|Committed To A School & To Putney Common|
An open letter from Cllr Kathy Tracey
Dear Putney resident,
Many of you will be aware that we would like to build a new primary school on the derelict former hospital site on Putney Common.
As you may also be aware, the development of this new school has been held up by a lengthy legal challenge against the proposed access road to the site. That challenge has been rejected by the High Court. Planning consent has also been granted, so the school plan is now going ahead.
I know many local families are concerned about securing places for their children in the schools of their choice, but I would like to provide some reassurance that everything possible is being done to expand the number of places in Putney to meet growing demand.
Finding land suitable for new schools is a major challenge for all London boroughs and there are simply very few sites available in Wandsworth. The old hospital site at Putney Common has lain vacant for many years. We think it would be ideal to meet the primary school needs of local families. It has also become a real blot on the landscape at the heart of the common, so bringing it back into use as a school would have wider benefits too.
No-one doubts that the campaigners who have challenged our proposals are committed to protecting the common. We share that vision and we would not wish to do anything that harms this important local amenity. However, over the course of the legal challenge, there have been a number of assertions made that I would like to correct.
The suggestion has been made that this new school is not needed in Putney. Nothing could be further from the truth. The latest figures suggest that every year as many as 45 more children living in Thamesfield ward alone would face the prospect of having no school place near their homes if the school were not built. We have a legal duty to provide a place for every child in the borough and one of our top educational priorities is to make sure as many children as possible get into the school they most want to go to. A new school on the Putney Hospital site is vital to making this possible.
It has also been implied that the council is planning to build an entirely new road across the common to access the hospital site. That is also completely untrue. We are proposing to use just one of the existing access roads and, as the Judge made clear in his Judgement, this road would run “in part, upon land which was never part of the common and in part upon areas of the common which are currently under tarmac” with only a very small area of grass being covered over.
In fact, the school plan will return a large part of the current derelict site to open common land. Only a little over half of the land on which the hospital stands is needed for our proposals. The remaining part of this site, which is mostly covered in tarmac or buildings, will be grassed over and become an integral part of the green open space of the common.
I have been in local politics long enough to know that getting everyone to agree to any major proposal is nigh on impossible and, as a council, we have to assess and balance competing views. We have listened respectfully to all sides of the argument, as has the High Court Judge, and we have concluded that the interests of the widest community are best served by moving ahead with the plan for a school on the hospital site and that is what we now intend to do.
Cllr Kathy Tracey
December 20, 2013