Mill Hill school setback after Barnet boobs on planning

By Jay Grenby, October 11, 2011

Work on the permanent site for the Jewish free school in Mill Hill has been halted after Barnet Council acknowledged omissions in its consideration of the planning application.

The council had faced a legal challenge from opponents of the Etz Chaim Primary's location on the site of a former garden centre in Daws Lane. Its admission of failure to give sufficient regard to the needs of elderly and disabled users of the garden centre facilities, under the terms of the Equalities Act 2010, is likely to lead to school trustees having to resubmit their planning application.

To clarify the situation, the council has invited local Jewish disabled resident Daniel Coleman to instigate proceedings for a judicial review of the planning approval, which it will not contest. Barnet has produced a draft consent form for all interested parties to sign, enabling the rescinding of the decision.

"This is an emerging area of the law," a Barnet spokesman explained, "and the council is mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary litigation and the incurring of unnecessary costs.

"The logical step, if we are to protect the public purse, is for a new application to be made to the planning committee, during which the council will undertake a clear and demonstrable equalities assessment for the change of use."

Mr Coleman, a leader of the Mill Hill Action Group, was "delighted" by the council's decision. "My aim remains to win the site back for all who have used it as an invaluable resource."

He claims the group has many Jewish supporters and, despite a demand from the council for prompt action, legal moves will not be instituted until after the festivals.

Etz Chaim governors' chair Adam Dawson said that "any litigation which threatens the education of local children is deeply regrettable". He was taking legal advice on the next move.

Stressing that Etz Chaim was now irrevocably the owner of the site, he added that "the school trust will do all it can to ensure that it continues to provide an outstanding education for its pupils. What I want is a sensible solution that accords with the interests of all parties - a community school for the benefit of the whole community."

The school opened nursery and reception classes in temporary premises in September. Mr Dawson said the admissions process for 2012 was unaffected and there were contingency plans to accommodate pupils next September should it be necessary.

    Last updated: 10:41am, October 11 2011