Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A rare win , win situation !

Some issues in local government just go on and on and whatever effort successive Councillors and Council Officers put into resolving them there is often no end in sight.

So it is a pleasant change to report the ending of one long running saga in Barnet affairs , the Stanley Road Playing fields issue which has been occupying the minds of Barnet's finest for about the last 10 years . This site is bang in the middle of East Finchley near the Grange Estate and adjacent to the Northern Line .

Next week the Cabinet Resources Committee will be asked to agree the disposal of the Stanley Road Playing fields and the site of the former Herbert Wilmot Youth Centre to the Department for Education for the construction of facilities for the new "free school" , the Archer Academy due to open in September .

This non denominational school created very much by parent power and lobbied hard for by Mike Freer in a clear justification of Michael Gove's policy , in East Finchey has already acquired the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute Building round the back of East Finchley tube station and will fill a huge need for secondary school places for East Finchley children . The other Secondary School in the area , the Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided Bishop Douglas has long been recognised by local parents as a disaster area in Education and it is a complete and abject failure of the Catholic Arch Dioceses of Westminster that this long running disgrace has not been sorted . Repeated attempts by the Borough over the years have been rebuffed by the Arch Diocese and the only solution now for Bishop Douglas is closure or a relaunched Academy ( a la Wren Academy in North Finchley ) .

Over the years I did not win many friends in the Conservative Cabinet by constantly objecting to the sale for a housing estate of the playing fields , first we had to see off a Cllr  Brian Salinger scheme and then a Cllr Dan Thomas scheme . Back in 2005 Cllr Salinger won himself few friends by sending in the bulldozers one weekend to knock down the former Herbert Wilmott centre on the pretext of Asbestos issues, hoping for a quick sale of the site and Cllr Thomas , I suspect badly advised by his Officers saw only the pound signs of a Capital receipt .

What East Finchley does not need is more social housing . As a Ward it has more than its' fair share. What the area is desperately short of is green space , sports facilities and Community assets.

The Archer Academy proposals will provide a sports centre , an all weather pitch , and ancillary community facilities available outside school hours and protected by a proposed deed of dedication with the local organisation Sport EF . The local Community have worked hard to try and acquire the site themselves but were always doomed to failure as many organisations gave them warm words of comfort but no hard cash and their plans were unfortunately over ambitious and there seemed a reluctance to compromise .

East Finchley as an area is changing dramatically . Young middle class families unable to afford Muswell Hill and needing to be in easy reach of the tube are moving arriving in  large numbers . Now the facilities they demand  are following, with the creation of a decent Secondary School to which they can send there children . All they need now is a Waitrose ( and they could have had that , together with a new Library if Councillor Brian Salinger had not derailed the disposal of Park House near the station back in 2002) .

The Stanley Road proposals are a win for parents wanting secondary places for their children ; for the Community who want sports facilities ; for those opposed to yet more dense social housing and for the Council where the £3 million odd ( according to my source at the Dfe) capital receipt will compensate for the delayed receipt for the eventual sale of the Friern Barnet Library site .

I am rather proud of my small  role in this saga and look forward to the new Academy being a huge success .

No doubt one or two whingers will emerge and the Hendon Times will adopt its' usual sour attitude to good news but to quote a Finchley icon "Rejoice at the news  " !!!


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