- Tower Hamlets
A school, set up illegally four years ago, has been given retrospective planning permission, as well as permission to
expand its premises, much to the dismay of local residents.
Planning permission had been denied in January by Hackney council, after complaints from residents living at The Trees, a block of Victorian flats that back on to the site, that the school, generated intolerable noise throughout the week including Sundays.
Eli Low, who represents the Gilmoor Benevolent Fund, which funds the school, said in January that the school was needed because:
“There are not enough spaces for schools for the Jewish community in the area and the council has sold off old school sites to developers instead of us.”
The Benevolent Fund took Hackney’s decision to the Planning Inspectorate where it was reversed this week.
Simone Lewis (pictured), an intensive care nurse, moved into the Trees last summer, unaware of the on-going dispute. She told East London Lines: “I am absolutely gutted by the decision”.
As a nurse, Lewis often needs to sleep during the day. “The first Sunday I heard the sound of cars, people and children and then it got louder. There were piercing shouts all day. It has been like that ever since. I can only open my French doors on a Saturday when the school is closed. It’s open every other day of the week,” she said.
Collette Blanchard, who works for Islington Council and owns a bed-sit with a balcony overlooking the school where she has lived for 12 years. said:
“I am one of the worst affected. My balcony is level with the playground because of the way the land slopes. I have had children sitting on the fence looking into my studio and shouting at me. We had to get the police at one point and they have been back several times to log complaints.”
The complaints of residents that they are unable to use their balconies and gardens because of the noise and abuse from the children were summarily dismissed by the inspector who visited on a cool rainy day when there were few children outside and concluded that the noise was: “muted and not unduly disruptive”.
“I conclude that subject to conditions the development would not unduly detract from the living conditions of neighbours in terms of noise and disturbance and privacy,” she said.
However, according to Blanchard: “When the planning inspectors came the boys were quiet as mice. As soon as they left, they started shouting at me and waving. They are nine metres away from me.”
According to the neighbours, a fence dividing the biggest playground had been erected shortly before the inspection, and the inspectors were told that the children only used the half closest to the flats for an hour a day. The inspectors have now said that this portion of the playground nearest to the flats should not be used at all on Sundays.
However, as Blanchard points out, a flimsy fence erected to divide the playground, will not stop the noise travelling into her flat. She is also sceptical that the conditions laid down in the planning permission will be agreed to, “They have never abided by any conditions before, why would they start now?” she said.
A neighbour who did not wish to be identified, blames the council. He told East London Lines: “The council didn’t even try to fight the planning appeal. They seem to think that they are just here to adjudicate between two communities, but they should be here to uphold the law, irrespective of the religion or race of members of the community.”
Local councillor, Ned Mulready told East London Lines: “It’s a disappointing decision. I feel very sorry for the residents of the Trees. They have been treated unfairly.”
Several other schools have started illegally and then been granted retrospective planning permission in Hackney, and a meeting is being planned to raise money for a judicial review of the latest decision. East London Lines will publish the date of the meeting when it has been arranged.