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Bullers Wood School: planning inquiry

PUBLISHED: 09:55 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:25 15 November 2018

Bullers march in February. Picture: Local democracy service

Bullers march in February. Picture: Local democracy service

Archant

Parents sporting ‘Say Yes To Bullers’ T-shirts packed into Bromley Civic Centre for the closing of a planning inquiry into a proposed school.

Proposals for Bullers Wood School for Boys at St Hughes’ playing field in Bickley Road, Chislehurst, were approved in 2017, before a controversial U-turn in January after traffic concerns were raised.

This decision was appealed with the government’s planning inspectorate, resulting in a public inquiry which started last week.

Today was the final day, following site visits and arguments between the council and Kier Constructions, the applicant.

A relentless campaign has been led by parents desperate for the school to be built, backed by some councillors and MP Bob Neill.

Parents said after the inquiry they were hopeful that, one way or another, a school will be built.

The council expressed concerns about pupil and highway safety today as it gave its closing arguments to the planning inspector, Christina Downes.

Bromley Council has no objections to the use of the site, but suggested it was the safety issues – particularly in Chislehurst and Bickley Roads – that made current plans unacceptable.

Howell Williams said on behalf of the council: “Whilst great weight must be given to the need to increase secondary school places, that weight must be tempered by the fact that recent reviews of this case does not relate to the principle of its use.

“A refusal on road safety grounds would not mean that a school could not be established on the site to address the educational need.”

The council argued that under the current proposals there would be a significant risk in terms of road or pedestrian safety.

Narrow pavements in Chilsehurst Road were highlighted as one of many risks to potential pupils, with the council arguing safety should be put first.

Mr Williamson said parents would not use planned pick-up and drop-off proposals, instead claiming they would rely upon what would be “substandard and inadequate infrastructure” for the number of cars involved.

Students of Bullers Wood School for Boys are currently in temporary accommodation in Westmoreland Road after planning permission was granted in August.

Linda Busch said on behalf of the applicant there was no evidence suggesting concerns could not be solved through conditions or management carried out by the school.

She said the nearby Bullers Wood School for Girls has no highway issues, and there would be no reason a boys’ school would as it would have a staggered opening time.

She said: “Evidence is clear boys will arrive at the school over the hour, there would not be a last minute mad rush.

“The facility will require management to function but many facilities require management and they can and do work.

“The head is confident that the current infrastructure can and will work with the required management in place.

“There is a clear and uncontested need for school places which the scheme will provide.

“The scheme is supported by policy at all levels and finally and crucially, evidence states the school would not give rise to any unacceptable safety impacts – and no evidence has been produced to the contrary.”

The inspector has kept the inquiry open for 10 working days to allow for final details to be submitted, and a decision will then be made in the coming months.

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