Underhill school to go ahead

Written by  Friday, 27 October 2017 16:59
The proposed new Ark Pioneer Academy, facing south west The proposed new Ark Pioneer Academy, facing south west Artist Impression
After being refused permission in January, Barnet Council’s planning committee has now approved plans for the proposed Ark Academy school on the site of the vacant Underhill stadium, former home of Barnet Football Club.

Labour councillors opposed the application because they feared traffic congestion and doubted the need for a 1,200-place new school, but they were outvoted by the Conservative majority on the committee.

Councillor Paul Edwards led the opposition arguing that hundreds of Underhill and High Barnet residents had grave concerns about the environmental impact of a super-sized school, and they considered it was an unnecessary breach of the green belt.

Incredibly all six Conservative councillors on the committee
voted in favour.

“Incredibly all six Conservative councillors on the committee voted in favour. This decision sets an extremely worrying precedent for the rest of Barnet’s green belt under the Tory administration,” said Councillor Edwards.

The first application for a new school at the football ground was submitted last September after the site was purchased for £14.5 million by the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Ark Academy chain was chosen to run the new school, and originally the agency proposed a 1,690 place all-age school, but after that was rejected in January, a fresh proposal was submitted for a slightly slimmed-down super school with 1,200 places, including 300 at sixth form.

Artist impression of the southwest view of playgroundArtist impression of the southwest view of playgroundCouncillor Edwards said the new academy failed the test for justifying a development in the green belt because the projections of the Greater London Authority suggested there would be only a temporary increase in the number of new entrants requiring schooling – this would peak in around 2020 and then decline to 2017 levels.


He was joined in his protest by another Underhill councillor, Councillor Jess Brayne, who was disappointed by the decision because of the impact it would have on the lives of local residents and for anyone driving along roads such as Mays Lane or Barnet Lane.

Earlier this month the Underhill councillors had complained that there was only eight days’ notice that the decision would be taken on Wednesday 25 October and they tried unsuccessfully to get the application deferred to the November meeting.  

Their protests have been supported by Andrew Dismore, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, who attended the planning committee meeting and who has written to Barnet Council challenging the legality of the decision.

Mr Dismore believes that the Council’s advice was unlawful because the committee was told that if the application for a government-funded new school was rejected then the cost of a future school elsewhere in the borough would fall on the council.

“The funding of a new school is not a planning consideration in law, but clearly was a factor in the mind of the chair, and also by extension those the chair sought to influence, namely the Conservative councillors on the committee.

“Moreover, no officer stepped in to correct the chair and to make the point that this was an irrelevant factor.

“In approving the application, the committee took into account irrelevant matters, which I argue makes the decision unlawful, and would make this application susceptible for judicial review.”

Mr Dismore has asked the council’s chief executive to refer the decision back to another “differently constituted committee” for a lawful decision to be taken.

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10 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 17:48 posted by Hazel Conway

    It is unbelievable that Barnet Council should completely ignore the views of so many local people who are against this new school going ahead. The council has contempt for its residents and was always determined to force this decision through while cynically lying about a so-called 'consultation'. I think someone needs to find out what is really going on here.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 23:43 posted by Sharmistha Dhar-Michaels

    Great finally some options for those of us with children in the local primary schools other than TTA. I suspect the hundreds that objected don’t have children of primary school age and/or are sending their children to faith or private school. I doubt any threat of JR will be successful or followed through!!

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 23:45 posted by Basabi Dhar

    Nothing wrong with any school as long as the children are happy and they are taught well, however there should be more choices for the children and their parents if they do not come from a religious background. I worked in Brent, and the Ark Academy is running a school there from EYFS to A level and as far as I know primary school has been given Outstanding by the ofstead. I am glad that my grandchildren will have the chances to choose from two schools. In other boroughs the children can put three choices

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 23:46 posted by Karis Millington

    Mixed feelings over this as TTA was very impressive at open evening...and this won’t help them continue to improve. But at least there is choice now.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 23:46 posted by Kate Griffiths

    Nothing wrong with TTA (my girl doing brilliantly there) - I objected as this this is really all about the council killing off TTA so they can sell off land at £££ for luxury housing - leaving one secondary school with not enough places to support the growing demand - mark my words this is profit over people #disgraceful

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 October 2017 23:51 posted by Ben Basson

    If you don't like it, stop voting for this council.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 28 October 2017 09:37 posted by Sharmistha Dhar-Michaels

    Or maybe they will thrive under competition rather than be considered a last resort.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 28 October 2017 09:38 posted by Karis Millington

    Sharmistha Dhar-Michaels I think it will depend on how many opt to go to the new school - Hopefully TTA can continue to do really well and improve with existing intake so that it does seem like a viable choice over a shiny new School.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 28 October 2017 19:41 posted by Vas Lashley

    The Green belt is more important!! Too much building across the country! There won't be anywhere to build soon anyway!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 01 November 2017 15:00 posted by Gavin Conway

    TTA is thriving and improving. This ridiculous decision puts that improvement under threat. What you really must ask yourselves is why the council has made this quite astounding decision. It is clearly not for the good of local education. Sadiq Khan can still block the building of the school. Contact him directly to lodge your disapproval: https://www.london.gov.uk/contact-us-form

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