In a decisive vote, Sutton’s Planning Committee decided that, on balance, the application to build a new special needs school on Sheen Way ex-playing field should not be supported.
Controversially, the meeting on Thursday 28 May does not mean the application is refused, as the decision was taken away from local residents and the council by the government’s Department for Education. The decision will instead be made by an unelected government-appointed Planning Inspector based in Bristol.
Chair of the Planning Committee, Cllr Drew Heffernan, said: “The decision was the result of careful deliberation and discussion at the committee. We felt that the disruption that will be caused by poor access to the site outweighed the benefits of a new school building in this area.
“It is a shame for local residents that this decision by elected councillors may be completely overturned by the Inspector. All members of the committee, across all political parties, diligently carried out their duty and made their decisions based on their evaluation of the facts. I am grateful to all members, to members of the public who shared their views, to ward councillors and to officers for ensuring that Thursday night ran smoothly.”
Deputy Leader Cllr Jayne McCoy, who had previously written an objection to the development on account of the disruption to local residents from the access route, said:
“This is not the end of the story and I recognise and understand concerns raised by residents in response to the application. If the Inspector does decide to overturn the will of the committee, Liberal Democrat councillors will still be pushing to ensure that local residents are fully consulted throughout the construction process. It is important that this takes place to minimise disruption and to ensure that a good school-community relationships begins before the first brick is laid.”
As a result of the decision, when the Planning Inquiry takes place, planning officers will act in accordance with the wishes of the majority of councillors on the committee and contest the application on the grounds raised. Residents will still have the opportunity to raise their concerns at the appeal before the final decision is made.