A dual carriageway is no place for a school

There really cannot be a more unsuitable spot for an infant school than London House, unless it’s actually in the middle of Manor Circus, the traffic-laden, fume-filled roundabout a mere stone’s throw away from it.

Siting a school called Deer Park just 10 metres back from the A316 seems like a twisted joke, with the joke being on the children who will go there. This dual carriageway is a trunk road that Department for Transport figures show 34,000 vehicles use each day. Every morning and afternoon cars, buses and lorries crawl along these four lanes spewing out noxious fumes. And, when they’re not stuck in jams, these vehicles are causing accidents.

The closest pedestrian crossing point over the A316 for this proposed school is at Manor Circus roundabout, next to a petrol station which any child going past will have to negotiate. In the three years to October 2013 there were a total of 15 collisions – three involving pedestrians, three with cyclists, and three involving motorcycles. TFL is already planning changes to this crossing to improve safety, which include shared cycle and pedestrian pavements right outside London house. But these improvements do not take into account the impact that 420 children, plus parents, carers and siblings and upwards of 50 staff attempting to get to school by car, foot, buggy, pram, bicycle, scooter, skateboard or motorcycle, will have. And, we all know that many won’t walk, just like they don’t at any other school, given that lots of parents drop their children off in cars on their way to work.  

What about deliveries of food and supplies, or coaches collecting pupils for school trips? The lorries will either have to turn off the A316 at the roundabout – I’m sure councillors will recall that a taxi firm at London house was refused planning permission previously as vehicles would have to turn on and off the A316 – or they will have to block Raleigh Road at the rear.  

Round the corner, the other main access road for pupils getting to Deer Park School, Sandycombe Road, is nearly as dangerous. It is currently undergoing consultation by the council to address the “numerous complaints” made by residents “over recent years with regards to vehicle speeds, congestion and reports of collisions”.

It makes you wonder, did the Educational Funding Agency actually visit the site before buying it? Did they do any research into the area at all? Either they did, and they don’t care about pupil safety, or they didn’t, because they don’t care where our children go to school. Which ever it was, councillors should and must care. You have a duty to safeguard the pupils in this borough, and if you approve a school knowingly sited in an accident black spot, then any accidents will be your responsibility.

Which leads me on to the second major problem with turning London House into a school for children aged four to eleven – fumes from all the traffic I’ve just talked about. Manor Circus is not just an accident black spot, it’s also a pollution hotspot. Nitrogen Dioxide and particulates in London’s air are way above permitted levels, killing tens of thousands each year with related illnesses. In Richmond alone, government figures suggest around 77 people a year are killed by air pollution.

More pertinently, two recent academic reports show particulates have a negative impact on children’s health and development. The Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona found that pupils at schools with polluted air showed an average improvement in a working memory 4 per cent lower than pupils at schools with clean air.

Columbia University has found that air pollution might be lowering children’s IQ. The researchers followed 276 New York City mums and children from the time the women were pregnant until the kids were seven. The study showed that pregnant mums who were exposed to high levels of airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – a dangerous compound found in car exhaust fumes – had children who scored significantly lower on tests of full scale IQ, perceptual reasoning, and working memory.

Our own MP, Zac Goldsmith, as part of the Environmental Audit Committee, in a report from December last year says: ‘The Government should… make it impossible to build new schools, care homes or health clinics near existing air pollution hotspots.” The chair of the committee, Joan Walley, MP, said: Children growing up near busy roads with high NO2 and particle emissions have stunted and impaired lung development. There is also emerging evidence that air pollution can increase infant mortality rates, prompt pre-term births and affect cognitive performance.”

And, finally, the last problem – space. London House does not meet the government’s own guidelines on site size for primary schools, begging the question, where does Bellevue plan to put a playground on the site? On the roof where children can breathe in more deadly fumes? Stirling University has found that children’s health, well-being and capacity to learn is improved by a 15-minute daily run round the playground.

Local residents fume over air pollution

Local residents fume over air pollution

I’ll leave you with the words of one resident, Diana Collins: “Where are the children going to run? Up and down the A316?”

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”