Mar 6 2013 By Jack Griffith
Lake Farm 1
CAMPAIGNERS who have fought long and hard to save Lake Farm from development have been dealt a bitter blow, after the controversial green belt school proposed at the park was given the go-ahead at a stormy council meeting.
Shouts of 'shame on you' and 'disgrace' rang out as residents and Hayes ward councillors who filled the main civic centre chamber last night (Tuesday) vented their anger at the local authority's steely resolve to press ahead with building the school, despite the sustained level of opposition.
After an hour of fraught debate between campaigners and council planners, when it looked like the decision could be deferred to a later date, the Conservative majority of planning committee members hurriedly rubberstamped the application, bringing an end to the latest chapter in what has become a increasingly political line in the sand.
Seconds after the committee confirmed their course of action, the fire alarm was set off and everyone was evacuated from the civic centre as the chaos of the night's proceedings came to a head.
Because of the sensitive green belt location, the application will now be referred to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson for his final determination.
The proposed three form of entry school would occupy a fiev-hectare swathe of park land at the north eastern corner of Lake Farm Country Park, off Botwell Lane and Botwell Common Road.
Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell was one of five petitioners who spoke on behalf of the hundreds of campaigners who have strongly opposed the idea of a school in that location ever since it was first mooted back in July 2011.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McDonnell said: "I am bitterly disappointed but not surprised. It was not democratic, and I've never seen a council meeting descend into such a shambles.
"The council's agenda is clear - once they have built on one part, they wll come back for more."
Council planners said that there was a pressing need for the school, in what is a densely populated catchment area which has seen a population boom of around 20 per cent in the past ten years.
The local authority insists that the chosen site best fulfilled the criteria for the school - including its location, the availability of open space for play, and the fact it is council land - out of a shortlist of 26 originally considered, and the urgent need constitutes the 'very special circumstances' required in planning law to justify the loss of open space and green belt.
It was pointed out that Guru Nanak Sikh Academy's proposed four form of entry free school, Nanaksar Primary School, due to open in September, fell within the same demand area and would provide the majority of the places needed.
This argument was dismissed because the planning application has not yet been submitted, and because of the belief that it would attract pupils from Ealing, with Southall a short distance away.
Are you angry that Hillingdon Council passed the Lake Farm school plans, or is the authority acting swiftly and decisively for the benefit of future generations? Send your views to email@example.com