Underhill Ark Academy gets go-ahead despite traffic fears

The Ark Academy planning application for a 1200 place secondary school at Underhill Stadium has been given the go-ahead by Barnet council's planning committee (26 Oct) despite fears over parking, congestion and the impact on the environment.

Underhill Councillor, Paul Edwards, who addressed the Planning Committee, said: 

"At last night's planning meeting I spoke on behalf of the hundreds of Underhill and High Barnet residents who have expressed their grave concern about the proposed Ark Pioneer school to be built on green belt land.

"In particular I emphasised that the exceptional circumstances test needed to warrant green belt development has not been met by the applicant. GLA figures predict only a temporary increase in year 7 entrants peaking in around 2020 then declining again to 2017 levels.

"Incredibly the 6 Conservative Cllrs present all voted for the development of the green belt, despite the exceptional circumstances test not being met. This sets an extremely worrying precedent for the rest of Barnet's green belt under the Tory administration."

Underhill Councillor, Jess Brayne said:

"I'm hugely disappointed by the decision, which will have a negative impact on the lives of those surrounding the site and indeed anyone driving through Barnet. 

"This decision went ahead despite residents fears about the impact on the environment, traffic congestion and lack of need for school places in the immediate area. I did not feel these concerns were fully addressed by the re submitted application."

Barnet and Camden London Assembly Member, Andrew Dismore, who also attended the Planning Committee meeting, has written to the Council's Chief Executive expressing concerns that the decision may be unlawful because of issues raised by the Chair of the committee that were not planning considerations.

  1. A link to the Planning Committee agenda and reports can be found here: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=703&MId=9166&Ver=4
  2. A copy of Andrew Dismore AM's email to Barnet Council's Chief Executive:
Dear Mr Hooton,
I am writing to you, to question the legality of the decision at last night’s planning committee to approve this application.
In introducing the item, the Chair made a clear argument, that one of the factors in the application was the  that the proposed school was to be funded by the Government; and if the application was refused, then any other school elsewhere would have to be funded by the Borough.
I am sure you will appreciate that the issue of funding for the proposed school is not a planning consideration in law, but clearly was a factor in the mind of the Chair, and also by extension those the Chair sought to influence, namely the Conservative members of the Committee. Moreover, no officer stepped in to correct the Chair and to make the point that this was an irrelevant factor.
In approving the application, the Committee therefore took into account irrelevant matters, which I argue makes the decision unlawful, and would make this application susceptible to judicial review.
In the circumstances, I argue that the decision, being unlawful, ought to be referred back to another differently constituted committee, for a lawful decision to be taken.
I await your response.
Best regards
Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden 

For more information contact:

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

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