Tories Accused of Raising False Hope over Fulham Boys School

By suggesting site they earmarked for low cost housing

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H & F Council Leader Stephen Cowan has accused Tories of raising false hope among parents of boys hoping to join the Fulham Boys School in September.

The free school was refused permission by Secretary of State Michael Gove to open in September as it had no permanent site to move to after a two year lease on a temporary site in the Gibbs Green Estate in West Kensington ran out.

Now Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands and H&F Conservative councillors led by Cllr Greg Smith have suggested using a site currently occupied by Watermeadow Court, on Townmead Road in South Fulham.

In a letter to Stephen Cowan, they say: " Unlike other sites that have been suggested, this site is currently derelict and unoccupied, with no existing planning applications or planning permissions and entirely within the Council’s directability to sell, with no complications."

This statement however, reverses the previous Conservative council administration's own plans for this site - and appears to ignore a joint agreement they signed on March 28 this year with developer Stanhope to build up to 100 "affordable" homes on the site.

In fact, building homes on this and another site in Fulham - Edith Summerskill House on the Clem Atlee Estate - was one of the previous Tory administration's flagship policies.

In November 2012, the council announced that it planned to offer "help for aspiring home owners" in "an innovative joint venture between its housing company and a private sector partner."

In May 2013, it shortlisted three developers for the venture and in October it announced that it had chosen Stanhope plc, the company which is also redeveloping the BBC TV Centre in Shepherd's Bush.

On March 28 this year, the council announced a joint venture housebuilding deal had been agreed with Stanhope. The then cabinet member for housing, Cllr Andrew Johnson, said: "We’ve carefully considered how best to use our land assets more proactively – and firmly believe that joint ventures such as this can accelerate release of public land to help drive forward development, housing supply and economic growth.

" As well as delivering more than 100 low-cost-homes to buy, this partnership will also enable the council to ensure that the proceeds are ploughed back into similar schemes, estate improvements and reducing our £200million of housing debt."

This agreement, says current Council Leader Stephen Cowan, means that Watermeadow Court is not a feasible option for the school, where 84 boys were enrolled, including 55 from Hammersmith and Fulham.

He told the Fulham Gazette that the Tories had " sold it in the dying days of their administration.

" I objected to this at the time and said they should wait until the election but they went ahead and sold it anyway. Greg Smith was the deputy leader of the Conservative administration when the decision was made so I find it hard to believe he was not aware of this or could not have checked any of this before telling the media."

He added: "I believe that the MP and the Conservative leader are not being serious and putting this offer on the table is wrong."

Cllr Cowan has now written to Greg Hands and Greg Smith to confirm that the council is no longer free to dispose of the site.

He has also suggested that the school could move instead to a site on Carnwath Road, where Thames water intends to build an access site for the planned Thames Tideway Tunnel, or super sewer as it is commonly known. This plan has proved highly controversial, with both local community groups and H&F council campaigning against it.

Cllr Cowan said that council officers are reviewing the viabiity of this site - where the previous administration has already granted permission for 500 homes, shops and offices - and added that the government could kill two birds with one stone by buying this site from the developers who currently own it and halting the unwanted super sewer site.

 

July 12, 2014