No new school for Old Vicarage

Planning application for independent school rejected

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A planning application to turn the Old Vicarage on Sutton Lane South into an co-educational independent school were rejected by the Chiswick Area Planning Committee at their meeting on 12th January 2006.

Speaking to a packed room in St Michael & All Angel's Church hall, Heathfield House's Head of Administration, Pauline Williamson, presented the school's proposals.  Prior to this evening's meeting, Mrs Williamson stated "We are committed to working with the local community to respond to their issues. We are looking forward to providing a high quality of education for local children and being a good neighbour to local residents."

A father of a child who attends Heathfield House spoke on behalf of his son vouching for the school's excellent reputation amongst parents.  He stated that he believed that his son had the right to attend a school in his local community and said "a child's education should be about much more than where you park your car."

Stevan Whitehead, a member of the steering group opposed to the Old Vicarage being converted into any type of school, spoke on behalf of the objectors.  Mr Whitehead addressed the issues of parking, noise, pollution as well as loss of amenity of a residential building.

He argued that whilst the vast majority of letters of objection came from residents in the immediate vicinity of the Old Vicarage, nearly half of the letters of support came from people who lived further afield. 

Addressing the councillors present, council planning officer, Marilyn Smith, summarised the planning application.  During this presentation, Ms Smith announced that, as of 12th January 2006, the Old Vicarage had been given a Grade II listing.  This late development raised a whoop and a cheer from the objecting side who had battled to achieve this.  Marilyn Smith concluded that whilst the case for and against the application was 'fine balanced' Hounslow Council were recommending that it be rejected.

As is the protocol with such meetings, councillors took turns to comment and ask questions.  At this point, the thorniest issue of parking raised its head resulting in a number of eye-brow raising politically incorrect comments concerning '4x4 driving school run mothers'.  But even this smattering of humour could not hide the genuine disappointment of Cllr Paul Lynch who, whilst wanting an independent Ofsted praised school such as Heathfield House to thrive, locating it in the Old Vicarage was "asking for trouble." 

The move to reject the planning application was carried three votes to two.

Taking into consideration the Old Vicarage is now a Grade II listed building (as is St Michael's Church on Elmwood Road) even if planning permission had been granted, it would be unlikely that Heathfield House would be able to obtain planning permission to make the necessary alterations to the building.  As Councilor Kinghorn surmised "With this listing in place, I feel that this application is now dead."


January 12, 2006