Free school in planning dispute finds temporary site

A south-east London free school at the centre of a planning dispute has found a temporary site.

Bullers Wood School for Boys will now be able to open to 180 pupils this September. Its future had been in question after Bromley council rescinded planning permission for its permanent site two months ago.

The council first refused planning permission for Bullers Wood in January 2017, after concerns were raised about traffic levels in the area of St Hugh’s playing fields.

Contractors Kier Construction, with the backing of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, appealed against the decision and submitted a revised planning application, which was approved by the council in October with the school due to open in September this year.

However, even though the second bid won approval, the appeal against the original rejection continued and was finally dismissed in December by the government’s planning inspectorate in December, which upheld the original concerns about road safety.

This decision caused the council to seek legal advice on the second application and, on January 25, its development control committee made the decision not to ratify the application.
This decision sparked several protests that were supported by hundreds of local families, as well as condemnation from local MP Bob Neill who strongly criticised the ESFA’s handling of the application.

However, on February 28 it was announced that the ESFA will allow the school to open in temporary accommodation on another site in Bromley in time for September, while work continues to revise the application for a permanent site on St Hugh’s Fields.

The school is set to form a multi-academy trust with nearby Bullers Wood School for Girls, with which it will also share playing fields.

In a statement, the school thanked politicians and the Department for Education for working “tirelessly, creatively and at accelerate timelines to find a solution”, and said it was “delighted” to be opening this year.

“Above all else, this outcome is testimony to the incredible efforts of our parents and supporters. Their belief and faith in us has been inspirational, as has their refusal to be cowed in the face of disappointment,” it said.

“The qualities they have demonstrated – resilience, optimism, creativity, determination and moral purpose – are just those we look forward to seeing develop in their sons in the years to come.”

The temporary site, on Westmoreland Road, had previously been the picked by the ESFA as a potential home for a new 1,260-pupil school, the SHaW Futures Academy. Plans for the school were rejected by the council in December, leaving the site vacant for use by Bullers Wood.

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