Planning war divides neighbours

7th August 2009 at 01:00
Langley Girls are winners in court battle to stop Langley Boys' multi-million pound redevelopment

Although separated by only a fence, two neighbouring schools have never been more divided following a court ruling in a bitter two-year planning dispute.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of south London's Langley Park Girls' School, which has been battling next door Langley Park Boys' multi-million-pound plan to rebuild its school.

Langley Park Boys in Bromley was selected by the Department for Children, Schools and Families as a One School Pathfinder and handed Pounds 38 million to transform its buildings.

The school drew up plans to bulldoze its existing buildings - originally designed for 650 pupils and now catering for 1,600 - and construct a new school complete with state-of-the-art classrooms, a music hall and all-weather sports pitch.

In spring last year, the boys' school was granted planning permission by Bromley Council, sparking an embittered battle of the sexes. The girls' school lodged a complaint as it felt the new buildings and sports fields would come too close to its own premises. This February, the objection was taken to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the boys' school.

However, the girls' school immediately lodged an appeal, and last Friday successfully saw the decision overturned.

The Court of Appeal's Lord Justice Sullivan said Bromley Council's decision to grant planning permission was "seriously flawed" and in some respects "misleading".

Richard Langham, the barrister acting on behalf of the girls' school, said the planning application was quashed for procedural reasons.

He told The TES: "Langley Park Girls objected on the grounds that the proposed school buildings were far too close to their own school.

"The appeal court ruled that the council had failed to consider the harm that would have been caused to the neighbouring school, and did not consider the proposed alternative put forward by the girls' school."

It is understood that Langley Park Girls funded its legal challenge from its own school budget, leading to councillors condemning the school for wasting taxpayers' money.

The council is desperate to see the scheme pushed through in order to secure the DCSF funding, and the spat between the council and girls' school became particularly venomous when Ernest Noad, Bromley's executive councillor for children and young people, accused the school of "wrecking tactics".

Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr said he was "extremely frustrated" by the decision and is seeking clarification on the law from the Supreme Court (House of Lords).

Councillor Carr said: "Neither the Government Office for London nor the Mayor of London felt it necessary to call it in for further scrutiny. We are extremely frustrated that the Court of Appeal has ruled in a different direction, bringing further delay and costs to this scheme."

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