How was the permanent site decided?
We all know land is in short supply in our area, and expensive to obtain. We have published details of some of our past site preferences, and why they were ruled out. In addition to these we proposed several other local sites to the EFA for investigation and suggestions were also made by Richmond Council and members of the local community.
Having considered the options, the EFA progressed the purchase of the Hospital Bridge Road site in consultation with Richmond and Hounslow Local Authorities. It is within reasonable distance of our central admissions point, and is large enough to accommodate not only a brand new school building and sports facilities but also outdoor playing fields, hard surface courts and recreation areas.
Why haven't you been able to publish more detail about the process for securing a permanent site?
All of the site information we publish needs to be approved by the Education Funding Agency. They are very cautious about releasing details because commercial negotiations must be kept confidential. Leaked information can increase competition for sites or cause sensitive discussions to break down. It can also cause unnecessary distress to neighbours of sites if partial information can't be confirmed until negotiations have sufficiently progressed.
Is it common for new schools to open in temporary accommodation?
It is very common for free schools to open up in temporary accommodation, and move to their permanent home at a later date, but it is only allowed if the Schools Minister considers that the permanent site option has sufficient security to mitigate the risks of the temporary site being outgrown. The confirmation of our funding agreement by the Schools Minister in 2015 was indicative of that certainty.
RET's first school, the Bristol Free school, and more recently Kings' School in Hove, both successfully opened in temporary acommodation and families have been very happy with the high quality facilities provided.
How will transport links be managed?
Many of our students live within walking distnce of the proposed site, and others are most likely to use public transport. We have already made contact with Transport for London to alert them to potential future changes in travel patterns during peak hours, and we will keep them up to date with our site announcements. They have been very accommodating and have said that, with timely input from us, they can position themselves to provide sufficient buses to cope with any new demand from the opening of Turing House.
What about Planning Permission?
Obtaining planning permission can be a lengthy process. However, national and regional planning frameworks are strongly supportive of the establishment of new schools, potentially mitigating any risk of securing a permanent site on a 'subject to planning permission' basis.
The National Planning Policy Framework requires local planning authorities to take a proactive, positive and collaborative approach to ensuring that a sufficient choice of school places is available to meet local needs.
The current London Plan states that proposals for new schools should be considered positively, and only refused where any negative local impacts that can't be addressed through planning conditions or obligations substantially outweigh the desirability of establishing the school.