Mill Hill school wins extra approval

By Jay Grenby, February 9, 2012

Barnet planners have once again approved a proposal for permanent premises for the Etz Chaim Jewish Primary in Mill Hill after a procedural failure by the council invalidated the original application.

However, the enforced delay means that the free school is unlikely to open on the new site in September as intended, and will have to remain in its temporary accommodation until a "more probable" start date in early 2013.

The permanent site - a former garden centre in Daws Lane - is close to the temporary premises where the nursery and reception classes are operating.

Plans were originally given the green light last July. But a legal challenge by an opposition group resulted in the council admitting that it had failed to give due regard to the needs of the elderly and disabled under the terms of the Equalities Act.

Etz Chaim governors' chair Adam Dawson was "confident that Barnet has got it right this time. A 173-page report produced by planning officers has examined in detail every aspect of the proposals, including the needs of the disabled and elderly, as well as many other issues raised by opponents of the school. We now have a duty both to parents and to the taxpayer to get on with the job as soon as possible."

The report concluded that Etz Chaim "would help to meet an acute need for extra school places in the borough… would provide a high quality teaching environment for the children attending… and would enhance educational provision for all of Barnet's diverse communities." It also noted that the school had confirmed its intention to offer access to community groups.

Mr Dawson said demand for the school was demonstrated by the 112 applications for the 26-place nursery and 67 applications for the reception class of 28. Locals were being consulted on use of the site for the maximum community benefit. More than 150 responses were being considered.

But the commitment to wider community use has not appeased the opposition group, which claims 300 supporters. Campaigner Gaon Hart maintained that the council had not shown sufficient evidence of "preferring" the needs of the elderly and disabled - and that "other serious consultation issues" needed to be addressed.

"We intend to hold a meeting in March to canvass public opinion on the matter. If we secure sufficient backing, we will take legal advice and then use the £30,000 costs awarded to us after our first successful legal challenge to launch a second application for a judicial review of the council's decision."

Last updated: 1:18pm, February 9 2012