Controversial school move plans reignite fears

9:18am Thursday 15th March 2012

By Clare Buchanan

Controversial plans to temporarily move a primary school onto a playing field have reignited fears over safety, traffic and overcrowding.

If approved Christ Church Junior School in Elm Road, New Malden will be relocated into seven temporary classrooms on the playing fields behind Mount Road for a year while the school is rebuilt.

The Church of England School was declared dangerous after wooden support beams were severely affected by damp, forcing the school to close for a week in November last year.

Some pupils were taught off site for half a term while steel structures were installed but engineers, who now visit every two weeks, said these will not last more than a year.

Mount Road resident Shaun Barrett said he was horrified by the plans as the area already experiences traffic chaos during drop off and pick up times associated with Christ Church and Corpus Christi schools.

He said: "This is supposed to be a temporary measure - but the chaos that will ensue gives rise to significant concern for the safety of children and all the residential stakeholders.

"By funnelling all these parents and children via the Mount Road access for the temporary classrooms RBK will be putting the safety of all the stakeholders at risk."

Councillor Liz Green said the council would try their best to alleviate traffic problems and said alternative sites, including Christ Church vicarage and Cocks Crescent, had been considered but they were not suitable.

She said: "We really don’t have a lot of choice. We don’t have anywhere else really that is sensible to do it.

"I do have sympathy with the residents, it isn’t ideal moving it onto the playing fields, I’d rather not do that but I can’t see an alternative.

"We have to get the children out at the end of the year. It’s a case of bearing with us for now."

Coun Green said work would need to start on the temporary site at Easter but assured residents, pupils and parents there is no intention to have them on the temporary site for longer than a year.

It is hoped the temporary move will free up the junior school site allowing for a rebuild to take place, the details of which are to be decided. The infant school will not be affected.

A permanent version of the move met fierce opposition when Kingston Council wanted to expand the school on the same site, next to Corpus Christi primary, to ease overcrowding in 2010.

Protesters, who cited fears about road safety, traffic, loss of green space and breaches of covenants on the land forced a council u-turn but said the same arguments apply to the temporary move.

Councillor Lynne Finnerty led the campaign against expanding the school onto the playing fields permanently in 2010.

She said: "The same arguments apply to having a temporary village, as they are calling it, up there.

"There’s a loss of green space and these are really important - restricted access and road safety.

"I asked the council back in January what steps they were taking to find alternative accommodation. Nothing was done and now we are in this situation. I find it unacceptable really."

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