Mayor Tells Council To Say No To Durston House Plan

Sadiq Khan decides loss of Carlton Road playing fields unacceptable

CGI of planned new school buildings

The Mayor of London has decided to overturn the consent given by Ealing Council to Durston House School’s plan to build on the Carlton Road playing fields.

In a letter to the head of the strategic planning team at the Borough, Sadiq Khan directs council planners to refuse the application which they had approved earlier this year subject to a Section 106 agreement. The scheme has been described as ‘an act of environmental vandalism’ by those opposing it.

The Mayor refers to a report by City Hall planners which states, “The proposed school building, by reason of its siting, site coverage and scale, would result in an unacceptable loss of protected open space designated and safeguarded for community use, and visual openness, contrary to the NPPF,
London Plan Policy 7.18, Intend to Publish London Plan Policies G1 and G4, and Ealing Development Management DPD Policy 2.18.”

The report concludes that the benefits provided by the sports hall and other facilities planned would not outweigh the harm done by the loss of the open space and would be contrary to London Plan policies and Ealing’s own strategic policy. These place more emphasis on protecting pitches particularly for cricket and football which have been lost in large numbers over recent years. Sport England was one of the stakeholders objecting to the scheme. The residual open space left if the development proceeded would not have been sufficient for team sport and would only have served as a play area for children at the school, the report says.

The Mayor had already expressed reservations about the scheme back in May 2019 and had advised Ealing Council that the application did not comply with the London Plan. The provision for affordable housing was also considered inadequate at this time. GLA officers concluded that the issues raised at consultation stage regarding development on protected open space and playing fields remained outstanding.

It was also noted that the application was not accompanied by an assessment demonstrating that the sports facilities to be lost would be surplus to requirements and the applicant did not propose to re-provide the playing fields or tennis courts elsewhere.
GLA planners pointed out that, although potential hours of use for the facilities are specified, there is no commitment to a minimum number of hours a week the facilities will be available, or to which clubs or organisations. Furthermore, there was no firm commitment to pricing, just a general statement that it would not exceed that charged for similar facilities in the area.

The scheme was relying on a payment in lieu to cover its affordable housing obligations which meant early and late stage viability reviews are required. An early stage review has not been secured and the late stage review secured in the S106 agreement does not comply with the standardised approach set out in the Mayor’s Affordable Housing & Viability SPG.

Overall there were 1,264 written representations made to the council about the proposal, 717 in objection and 547 in support. At the meeting on 15 January, a vote by Ealing’s planning committee on the application was split 5 councillors against 5 with the determination being made by the casting vote of the chair. Some children from the school attended the meeting in uniform which those opposed to the scheme claimed had been encourage by the school in an attempt to influence the committee.

Durston House is an independent preparatory school located across a number of buildings primarily on Castlebar Road and Longfield Road. The existing school buildings were originally residential and converted to educational buildings. With the new scheme they were hoping to provide purpose built facilities and increase the number of pupils at the school by over 100.

Video by Save Ealing's Green Spaces presented to the meeting  

The surrounding buildings are also predominately residential properties, with the exception of another independent preparatory school, Harvington School, also located on Castlebar Road. The school wanted to build a new three-storey school building to accommodate 540 pupils from reception to year 8 on Castlebar Fields, a site which they own. They wanted to remove the existing pavilion, storage facility and floodlit tennis courts. The current school buildings on Castlebar Road were to be converted into 12 flats and three houses and their building on Longfield Road was to become a 5 bedroom house.

CGI of front entrance of the school on Carlton Road

The proposed three-storey teaching building, with a single storey reception block attached to its west end, was parallel to Carlton Road. A new two-storey assembly building, with a single storey kitchen attached to it, would have been positioned to the north-east end of the teaching building creating a courtyard to be used twice a day for arrivals and departures of pupils and staff. The open plan dining and main hall spaces would have provided provide 2 badminton courts. Other facilities such as lockers, changing rooms, showers, toilets and stores were designed to be used by members of the local community according to the school.

A council spokesperson said, “We acknowledge the Mayor of London’s decision and have issued notices of refusal to the applicant as required. It will be for the applicant to decide whether to take this matter further.”

July 19, 2020