Let’s get Cassel Hospital turned into a Primary School

Richmond Council has been consulting residents about a number of sites in the borough that are up for development. One of them is Cassel Hospital on Ham Common.
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As a Governor of Latchmere School in North Kingston, which is already four-form entry and has to take a further ‘bulge’ class in 2014/5 to cope with the demand for school places in our two boroughs, I believe that North Kingston and Ham needs a whole new primary school. As well as the population growth that our area is having to cope with, there has been an influx of families seeking the excellent schools we have here. Plus, there’s all the new dwellings proposed for
Latchmere House, the flats already being built on the river in North Kingston, the impending developments on the gas storage site at Sury Basin, the conversion of the Regal Bingo building that will all bring more and more families into our neighbourhood. Additionally, Ham Close is up for development, one of the options being to knock down the existing blocks of flats and rebuild them with twice as more dwellings on the site, so increasing the local population.

There is a possibility that a new primary school will be built to accompany the flats on Sury Basin, but these will only ‘mop up’ the children in the immediate vicinity and not the roads from Kings Road up towards the Tudor Estate. And, the new primary school near Sury Basin is not even definite as the developer is pushing for student flats instead.

Without a new two/three-form entry school in North Kingston/Ham we will hear more and more about distressed families whose children have missed out on school places, or have to travel long distances across the borough to go to other schools. The alternative is that Latchmere School becomes five-form entry throughout all years, and other schools have to expand from two/three to three/four-form entry. All of which will put pressure on resources, building space and hard-pressed playgrounds.

The Cassel Hospital building was assessed when St Edwards were considering setting up a Kingston Church School Foundation free school in the area (KET got their bid approved by the DfE to set up Kingston Academy in the North Kingston Centre so St Edwards pulled) and it was deemed a suitable site for a school. It has 20 acres of land around ideal for sports grounds and additional buildings if required. Also, it is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, public transport and car – although too many vehicles would cause problems on this road.

So, if you do one thing today, email ldfconsultation@richmond.gov.uk and ask Richmond Council to set aside Cassel Hospital for community purposes, and more specifically a primary school.

Say no to Berkeley Homes forcing a choice between affordable housing and a new road at the council planning meeting 17th July

In 2011 the Home Office closed Latchmere House Remand Centre – one of the most successful rehabilitation prisons in Europe – to save money. It then sold off the site, in a leafy spot in a suburban neighbourhood that straddles both boroughs of Richmond and Kingston, for a vast sum of money to Berkeley Group to develop into housing.

After various public consultations from which a planning brief was drawn up, Berkeley put in two planning applications to develop the Latchmere House site, one larger than the other by 16 units that supposedly requires the opening up an access point for traffic via Latchmere Lane. Odd given that these dwellings are located close to the only existing access to the site via Church Road, a relatively quiet wide road with a wood down one side, and a handful of houses with deep verges and driveways in front of them on the other. These extra 16 units are the affordable housing option. This means you either vote for the ‘cheaper’ housing, which both Boroughs need and get the new road onto Latchmere Lane, or you vote against it to prevent the new opening onto a road that is mostly single-lane road due to the cars parked either side and traffic calming measures with bollards, speed bumps and a 20-mile-per-hour limit.

Traffic issues
Latchmere Lane struggles to cope traffic at peak times already as the road is used as a rat-run to avoid the congestion on nearby Richmond Road, and more so when Richmond Park closes early in the winter months. This often results in tension and arguments between drivers and the whole road grinding to a halt. Delivery vans, commercial vehicles and refuse vehicles have a very difficult time passing down this road without damaging parked vehicles and causing traffic jams. It is also dangerous for cyclists who can’t pass safely against the oncoming traffic, much of which ignore the speed limit, as well as for pedestrians trying to cross. Additionally, the number of vehicles parked on Latchmere Lane has increased in the last few months, since Richmond Council has demolished garages that used to serve homes on both Cowper Road and Beard Road (off roads from Latchmere Lane) to building more housing.

Landscaping/Nature conservation
The creation of a second road to the site is also a terrible prospect for local residents. An access at Latchmere Lane will involve the loss of some very attractive green space and greatly degrade the view of the House itself. Latchmere Lane is the worst possible choice for a second access and local residents objected to this strongly the last time it arose as a possibility, with over 130 residents signing a petition against it. This is a beautiful area with lots of wildlife, plants and trees. The development needs to be sensitive to this and therefore should only have one access road.

Road access
There is no need for a second access into the site. Statistics provided in the Traffic Assessment that was carried out for this development confirm that traffic from the new houses will result in no more vehicles to the site than under its former prison use. Church Road easily coped with the prison traffic for many years and is wide enough for cars to pass each other comfortably while Latchmere Lane is only single width unless parking restrictions are introduced, which would have serious consequences for the residents, whereas on roadside parking is not required in Church Road due to them already having off-street parking. Many of the houses on Latchmere Lane do not have useable driveways and to create additional parking would require paving over front gardens that would have a detrimental effect on the environment. Additionally, if you look at the housing on the old BAe site on Richmond Road, where there are two separate ‘estates’ with only one access point each – one on Richmond Road and the other on Dukes Avenue – these each cater to over 100 houses. Therefore, Church Road can easily cope with the planned 89 residences on the Latchmere House site.

Personally, I am happy to support the larger number of units on the site if some of it will be affordable housing, but whether the development contains 89 or 73 residences, there is absolutely no need to open up a road to the houses from Latchmere Lane.

If you do one thing today: email the Kington councillors (find their addresses here) before the planning meeting on 17th July 2014 and ask them to tell Berkeley Group to go back to the drawing board and offer a development that doesn’t require a choice between affordable housing and a new road or neither. They are holding us to ransom.

If you do two things today: go to the planning meeting at 7.30pm on 17th July 2014 and ask them to tell Berkeley Group that no new road is required. You will need to apply to speak by 15th July, email development.management@rbk.kingston.gov.uk.

If you do three things today: tweet the following – “#BerkeleyHomes force residents to choose between #AffordableHousing and an unnecessary road #LatchmereHouse #ShameOnThem” or “#BerkeleyHomes has no social media? So communities have no public forum to air their views? #NoRoadThroughHere #LatchmereHouse”

If you do one thing today: email your MP about a safer school run

I was saddened to read the following statistic from Sustrans this week: ‘In 2012, the number of children killed while walking or cycling on our roads was equivalent to over one primary school class, and the equivalent of over seven whole primary schools were seriously injured. Road danger is the biggest cause of preventable death and injury among children.’

No wonder, then, that despite most children living within walking or cycling distance of their school, less than half walk and far fewer cycle. This is having an impact on their health, as this lack of activity, could mean that this is the first generation of children who live shorter lives than their parents through inactivity.

Sustrans wants to change this by getting our children active and healthy – starting with the school run – with their Campaign for Safer Streets. They are putting pressure on MPs and local councils to get:
• Dedicated funding – provides the resources needed to transform routes and invest in walking and cycling at the local level.
• 20mph default speed limit across built up areas – makes everyone’s route safer;
• Stronger duties and incentives on Local Authorities to develop routes and promote walking and cycling.

In my local area of Ham, Richmond and North Kingston we are incredibly poorly served by bicycle lanes, safe or otherwise, roads are pot-holed and congestion creates poor air quality for cyclists and pedestrians alike. As a cyclist myself with two children, cycling around here is only made bearable by Richmond Park and the tow path along the Thames. However, the latter is in a shocking state and needs improving to provide a safer, more comfortable and appealing ride.

And, just imagine if cyclists were forced to cycle on Richmond Road in Petersham. How many accidents do you think there would be? The lack of public transport to Ham itself means this area is crying out for better cycling provision, and yet, where is it? Practically non-existent. A cycle lane along Ham Common and up to Ham Street towards Grey Court would be a start. Or even better, put cycle paths around the edges of Ham Common, so cyclists are kept apart from traffic altogether. These could then link with Ham Avenue so it’s easy to get to the tow path. A cycle lane from Kingston that doesn’t end at the crossroads of Tudor Drive and Richmond Road is essential, too. As is a cycle lane up Tudor Drive itself. Given the widths of the pavement along this road, couldn’t it be shared with pedestrians, like the one that is part way along Richmond Road just near the Hawker Centre.

For more information about the campaign go here: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/safetoschool, where it helps you to email your MP about their support. For information on local pressure groups go to Richmond Cycling Campaign and Kingston Cycling Campaign.