Andrew Dismore AM

london_dismore226

BERA

 
 
 
 
 

Andrew Hartley Dismore has been the Member of the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden since 2012, and was the MP for our area before that. We are very lucky to have the support of Andrew and he has been busy on our behalf. He has been keeping the pressure on by highlighting our cause where he can.

Andrew and the London Assembly

Andrew tabled five written questions about Avanti House School. The questions and responses are below:

Question by Andrew Dismore 

Question number 1475/2013

Do you support the proposal for a free school organised by Avanti House school for the Broadfields site, Edgware, and if not what do you propose to do about it?

Answer by Boris Johnson

The Avanti House school has been open since September 2012. Its relocation is ultimately a matter for the Department for Education and the London Borough of Barnet. While appreciating concerns raised, there is a pressing need for school places across London and securing suitable sites is often difficult. That is why I have set up a dedicated unit to help free schools find sites. We will of course support the DfE in exploring alternative sites should they wish to do so.

Question by Andrew Dismore

Question number 1476/2013

What assessment have you made of the impact on traffic if the Avanti House school proposal goes ahead at Broadfields?

Answer by Boris Johnson

Traffic assessments are made by the relevant planning authority – in this case, the London Borough of Barnet.

Question by Andrew Dismore

Question number 1477/2013

Will you work to find an alternative venue for the Avanti House School closer to where its pupils mainly come from, which would avoid problems for local residents as the present scheme does?

Answer by Boris Johnson

Please see my response to MQ 1475 / 2013.

Question by Andrew Dismore

Question number 1478/2013

Will you make representations to the Secretary of State for Education aimed at securing a better location should be found for the Avanti House School other than Broadfields?

Answer by Boris Johnson

Please see my response to MQ 1475 / 2013.

Question by Andrew Dismore

Question number 1479/2013

What discussions have you or your officers had with people promoting free schools in Barnet or in Camden?

Answer by Boris Johnson

GLA officials are engaged in ongoing discussions with free school proposers across the capital on a range of issues.

Andrew Dismore – Mayor’s Question Time

Well what can I say it appears we are NIMBYS and don’t like School children! Well if Boris looked at our concerns he would see we are concerned amongst other things in the merits of putting 1680 pupils right next door to an existing 600 pupils. I am sure he won’t take any responsibility if kids get hurt because of the extra local traffic generated by his fit a free school anywhere, anyhow attitude. Thank you Andrew and continue the good work.

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NEWS RELEASE: Avanti: Government and Barnet Council need to go back to School

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, has today published the response he has received from Government free schools minister Lord Nash, (attached).

Mr Dismore said:

“I suggested to the Council, the Mayor of London and the Government, they should make available to Avanti part of the soon to be vacated land on the MOPAC owned and Mayor Johnson controlled Peel Centre police training college site in Colindale. “

Lord Nash says:

“We have had preliminary discussions with Barnet Council to establish whether the MOPAC site could be suitable for Avanti House Free School. From the information available, it seems that it may not be large enough for the schools requirements”

But the Peel Centre site to be sold is 54.36 acres, whilst the Broadfields site is just 4.4 acres and the Fairway site is only 3.7 acres, a mere fraction of the Peel Centre land soon to be disposed of and available. If the school seems to think that amount of land is enough for them, why did Barnet Council, in their “preliminary discussions” with the Government, suggest the Peel Centre site was too small?

There seems to be either a breakdown in communication between the Council, the Mayor, the school, and the Government, or they need to go back to school to learn some basic geometry and arithmetic on how to calculate area sizes.

The Mayor said he wanted to use redundant police stations and land for free schools, so what is wrong with this site? It is ideal: it already has plenty of open space and even a running track, and the road and transport links are far easier.

The suspicion must be that something fishy is going on. Surely the suggestion of using the Peel Centre land for a free school instead of yet more housing overdevelopment is not being refused because it interferes with the Conservatives’ social engineering housing experiment in Colindale?

Whilst the Minister says that both the Fairway and Broadfields sites are “only options”, time is running out for the school’s planned and necessary move in September into temporary premises.

Are they planning, with the connivance of the Conservative Council, to take advantage of the age old dodgy developers’ trick by fast tracking a planning application during the Summer holidays, when the opportunity for most people to object will be much less- even on the very restricted remaining grounds still available after the Government watered down the planning rules, to the detriment of local communities and the benefit of free school proprietors?

It’s time for the Government , Mayor, Barnet Council and school to play fair with local residents and say just what they have been up to in secret behind the scenes.”

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Andrew Dismore – Broadfields / Fairways Update 3

I promised to keep you up to date about developments concerning Avanti School’s plan to move to Broadfields and to the Fairway. This is not a campaign against Avanti itself: just that the location they have selected are not suitable either from the local residents’ viewpoint; or for that matter, for children attending the school and their parents.

This may be the first update you have received from me. Click on the links below to see my previous updates.

Previous updates which have covered the watering down of the planning laws by the Government which makes objections very difficult; and my proposals to use redundant land on the Peel Centre site, the response of the Minister, and Boris Johnson’s attack on local people at Mayor’s Question Time. I am now numbering the updates, so I (and possibly you too) can keep track!

The survey I am conducting in the area has produced hundreds of responses: nearly all opposing Avanti. The surveys are still coming in thick and fast, so I will give you the analysed results in a further update in due course.

One of the most important issues is the recent grant of planning consent for the proposed woodland cemetery on the fields immediately to the north of the proposed Avanti site in Broadfields. Whilst I realise some residents may be not entirely happy with the cemetery proposal, this does block Avanti’s chance of securing playing field land that is contiguous to their proposed school building, so it has certainly helped the anti- Avanti campaign. Details of the planning permission can be found here.

Boris Johnson’s comments have received pretty universal condemnation. I am tabling further questions for the next mayor’s question time on 17th July, demanding an apology for his defamatory remarks about local people.

I understand that at least 40 residents spontaneously tried to call in to his recent radio phone in on LBC’s “Ask Boris”, to put him right, but were not put through!

I have also secured a debate on free schools with particular reference to planning issues, (which will of course feature Avanti), at the assembly plenary meeting on 24th July.

In the meantime, we have been raising freedom of information requests, to try to find out what has been going on.

Barnet Council Response:

“I can confirm that the London Borough of Barnet holds the information you requested. However, we are withholding some of that information since we consider that the following exemptions apply to it.

Section 40 (2) FOIA sets out an exemption from the right to know if the information requested is personal information protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

The DPA which governs the processing of personal data and defines personal data “as any data which relate to a living individual who can be identified from those data, or from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller.”

Section 31 (1) (a) FOIA exempts disclosure of information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.

We consider that the absolute exemption set out in Section 40 (2) and Section 31 (1) (a) applies to the information requested. Therefore, we have decided to withhold this Information.

We will be sending you all correspondence between Barnet Council and the Education Funding Agency from October 2012 to May 2013, regarding the proposed move of Avanti House Free School to both their proposed permanent site adjacent to Broadfields Primary School, Edgware and their proposed temporary site on land adjacent to Fairway School, Mill Hill.”

I can’t’ quite see how these exemptions apply, especially the references to crime, but there we are! The documents they sent were in hard copy only, not electronic, and a lot of the names have been redacted, but this is a summary of what’s in them, which I think you will find as interesting as I did!

The documents confirm that the Department for Education (DfE) was in discussion with Barnet Council about a new site for Avanti (email 5/3/13), with an email of the same date to Avanti parents which appears (difficult to confirm absolutely due to redactions) to have been approved by the Council, identifying both Broadfields and the Fairway as sites.

After this went out, a further email of 8/3/13 referred to the leaflet that was circulated on 7/3 by Broadfields Primary School, and the email suggested that the Council needed to give “further thought to communication and engagement”. In the end, this consisted of a decision by the Council to pass the buck and refer residents’ queries to Avanti Trust (14/3/13 email).

After the public meeting, the council officer referred to it being “a challenging one I’m sure” (22/3/13 email). The half-hearted suggestion of a building on North London Business Park came and went in just over a week.

17/5/13: an interesting email to the council officer dealing with the issue (sender redacted):

Dear..

“The Secretary of State has two powers over sites that have been maintained schools within the previous 8 years:

· to grant or not grant permission for the LA to dispose of the site.

· to make a scheme to transfer local authority land that has been used for a school within the previous 8 years (and is no longer so used) to an Academy Trust, without compensation- this power has existed for many years, but has never been used”

Unlike Broadfields, where DfE gave consent to Barnet to sell the site, the Northways site has been a school in the past 8 years and no permission has yet been given by the SoS for its disposal, it would therefore be very appropriate for scheming were that the only option……”

16/5/13: email from the Education Funding Agency (ie the DfE) to the Council:

“further to our meeting yesterday you asked me to forward details of our proposals for the temporary school at Northway- see attached.

It would be really helpful if you could chase your colleagues to establish key property information about the site from when the site was demolished. We are particularly keen to establish locations for service connections and survey information including site contamination reports. The reason for this is under the CDM regulations there are obligations to establish key historic information about the site.

I also wanted to highlight the following site issues. These site issues will need to be addressed by the landlord prior to occupation of the site:”

The following 8 lines are then redacted, so we do not know what those issues are!

I am repeating the FoI request for any further documentation, but theses papers seem to suggest that my allegation that “something fishy is going on” is correct. The Council appears to have been colluding with the school from the start, and has been trying to manage the fallout, once local people found out what they were up to.

We also submitted a FoI request to the DfE, but they have refused to comply. We are rejigging our application in another attempt to find out what has been going on from their end.

Finally, I am still hassling the DfE civil servants dealing with Avanti for the meeting they promised, so I can try to get to the bottom of what has been going on, and press the case for other locations like the Peel Centre.

I will write again, when I have more to report.

Best wishes

Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden

andrew@andrewdismore.org.uk

Andrew Dismore – Broadfields / Fairways Update 4

I promised to keep you up to date about developments over the proposal for Avanti School to move into Broadfields and the Fairway.

As you know, I raised the issue with London Mayor Boris Johnson at the last Mayor’s Question Time, when it was clear he had not read my letter to him about the issue, and when he insulted local people who objected to the scheme, calling them “nimbys”.

I have now received a reply from the Mayor , who seems now to have read my letter. Click here to see a copy of his reply which I thought you would like to see.

I regret to say that he has not seen fit to apologise for his attack on local residents, but the contents are interesting.

It is clear from his reply, that contrary to what the Conservative Barnet Council was leading residents to believe, they have been working closely with the school and are supporting the plan!

I also do not accept what he says about the Peel Centre site: part of it is clear on the Aerodrome Road frontage (and is clearly visible from the road) and could be used as a temporary site, if the Mayor wanted to do so.

As you know from my last update, I have a number of other lines of campaign  under way, and I will report back to you, when I next have something to report.

Andrew Dismore – Broadfields / Fairways Update 5

I promised to keep you up to date with information about the proposals for Avanti school to move into Broadfields and the Fairway.

The issue was raised by Cllr Brian Coleman at the council meeting on 16th July:

Question 86 Councillor Brian Coleman

Will the Cabinet Member join me in welcoming plans by the Avanti School to move to Barnet and agree that this will add to the diversity and richness of Education available in this Borough?

Answer by Councillor Reuben Thompstone

As set out in our Education Strategy, the Council is supportive of the development of free schools to meet local requirements where there is evidence of demand, a robust business case and available property. We are proud of the diversity of the educational offer in Barnet and the educational offer of the Avanti school would add to this diversity.

Question 87 Councillor Brian Coleman

It is reported in the press that you have taken a public position opposing plans by the Avanti School to move to the London Borough of Barnet. Would you accept that there are many in the Hindu Community who feel let down by this attitude and the position taken by several members of your Administration in opposing plans for the permanent site in the Edgware Ward and the temporary site in the Hale Ward and welcome the comments of Boris Johnson at Mayor’s Question Time on June 19th?

Answer by Councillor Richard Cornelius

I am fully supportive of the Avanti School and would gladly welcome it to the London Borough of Barnet; however the site does have to be suitable. In relation to a proposal for a specific location of a school, each application is subject to the planning process and the factors influencing the outcome of that process will vary depending on the particular circumstances. I understand that Mayor Boris Johnson has been frequently misquoted on this matter and I do not believe his position is radically different from that of most councillors here.

Whilst none of us have any problem with the Avanti school or Hindu school in general, the concern I and local residents have is the proposed locations for it. You can see from these questions and answers that Cllr Coleman and the Council wish to see Avanti move into the borough.  What is important to see, though, is that the leader of the Council, Cllr Cornelius believes that the position advanced by Mayor Boris Johnson is more or less the same as his Conservative councillor group, which seems to fly against the email Cllr Cornelius sent to me and which I published a few weeks ago. The other question for Cllr Cornelius is whether he also agrees with the Mayor, that local residents are nimbys who dislike school children, which presumably he does, as those comments of the Mayor have not been misquoted but are a matter of public record!

I plan to raise the issue on next Wednesday’s (24th July) London Assembly plenary session, so I will report back to you again after that.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Dismore AM

andrew@andrewdismore.org.uk

Andrew Dismore – Broadfields / Fairways Update 6

I promised to keep you up to date on developments concerning the Avanti school plan to move into Edgware and Mill Hill.

The good news is that the proposed temporary site in the Fairway is  now off the agenda. Avanti has  instead signed a lease on the former Peterbrough and St Margaret school site in Harrow, which is more suitable all round. It is closer to the catchment area for the children and is a  more appropriate site.

There has been no formal announcement concerning the permanent site, but I believe it is now pretty likely that this will not go ahead, in light of the woodland cemetery development on the neighbouring land.

I have also been continuing to  raise the issue in the London Assembly, where yesterday I was successful in proposing a motion ( opposed by the Conservative members) on the need for tighter planning controls for free schools, and to enable local people to have objections considered on legitimate planning grounds. The successful motion also calls on the Mayor to apologise for calling local residents “nimbys” who “dislike school children”. For the text of the Assembly motion, click here.

I also tabled a series of questions to the Mayor, and I set out below his very unsatisfactory responses. Through these updates I have already published his letter , which confirmed amongst other things that the Council had indeed been supporting  the Fairway site option for  Avanti’s temporary location, contrary to what they appear to have been spinning to local residents.  You can also see the Mayor has again declined to take the opportunity afforded by my direct question to him, to apologise.

Avanti School 1

Question No: 2489 / 2013

Andrew Dismore

Have you now read the letter I sent you about the proposed move of Avanti school to Broadfields, Edgware, and the Fairway, Mill Hill, and if so what is your substantive response?

Written response from the Mayor

Please see my letter to you dated 2 July.

Avanti School 2

Question No: 2490 / 2013

Andrew Dismore

Have you now found time to read the letter I sent you about the proposed move of Avanti school to Broadfields, Edgware and the Fairway, Mill Hill, will you now apologise to the thousands of residents who, in my opinion, you insulted at the last MQT by saying they “disliked school children” and were “nimbys”?

Written response from the Mayor

I have read your letter.

*

Avanti School 3

Question No: 2491 / 2013

Andrew Dismore

Will you make some of the 54.36 acres of land you are selling off on the Peel Centre site available for the Avanti free school? And if not, why not?

Written response from the Mayor

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Best wishes

Andrew Dismore AM

London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

Letters written by Andrew Dismore

Letter to the Residents of Broadfields.Andrew Dismore

A message from Andrew.

As you know, I hope, Avanti Free School wish to build a permanent school for 1,680 children on the Broadfields School site, and also in the interim a temporary school on the site of the former Northway Special School, in the Fairway.

Yesterday I met the Avanti head teacher to get a better idea of their plans, and met Mr Archbold the head at Broadfields Primary a few days ago, too, to get his perspective.

As you may also know, I oppose both these schemes.

The planning application for the Fairway site is about to be submitted for a 10 classroom temporary school (presumably portacabin type buildings) to house 180 children for a period of two years. The planning  application for Broadfields is still pending, though I understand from the  school that this remains their preferred option

Both proposals will create unacceptable traffic chaos, as  so I believe it is inevitable that parents will use cars to bring their children to school, adding to the existing  congestion at school start and finish times, due to the long standing ( though in new buildings) schools in Fairway and Broadfields.

I will be formally objecting to the planning application for the Fairway to Barnet Council, and if you agree with my analysis, then I would urge you to do the same in due course I will of course do the same, concerning the Broadfields plan.

You may also like to know that I have written to Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, seeking his support for a proposal I have put to him for a more suitable temporary school site elsewhere on land under the Mayor’s control; and I have also written to the leader of Barnet Council, suggesting that he might get involved in helping to find an alternative site for the school, too. I have also come up with several other suggestions for more suitable permanent sites, which I have put to the Avanti Free school for consideration.

I am also writing to the Secretary of State for education, Michael Gove MP, expressing my concerns that his department have agreed to fund these plans, without suitable sites first having been identified.

As and when I hear anything further I will let you know.

Please feel free to pass this on to any friends or neighbours who may be interested, and if they want to be kept up to date directly, please ask them to email me accordingly.

Best wishes

Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

www.andrewdismore.org.uk

Letter to Richard Cornelius Barnet planning
Richard Cornelius RE Avanti School 230513

Andrew Dismore Avanti School Press realease
GLA PRESS RELEASE avanti school 230513