School refused fence around a play area after 280 objections by residents

Plans for a special needs college to fence off a play area have been turned down by a town hall after 280 residents objected. The decision has been called “extremely disappointing” by the school.

Cressey College has been renting out Heathfield House from the council since 2020. It applied to the authority to make changes to the building so it could keep on using it as a school.

This included a new reception area inside and fencing around what would become outdoor play areas. But Croydon council planners last week ruled the proposals would harm the green belt.

The application received 282 objections with many concerned about the public losing the use of gardens surrounding the Grade II listed building. This included Labour MP for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones, who tweeted: “Whilst there is a need for more Special Educational Needs provision in Croydon, I share local residents concerns about the loss of the use of the gardens surrounding Heathfield House as a public space and the imposition of a three metre fence.”

The school said metal fencing was vital to create a safe environment for school pupils. In its application, it said the lower half of a raised terrace would be locked to the public during term times.

But in a decision notice, Croydon council’s head planner Nicola Townshend, said: “The proposed development by reason of its sitting, scale and appearance would result in less than substantial harm to the setting of the listed building, known as Heathfield House.”

Cressey College which is part of Horizon Care and Education is a private school for ages five to 19. A spokesman for Horizon Care said: “This is an extremely disappointing decision as there is a desperate need for high quality education and support for children in our society who have special educational needs (SEN).

“Heathfield House would have provided the perfect location to provide this support and we had worked very closely with the local council to accommodate their wishes, which would have helped preserve the building for generations to come. We are now considering our options as to how we can best meet this educational need.”

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