Campaign group dismisses "giving land back" claims following school approval
A campaign group has dismissed Wandsworth Council's claims of "giving land back" to Putney Common after the construction of a controversial school was approved this week.
The local authority issued a press release on Friday headlined "School approval gives land back to common" following the planning committee's decision, on Thursday, to go ahead with the construction of a 420-pupil primary school - which is to be funded by the building and sale of 24 luxury flats on the common.
The council's news release claimed the common was to be "extended and enlarged" because 0.55 hectare, roughly half of the disused site, was not required for the flats or school.
As the planned development is on public green space it will now go to the Mayor of London for final approval.
But The Friends of Putney Common (FoPC), formed to defend the public land against the development, has described the council's announcement as "spin" and "misleading".
A spokesman for the FoPC dismissed the council's claims. He said: "The council is claiming it is 'giving land back to the common', even though they're encroaching on the common for their new access road in the first place.
"Even if this council proposal had never happened, then the misused WPCC land, designated as common in the plans attached to the WPC 1871 Act, would have been returned to their proper use.
"So they're not returning or giving any land back to the common. It has always been and remains land owned by WPCC on behalf of the public."
The council say the school is needed because spiralling birth rates mean there will not be enough primary school places in the future.
Across Wandsworth as a whole, the birth rate has risen from 4,000 a year a decade ago to just under 6,000 a year in 2010.
But opponents to the plans say there are already three primary schools within a short distance of the proposed school - they also have concerns over pollution and traffic in an already congested area.
During the proposal's consultation period, which ended this summer, more than 800 objections were registered.
A much-anticipated public meeting organised by residents next month, has had to be postponed after Putney MP Justine Greening who was due to chair it has had to pull out due to new work commitments following last month's cabinet reshuffle.
Ms Greening, who now heads the department for international development, said: "Unfortunately given my new position I now have a commitment, which involves meeting the World Bank, on October 15 which means I will no longer be able to chair the public meeting.
"I fully understand this will be disappointing and I do apologise for no longer being able to attend. I am afraid this is completely unavoidable."