I've been out and about in the ward over the past few days, spoken to a fair few residents and understandably the delay to Gordonbrock School's decant is the number one issue on many people's minds. Lots of concern over the impact this will have on pupils, some children in tears at the news (having spent a large part of this term preparing for the decant), parents left out of pocket having arranged childcare for the extended holidays that wouldn't now be needed and on the whole, great annoyance.
Even some of those who had not been keen on the rebuild plans or the prospect of their children being bussed to Greenville for 18 months said they had got used to the idea, prepared their children, and now the rug has been pulled from under them. Unsurprisingly, I didn't meet a single parent delighted at the prospect of their children being educated in those awful huts in the playground for another 6 months.
A little more info I gleaned from officers:
Parents Meeting: There will be a meeting for parents of Gordonbrock pupils at the school on Thursday 25th March at 7pm to discuss the situation.
One of the key concerns parents have raised is whether the funding will still be there in 6 months time, given the economic climate, the forthcoming general and local elections, and the prospect of a new government making big cuts. Officers said that a large part of the funding for the work is due to come from council prudential borrowing rather than central government funding which means that, assuming the incoming Mayor after 6th May supports the project, the chances of it going ahead are pretty high and not wholly at the mercy of a new national government.
A lot of people I spoke to were highly suspicious about the reasons given for the delay, given that funding was withdrawn in 2005, and thought it was some kind of council ruse to avoid rebuilding Gordonbrock. Nothing I've heard from officers so far makes me think this is the case and I believe the Mayor is still fully committed to the project (and will hopefully confirm this to reassure parents in the next few days). Never say never, however.
What happens next?
Things should become clearer to everyone by the end of this week, but it looks like the planning application will have to be resubmitted and the process gone through again. As I understand it, this is due to a mistake by the planning department and picked up on by Brockley Society lawyers, in not getting an Environmental Impact Assessment done, which apparently is required for sites over half a hectare.
Clearly there are lessons to be learnt by the planning department here, and potentially exceedingly expensive ones for the Council (going through the whole planning process again, securing the decant site and temporary classrooms for six months, legal costs etc won't come cheaply).
Council Officers, together with the head teacher and a governor, are meeting with representatives from Brockley Society this Friday, to discuss their legal letter and feasibility study and have promised to update ward councillors shortly after that.
In addition, Ute and I have a meeting with the Council officers leading on the project this Wednesday. If you have specific questions you would like us to put to them, do let us know, or of course you can ask them at the parents meeting on Thursday evening.