COLPAI school clears final planning hurdle

View from Banner St with new tower block.

City planners have green-lit controversial plans to build a new primary school and social housing tower block next to the Grade II-listed Golden Lane Estate, putting an end to months of debate and fierce opposition from local residents.

The planning and transport committee voted 20-3 in favour of the joint proposal from the City Corporation and Islington Council for a 14-storey residential tower and 420-pupil City of London Primary Academy Islington (COLPAI) on the former site of the Richard Cloudesley School north-east of the estate.

After two-and-a-half hours of debate, last-ditch attempts by Golden Lane Estate residents to have the plans thrown out fell on deaf ears as the committee ruled the need for social housing and educational facilities in the City outweighed concerns over the scheme’s density.

Monday’s meeting was one of the final hurdles for the proposal, which crosses borough borders with Islington Council and was approved by its planners at the beginning of March.

news london
Residents turned out at Islington Council’s planning meeting to voice their objections.

Speaking in favour of the application, councillor Sir Mark Boleat said that Islington’s decision had “heavily influenced” his own given the majority of the site falls under its jurisdiction.

“Like any significant scheme in the City, there is some damage, and there is some benefit,” he said.

“I fully support this application, because I believe it will bring much-needed education facilities and social housing to the City.

“This site has been planned for some time, we need to be getting on with it.”

The vote was met with relief from COLPAI parents and teachers who were concerned that planning delays could push out the project’s timeframe, forcing the school to seek an alternative location when its two-year temporary lease at Moreland Primary School in Clerkenwell expires next summer.

london magazine
COLPAI headteacher Kim Clapham with student Benjamin Mensah at the beginning of the school year.

“We’re very pleased that the City and Islington planning committees were able to see that the benefits clearly outweigh whatever harm is being done, and that the harms are subjective – purely a matter of opinion,” said João Bravo da Costa, an architect and parent of a child at the school.

“I think it’s been a more difficult discussion than needed.”

But the verdict came as a blow to campaigners from the Golden Lane Estate Residents’ Association, who filed 144 objections to the scheme and delivered a petition containing nearly 1,500 signatures opposing the development.

An earlier attempt by the City’s planners to transfer sole authority for the application to Islington was met with anger, compounded further by Monday’s verdict.

“I think it’s incredible hypocrisy that the City is washing their hands of this because it’s their application and their school,” said Clementine Cecil, who has been living on the estate for over seven years.

“The fact that they can just [try to] defer to Islington because, conveniently, Islington has already ruled on this matter means that we, the residents, feel between two stools.”

Others felt it was unfair the scheme put the two communities against each other.

“What I’m particularly disappointed about is that somehow the system has managed to set residents against parents,” said resident and former head of Richard Cloudesley School Anne Corbett.

“The majority of parents don’t live on the estate, so they’re not affected by this development like the residents are.

“Our concerns don’t meet and it’s unfortunate we’ve been set against each other because, ultimately, we don’t want an argument with the parents and we need a good relationship with the school, and at the moment that’s quite difficult.”

When asked whether the residents would challenge the decision with judicial review, Mr Cecil said GLERA was weighing up its options: “We still maintain that it’s possible to get a scheme that makes everyone happy… we’re not giving up hope yet.”