REGARDING the council's approval of a boarding facility close to Northwood Road, the principal of Harefield Academy, Lynn Gadd, has misunderstood the reason for the opposition of 86 near neighbours of the school.

She is quoted in last week's Gazette as suggesting our worries 'are to do with the unknown' (Boarding block OK causes fury, Harefield Gazette, July 1).

Does she think that we are objecting because the facility will be targeting underprivileged young people? No.

Our concern is the planned erection on Green Belt land of a three-storey, 54-bed boarding house in such close proximity to our homes, in our case only 50 metres away.

The Green Belt opposite our home was previously fields, inhabited by the old school's farm animals, and visited by badgers, foxes and deer. The land provided a valuable wildlife habitat.

Nevertheless, the change from the old school to the new academy, completed this year, was needed. The new school building is positioned away from the houses in Northwood Road, and the new sports areas on the old fields are unobtrusive.

Ms Gadd states: "Boarding schools are increasingly popular and there is huge demand for them across the country."

We imagine that this project will attract considerable finances to the school, but why does this development need to be on Green Belt land, to which the further erosion all major political parties claim to be opposed?

We are surprised by the failure of the consultation process. The school apparently held an exhibition of its plans, but why were 86 residents close to the proposed development not informed about it?

The council assures us that it sent letters in April to numbers 92 to 156 Northwood Road but missed us, as it was 'simply unaware of the existence of our house'.

Perhaps the council would like to look up the copy of the letter it sent us 18 months ago regarding our neighbour's planning application, consult the electoral register, marvel at its ability to send us Hillingdon First cards, and then refund the council tax we have paid for the last 29 years.

With regard to the other houses numbered 92 to 156, this consists of 36 properties. There are no odd numbers.

The occupants of the 32 of these we have been able to contact have confirmed that they did not receive letters. Neither did the two properties immediately adjoining the school.

We attended the planning committee meeting. Our ward councillor had assured us that he had asked for the decision to be deferred.

Why was this not mentioned at the meeting? The planning officer told the committee that there had been 24 to 28 hastily submitted amendments to the plans that he had not had time to study.

How can the members of the committee have made an informed decision?

Despite this, and representation by Mr Levy on behalf of us all (limited to five minutes) and written support from Harefield Residents' Association, the planning committee approved the application.

Open, transparent and honest? I leave you to your own conclusions.

The building will be on Green Belt land, so needs the approval of the Mayor of London. Let's hope that he has the good sense not to agree to this unnecessary erosion of our rural surroundings.

The growing anger and resentment these ill-advised plans have provoked are detrimental to the previously good relationship between the school and its neighbours, which is very sad indeed.


Northwood Road Harefield