A planning application to run a school for 40 pupils in a Hackney terraced house has been granted by the council despite more than 25 letters of objection from neighbours.
The retrospective application was granted last week at a meeting of the council’s planning sub-committee allowing the school at 85 Fairholt Road in Stamford Hill to continue. The application also allows the school to build an extension to increase its current capacity of 25 pupils to 40 pupils accommodated in five classrooms. This follows a similar decision about a school in Ravensdale rd in May.
Neighbours say the Fairholt rd school, in an ordinary three storey, end-of-terrace house, had in fact been running for eight months prior to getting planning approval and was already creating far too much noise with just the existing pupils.
The council conducted an acoustic report before the hearing and proposed three methods of reducing noise, which involved erecting a two-metre high timber fence, restricting to ten the number of children allowed to use the playground at any one time and creating a line on the property across which the children would not be allowed to stray. The applicant is also prohibited from using an external amplification system at any time and undertook to ensure that classroom activities will not include any singing or “amplified speech”.
Since the application was granted, neighbours have already complained about breaches of planning restrictions. These concern the fact that the school has been open on Sundays, when the permission was granted only for 8.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday and that there are sometimes more than the permitted ten children in the playground. When our reporter passed by children were all singing lustily.
Before permission was granted the council contacted 93 neighbours by letter about the school. Twenty five wrote letters opposing it, while there were also 102 letters in support. Mandy Wilson lives across the road from the playground.”The weekdays don’t affect me. Its first thing in the morning on Sundays. The kids are dropped off by minibuses which then turn around under my window. Then lessons start – they learn by rote so there is lots of repetitive chanting. They said they would keep the windows shut but they are open all the time.”
Supporters of the school say that it is a much-needed facility as the area cannot presently cope with the increased demand for school places. Stamford Hill has the largest Orthodox Jewish population in Europe with a population of around 20,000 and demand for school places in Jewish schools have intensified greatly as the population has risen rapidly over the last decade. At the meeting the applicant cited research from the Interlink Foundation, (a local orthodox Jewish charity) which highlights the pressures on school places for the Orthodox Jewish community.
Objectors pointed out there are already too many schools in Stamford Hill and the school will bring even more traffic problems to an increasingly congested area. However, the authority’s highways and transportation office said in a statement: “It should not attract a significant level of car use.”
The Hackney Society said in their evidence they were in favour of a new school in principle but cited that there was no frosted glass on the toilets, no provision for cooking shown and that the building doesn’t have the necessary requirements for disabled users. However, the Society’s Planning Policy team said they had “no objections subject to the satisfactory demonstration of need”.
Hackney granted the permission for one year and neighbours have said they will be closely monitoring breaches of the planning conditions with a view to opposing renewal next year if the situation does not change.
Mandy Wilson is deeply concerned: “I am sympathetic to their need for schools but you damage other people’s quality of life if there is no regulation. They are riding roughshod over the people living nearby. The council just seems to be passing responsibility to us, the neighbours, because they don’t want to make a decision themselves.”