Anger over Putney Hospital site free school plans


Plans to build a free school and luxury apartments on the derelict Putney Hospital site are sparking controversy among residents.


By Jemima Owen

Plans to build a free school and 24 luxury apartments on the derelict Putney Hospital site are sparking on-going controversy among Thamesfield residents.

Friends of Putney Common (FoPC) have expressed numerous reservations about the proposals, fearing an unmanageable increase in rush-hour congestion, health hazards and noise pollution.

However, those representing Putney Schools Campaign (PSC) are concerned by figures projected by the Greater London Authority suggesting that by 2016 25% of children in the Thamesfield area will be unable to find a local primary school place.

The academy would occupy part of the former Putney Hospital site at the east end of Putney common, while planning permission for the residential development to the north end was obtained in 2010.

Former nurses’ homes, car parks and access roads would be reclaimed as common space to compensate for a new junction and pedestrian crossing providing access to the Lower Richmond road.

Wandsworth Council say that proceeds from the flats will be necessary to fund the 420-pupil school, which will feature a rooftop playground.

Just five staff parking spaces will be provided, encouraging staff and pupils to walk or cycle instead.

However, FoPC feel this solution is overly simplistic.

“Primary school teachers often need to carry files, textbooks and project materials to and from work every day and simply won’t be able to do this on foot,” says David Austin, a spokesman for the group.

“When you factor in parents driving siblings on to other schools or to work, you have a huge concentration of people coming and going twice a day.”

The committee also raised objections regarding the rooftop playground.

“Children will play near extremely busy roads – it’s not safe,” sais Mr. Austin, citing a 2011 report by The Aphekom Project ( suggesting a link between proximity to traffic and 30% of child asthma diagnoses.

“And of course there is the noise factor,” he added.

Conversely, PSC feel complaints about the rooftop playground are unfounded.

“The roof has advantages over the 10ft high walls necessary around many ground-level primary school playgrounds,” says a spokesman.

“Having the playground at this level will mean less noise at playtime – not more. It can be a perfectly safe and workable solution, successfully used at other schools.

PSC stress that securing school places for local children is their primary objective.

“FoPC talk about a ‘perceived problem with the number of available school places’. It is not perception, it is a real, well documented and serious issue.”

FoPC say they are not against appropriate redevelopment of the site.

“What the council are not stressing is that this is a mixed development. We would not oppose a smaller school, but the flats are taking up an equal amount of space and encroaching onto the common, which is illegal,” said Mr. Austin.

“Anyone who objects to the flats is told they are objecting to principle of a school, which is not the case,” he added.

“Ultimately a new school is urgently required,” said the PSC spokesman. “The current proposal is the only workable plan being put forward at the moment, though we would be happy to discuss alternatives that meet local demands.”

FoPC wrote to Wandsworth Council on Thursday suggesting the Westleigh Lodge site adjacent to Elliot School as an alternate location with ‘considerable advantages in terms of transport connections and position’.          

A meeting to further discuss the issue is scheduled for 7.30pm at All Saints’ Church on October 15th. The meeting will be chaired by MP Justine Greening and is open to the public.

For more information visit: Friends of Putney Common Putney Schools Campaign

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