Yes, the local authority (London Borough of Bexley) do have an open space policy, and have stated that any development would need to address such requirements, along with all the other planning policies of sustainable build, etc.
My question / concern is that the local authority:
1) have granted themselves the right to use the former school building for local authority offices (a specific use taht did not allow the general classification of B1 use); and
2) are now adopting the position that they can deem the land brownfield and approve residential (or other) planning applications in order to maximise their sale proceeds from this site
.. when they may not have the right to make such determination.
If the land used to build the school was given rights to be used to build a school by central government, then how could the local authority (being a conflicted party as owner and arbitrator of use of the site) be authorised to make such determination?
The change of use took place in 1988. My recollection was that the original change was to ‘offices for education department purposes’, though I have not yet been able to confirm this, with a subsequent ‘creep’ to general local authority office use later.
Publically available documents provide the following detail.
The site (known as Hill View) is part of a former school and when it became surplus to education needs, the open playing field parts of the school were transferred to other open space uses, including the creation of a new cemetery. The buildings have remained in use by the Council as offices since around 1988, with the tarmac playgrounds being used for car parking.
As part of the Council’s ‘Bexley First’ business transformation programme, it is the intention to relocate the Council offices from the Hill View site. The aim of Bexley First is to improve the Council’s efficiency and the delivery of services to local people. Most of the Council’s services and staff will be centralised into new offices within a new development on the site of the Civic Offices in Bexleyheath. Consequently, the buildings on the Hill View site will no longer be needed to accommodate Council offices.
Planning applications available for inspection on the council’s public access website show:
Decisions dated 2 June 1995:
a) approval of two storey extension to form offices for 60 persons at rear of premises;
b) approval for use of whole premises for general local authority purposes and the provision of new windows to the existing gymnasium.
Both approvals include a condition that the premises shall be used only for general local authority office purposes and for no other purpose whether or not within Use Class B1.
In 1988, reference is made on the council website of a (Planning) Committee approval for ‘Conversion of Teaching and Workshop accommodation into offices’. There are no further documents relating to this available for inspection on the website.
Can I pose a few folow-up questions:
1. Would the Land registry have details of any restrictions (e.g. site only approved for education use)?
2. Is it possible to obtain details of the original Central Government grant of authority?
3. How would the local authority Planning Committee gain the right to determine planning applications? Could it be their action was ultra vires?