A DISPUTE over a school’s staffing level dating back to a decade-old planning breach could finally be settled next week.
Hillingdon Council’s planning department has given its backing to the latest bid by the Northwood all-boys independent school, St John’s, to retain its 65 employees.
Councillors will still need to vote on the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday next week, but the signs are looking good for a school which has been mired in a planning dispute with the council for the best part of two years.
There have been failed applications, failed appeals and failed judicial reviews in that time, but the Potter Street Hill school is now on the verge of putting all this turmoil behind it.
A council report published in advance of next week’s meeting stated: “Adequate evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that existing staff levels do not materially contribute to traffic queues which only occur during peak parent pick-up and drop-off times.
“It is also noted that there is significant support from the wider community that St John’s should be allowed to retain existing staff numbers."
Of the 326 people who chose to comment on the latest planning application, only eight object, while 318 voice their support. There have also been 34 petitions, totalling more than 3,000 signatures, each endorsing the school.
A petition from employees argued: “Most staff do not use Potter Street Hill and therefore do not add to the congestion at all. The vast majority arrive well before the parents and leave long after the end of the school day.
“Teaching and non-teaching staff numbers have remained in line with those provided by the school in 2001. Without the current staff numbers, our school cannot continue to thrive and provide the boys with the opportunities to grow and develop.”
The saga began in 2009 when it was realised the school had not complied with the condition of a planning permission for an extension granted in November 2001, which limited staff numbers to 40.
An application to retain 65 employees was rejected in April 2010 and later dismissed on appeal. A second application was withdrawn in March 2011 and a breach of condition notice served in September.
This was also subject to a judicial review, but was quashed. This third bid has won council backing largely because of a pledge to reduce pupils numbers and because of the overwhelming support from the local community.
St John’s School is currently on its half-term break and was unavailable for comment.