'It looks like the Somme,' say angry Balmoral Avenue residents as Beckenham Academy site is cleared
PUBLISHED: 10:23 18 January 2016 | UPDATED: 10:23 18 January 2016
E21C, the trust behind the school, are still waiting on planning permission for the site
The planned construction of a new school in Beckenham has caused outrage among residents.
A plot of land on Balmoral Avenue, formerly owned by the Co-op, was purchased for the new Beckenham Academy by the E21C trust, and workers began clearing the site last week, much to the anger of those living in the area.
The academy was planned to ease pressure on existing schools in the borough, with Bromley council expecting significant demand for places by 2020.
While E21C have the necessary authority to clear the site, planning permission has not yet been secured, and local people say they are puzzled as to why this kind of work is being done, with the future of the land still up in the air.
Eddie Seymour, a 42-year-old wholesale manager who lives on the road, said: “It all seems very shady, why would they spend millions if there was a chance of not being able to build on the site?”
“They’ve come in and turned woodland into a brownfield site - it looks like the Somme, it’s terrible.”
Other residents, like Kate Woodyatt, have also expressed concern about damage to animal habitats in the area.
She said: “Large cranes and bulldozers have destroyed what is locally considered a beautiful haven for wildlife.
“If planning permission has not been given then it seems madness for this to happen, unless E21C have already been told by local councillors that it is just a formality.”
Other worries include how a quiet residential road will handle the volume of traffic that a new secondary school will bring.
However, E21C chiefs have defended the work, and strongly denied that any agreement regarding planning permission is already in place.
Chair of education, Nick Vincent, and CEO Paul Murphy said: “That’s certainly not the case. The site was so massively overgrown that you can’t do all the very detailed topographical surveys required as part of the planning process, so we had to clear it.
“If we don’t eventually achieve planning permission to build a school on the site, the trust would have to consider other options.”