History repeating over JCoSS
History, they say, repeats itself.
So it is with the JCoSS (Jewish Community Secondary School) Planning application being considered by Barnet Council’s Planning Committee next week where it seems to me we are having an exact rerun of the Sternberg Centre/ Akiva planning battle in Finchley of a couple of years ago.
Many of those who oppose the application say they support in principle the notion of an inclusive Jewish Secondary School but they object to the detail of the application citing specifically the so called “new road” needed to service the School. This is a rehash of the arguments over the Sternberg Centre site where many objectors said they did not oppose the new facilities for the site but wanted to preserve the second rate Victorian Billiard Room or the allegedly historical boundary wall; many of these objections were of course a cover for a much deeper and more unpleasant opposition.
Likewise in East Barnet. One resident objects because neighbouring Livingstone Primary School will become a terrorist target: why do these idiots not recognise that in the present climate you are at more risk on the London Underground than visiting Jewish premises? A recent blog entry suggests that opponents to this scheme can now understand how the Palestinian residents of Gaza feel: well this over the top comment probably does more than anything else to reveal the true motives of the hard core opponents.
On the purely planning matters, the usual “Nimby” brigade is out in force. You would not guess from their well organised propaganda that there is currently a Secondary School on the site and the so called “road” or three lane highway across the site of the Battle of Barnet as one wrongly informed resident suggested it was, is in fact no more than a drive way along which deliveries will be made and coaches will collect pupils for outings. Throw into this heady mix that the main organiser of the Opposition is an employee of Friends of the Earth with his own “political “agenda and you can see why so many Barnet residents have been hoodwinked into signing a petition. On the general subject of petitions Politicians of all Parties will tell you they usually ignore petitions, as it is not unusual to have people sign petitions for and against a particular proposal!
There is nothing more difficult in Local Government than a contentious Planning Application but it seems to me very odd that this particular scheme has generated so much heat when a similar scheme for a complete rebuild of nearby East Barnet Secondary School went through the Planning Committee with barely a murmur a few weeks ago. Why the hullabaloo with this one? I leave readers to draw their own conclusions.
As History does indeed repeat itself I will dust off my speech to the Planning Committee of two years ago in support of the Sternberg application make appropriate changes and as the London Assembly Member appeal to the innate common sense (and planning expertise ) of all Councillors on the Committee , whatever their Politics and trust that JCoSS will be allowed to become yet another jewel in Barnet’s in the Crown of Barnet’s first class Education Service.
Brian Coleman is Deputy Chair of the London Assembly
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