French School gets the go ahead. Traffic plans are dangerous.

We are very pleased that the French School has got Planning Permission for the project and can start work. We have always welcomed the arrival of the school and hope it will contribute to our area.

[UPDATE 2012 ………..  there are some ongoing problems with this issue but we are working with the school administration.   We know they have been massively distracted during the early phases as their contractors went bust and this threw out their opening timetable..   But we look forward to more cooperation soon.  It was good that the primary school aged children came and sang at the 2012 Summer Event – see reports and a photo of them on this website.]

The only unfortunate part has been the very ill thought out plans for the delivery and collection of the pupils. We canvassed local opinion widely and met people at Azania Mews. There was widespread concern about safety.

Some of us attended the meeting at the Council Chamber of the Development Control Committee on Thursday and made our points as a delegation. We had submitted a written submission and we attach that to this e-mail for anyone interested.

To summarise: There will be 700 pupils coming to the school eventually. In spite of the hopes of the school’s traffic plan, many will come by car as this is not a local school but draws pupils from all over London.

The majority of those who will be brought by car will be the younger ones. The plan that was approved means that all of these younger pupils will concentrated on one street and the least suitable – Cathcart Street. Narrow, cobbled, slippery in the wet, tree lined, with a tight blind corner, with family homes both sides.

There will be three entrances on this one street including one for the 290 primary age children which is tucked right into the blind corner!

Ironically our real concern was for the children of the school who we think will be at serious risk. It is sad that this put us in conflict with the school and some parents who also came to the meeting.

Our suggestion was that they be spread out between all three streets – Cathcart for the 50 nursery age children, Holmes Road for the 290 primary age children and Willes for the secondary pupils. This was effectively blocked by Camden officers who claimed that their vans and lorries in Holmes Road would make it impossible for that to be used.

Holmes Road does carry more traffic than Cathcart obviously but their own figures and our survey in fact indicate quite moderate levels of traffic – and more importantly it is clear and open with good sight lines. It is a far safer dropping off point than Cathcart Street.

We heard the argument that the school entrance in Holmes Road is too narrow for the children. We pointed out it was in use as the main entrance for over a 100 years. The zigzag lines are still there outside this main entrance.

You may be amused to know that the traffic officer for Camden who sabotaged this safe and rational choice was very ill informed and said the zigzag lines were there because of the council depot!

It is also sad that the promises of consultation by the school were not honored. The final proposed scheme was never even discussed with us and we learnt about it after it had been submitted to the council.

Anyway – no point in sour grapes. The Committee, which was chaired by our own local councillor Dave Horan and included our own local councillor Georgia Gould, had little choice. They seemed fairly convinced by our arguments but the clunky system of planning procedure means that if they heeded our warnings they would have to reject the present scheme and that would delay the start and jeopardise the whole project. Baby out with bathwater time. They were not able procedurally to approve the general design etc but require changes in traffic plans which we suspect and hope they may have wanted to do.

Hats off to the committee anyway – they listened carefully to us and to numerous other deputations. Ours was application 4 out of 20 and we finished at 10.00; goodness knows when they finished them all.

Let’s move on: Firstly to work with the school and the contractors on making sure the building works are carried out well. We have had a good experience with Wates and the Baths and we think Wates may win this contract. So we hope we can have the same sort of prestart meeting to agree rules about times of work, site traffic flow, complaints hotline.

And once it has been finished we very much look forward to welcoming the school to our area. Members of the committee and representatives of the school told us they were anxious to ensure that the approved plan does work and have asked us to monitor the outcome and liaise with them over any problems. We will have follow up surveys and questionnaires to homes.