policy intention, free schools do not even have to serve local children either; and the failure of a free school to do so does not give rights of objection under the revised planning rules.
This Assembly believes these changes in planning law to favour free schools fly in the face of the Government’s oft trumpeted “localism” agenda.
This Assembly calls on the Mayor to reconsider his potentially defamatory comments about local residents and provide a public apology for these remarks. This Assembly also calls on the Mayor to campaign vigorously for tighter planning controls for free schools so they have to meet the same criteria and go through the same process as any other development enabling local people to have their voice heard through objections on legitimate planning grounds.