Plans for a possible new secondary school and housing on the site of the former Southwark Fire Station have been backed by local Liberal Democrat councillors.
It was revealed this week that the Mayor of London is pressuring the site owners, the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority, to sell the site for less than its commercial value to a free school provider.
The fire station closed exactly one year ago as part of the Mayor’s cost-cutting package to axe ten stations across the capital. Other London fire stations closed in the same round of cuts have been sold to the highest bidder to maximise income for the LFEPA.
In a surprise move, Southwark’s Labour council is also backing the plans, despite Labour’s previous opposition to free schools. The Council indicated its change of heart privately last month to the Mayor.
Local residents have reacted angrily to the Council announcing its support for a free school on the former fire station site through the media. Community groups have been calling on the Council to support moves to list the building as a community asset, but the Council and the leader have failed to assist them with these requests.
The LFEPA was due to make a decision on the sale of the former Southwark fire station site on Monday morning (12 January).
Cathedrals ward councillor Adele Morris said:
“Liberal Democrats campaigned against the closure of Southwark fire station. Putting lives at risk for the sake of a 7p a week council tax cut was wrong.
“It is a shame that the Council failed to respond to local residents’ efforts to have the former fire station listed as a community asset. We still believe there should be a fire station in the SE1 area and we desperately need new school places.
“We also need affordable housing in the north of the borough since the Labour council’s track record of building genuinely affordable housing here has been shockingly bad.Liberal Democrats are fighting for our young people and for more affordable housing, so a new secondary school and new homes for local residents would be welcomed.
“It is ironic for the Council to now claim that a free school would ‘meet the concerns of many local residents who do not feel they enjoy the benefits of the massive changes going on around them.’ Who is in charge of regeneration in Southwark after all?
“And why have we had to depend on another public body to provide a new school when the Council is selling its own sites to private developers?”