Belsize Free school campaigners pledge to fight on despite sale setback
Published: 06 October 2011
by DAN CARRIER
PARENTS hoping to set up a free school in two empty hostels were dealt a blow on Friday when the Town Hall decided to press ahead with the sale of the buildings.
Town Hall finance chiefs say they need to sell the buildings in Maresfield Gardens and Fitzjohns Avenue, Belsize Park, to raise cash for vital council house repairs.
But parents from Belsize Free School pressure group have vowed that, if the Department of Education approves their school plan – an announcement is expected in the next fortnight – they will seek a High Court judicial review of the council’s decision.
Belsize ward Lib Dem councillor Tom Simon warned: “If they say yes, we will look at a judicial review.”
He added that the campaign for a free school was not ideological, but prompted by an urgent need for primary places in the area.
“We’d rather have a community school run by the council, but as this is not happening, we want to have one as close to the community school model as possible,” he added.
Labour finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said: “The sale of these disused buildings is a £12million win for the taxpayer and investment in council homes.
“While there was much passion to the free school campaign, the sums didn’t add up. We can’t gift buildings on the promise of government money which is never going to arrive. Any further delay does not make financial sense in these straitened times.”
A wall of protest posters – known locally as “Freedom Fence” – has been dismantled after four months.
School campaigners had stuck up newspaper cuttings in Hampstead Grove, an avenue linking the Royal Free Hospital and Haverstock Hill. The display has been classed as “illegal fly-posting” by the Town Hall.