Planning Manager Suzanne White introduced the details of the application and noted that 36 objections and 9 letters of support were received in response to the consultation conducted by the Council. It was also noted that neither TfL nor the Council’s Highways Department objected to the development. Suzanne White then explained that an Addendum Report had been produced detailing three further comments, two from local Ward Councillors and one from the Brockley Society. The comment from Councillor McGeevor proposed an amendment to Condition 11 strengthening the wording relating planting within the soft landscaping condition.
Councillor Paschoud asked for confirmation on whether the public space on Lewisham Way would be lost. Suzanne White confirmed that much of the existing space would be developed. Councillor Copley asked a question relating to the loss of playground space. Suzanne White responded by noting that the development would result in a better quality playground given the fragmented layout of the existing space, the provision of new all-weather facilities and the provision of a sandpit. Councillor Rathbone asked whether any new green space would be provided. Suzanne White stated that there would not be any new public green space. Councillor Clarke noted that that there is a park in the vicinity of the school.
Councillor Anwar asked a question regarding highway safety. Suzanne White noted that the new entrance on Lewisham Way would be secondary to the existing entrance and that the school had proposed various safeguarding measures including limiting the time period the entrance would be in use and requiring staff supervision of the entrance. Councillor Johnston-Franklin asked a question relating to air quality. Planning Officer Vincent Murphy stated that some areas of the site did not meet EU standards but that the impact is very slight. Councillor Johnston-Franklin stated that even a very slight impact is not good enough. Councillor Clarke asked if the mature tree on Lewisham Way could be retained. Suzanne White replied that the loss of the tree is regrettable but would be necessary to allow the construction works to take place.
The Committee then received a verbal presentation from Sean O’Flynn (Head Teacher), Kerry-Anne O’Neil (Architect) and Russell Edwards (Project Manager). Sean O’Flynn explained that the scheme would provide Ashmead with key benefits and meets the brief required by the school. Mr O’Flynn explained that the key objective was to keep as much playground space and trees as possible and stated that the height of the building was key to achieving this objective and retaining the forest school.
Kerry-Anne O’Neil explained that the proposal would allow a 3rd of pupils a more direct entrance to improve the accessibility of the school. It was then stated that the planting of trees within the site would help mitigate the loss of trees on Lewisham Way and would help improve air quality. Kerry-Anne O’Neil then commented that the soft landscaping and level changes at the Lewisham Way entrance provide positive urban design and highway safety. In addition, it was noted that the area on Lewisham Way would still be public space.
Councillor Rathbone asked whether there would be an impact on the existing school facilities. Sean O’Flynn stated that the proposal provides substantial benefits for pupils including an improved playground given that the existing space is not fully utilised. Councillor Clarke asked which age groups would use the Lewisham Way entrance. Sean O’Flynn replied that the entrance would be used by years 4, 5 and 6. Mr O’Flynn then explained that there would be a management programme rehearsing the use of the entrance in order to identify issues. It was also noted that the new forms would be introduced gradually and that the school would not be fully occupied until 2023 which would allow time to conduct risk assessments and suspend the use of the entrance if any issues are identified.
Councillor Clarke asked if railings had been considered for Lewisham Way. Vincent Murphy explained that the Road is managed by TfL and that TfL were opposed to railings. Planning Manager David Syme explained that a series of soft barriers had been used to enhance safety including level changes and planting. Russell Edwards confirmed that TfL were supportive of the design including the removal of fencing.
Members then received a presentation from Clare Cowen and Chris Johnson representing the Brockley Society. Yvonne Horsfall Turner (owner of Stone House), Shin Egashira (parent) and Douglas Jenkinson (parent) were also in attendance to answer questions from members. Clare Cowan stated that the she had attended two meetings regarding the proposal and that there were extensive concerns within the local community including from parents, residents, the St John’s Society and the Brockley Society. Clare Cowen acknowledged that improvement have been made to the design however, concerns remain regarding safety due to the proximity to the A2 and the impact on long views of the Grade II Listed Stone House. It was noted that the site is adjacent to Lewisham and Southward College which can cause mayhem with traffic during busy periods
Clare Cowen expressed concerns with air quality in the area and stated that the school had a duty of care to pupils given the effects on conditions such as asthma. It was highlighted that there had been a fatal collision recently further along the A2. Clare Cowen then stated that the entrance should be kept away from the main road and proposed that the building is either moved north or at an angle.
Councillor Bourne asked whether the proposal to relocate the building had been put to the project team. Chris Johnson replied that the proposal had not been put to the applicant. Mr Johnson also commented that the Trees are visually important to the area and stated that on bin collection days the width of the remaining footpath would be further reduced. Councillor Clarke stated that moving the building would reduce the size of the playground. Chris Johnson replied that a green roof could be installed and used as a play space. Councillor Clarke responded that a roof space may present safety issues and reminded members and the objectors that they must discuss the present application.
Councillor Rathbone commented that the views of Stone House are not historic given that there was a row of terrace houses on the site until the 1970s. Chris Johnson gave an overview of the planning history of the site and then stated that the benefit of the long view and green space on Lewisham Way should not be lost. Councillor Johnston-Franklin asked whether the entrance on Lewisham Way would be retained in the alternative plan. Chris Johnson stated that it would not. Councillor Clarke reiterated that members must only discuss the scheme put before them and asked what concerns parents of pupils at the school had with the scheme. Shin Egashira replied that he had concerns regarding pedestrian safety, air pollution and the loss of trees.
Councillor Clarke asked Council Officers for more information regarding air pollution and asked if the siting of the building would help with dissipation. Vincent Murphy replied by providing an overview of the air quality reports submitted with the application. The first report commissioned into air quality at the site used existing monitoring. The existing monitoring showed that air pollution had been declining over a 5 year period. The second report monitored air pollution at locations within the site and found that air pollution at 6 receptors demonstrated that EU limits were exceeded. The maximum impact of any change in air pollution exposure was assessed to be ‘slight’. Vincent Murphy concluded by noting that the air quality consultant for the applicant had stated that this equates to a miniscule impact.
Councillor Clarke commented that the existing trees on Lewisham Way are larger than the proposed trees and raised concerns that the new trees would not be as effective in screening air pollution. Vincent Murphy replied that the quality of mitigation provided by planting would be reviewed by an air quality expert which would be secured by condition. Suzanne White stated that it is not possible to ensure that the mature tree on Lewisham Way is retained but that a review can be secured by condition.
Councillor Paschoud noted that members do not know that the taller trees provide better air pollution mitigation and stated that there is sufficient information within the report to arrive at a conclusion. Councillor Paschoud then commented that the new building may provide a level of mitigation and noted that there is an existing school on the site. Vincent Murphy replied that the air quality consultants agree that the new building would provide a barrier.
Councillor Copley noted that Councillor McGeevor had withdrawn her objection due to the strengthened soft landscaping condition. Councillor Copley then moved to approve the application with the strengthen soft landscaping condition and a new condition securing further investigation for tree protection. The motion was seconded by Councillor Rathbone.
Members voted as follows:
FOR APPROVAL: Councillors Clarke, Copley, Anwar, Bourne, Johnston-Franklin, Paschoud, Muldoon & Rathbone
Resolved: That planning permission be approved in respect of application DC/17/104714 subject to conditions for soft landscaping and tree protection.