July 24 2014 Latest news:
Lizzie Dearden, Senior reporter
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
A Muslim primary school in Ilford has formally won the right to expand after a controversial planning dispute.
Apex Primary School, in Argyle Road, was granted retrospective permission for increased pupil numbers, evening and weekend use and more break times on Thursday.
Around 200 people packed into Redbridge Town Hall for the regulatory committee meeting, even having to sit in the seats usually reserved for councillors.
Extra security and police officers were drafted in over fears of disorder after a previous meeting had to be abandoned when tensions boiled over into “pandemonium”.
Committee chairman Cllr Richard Hoskins (Lib Dem, Church End) said everything went “extremely well”.
Planning officers recommended refusing the application but only three out of 11 councillors on the committee voted against it.
Cllr Hoskins said: “If we turned the application down, they would have gone to appeal and everything we heard from Ofsted and the fire brigade said the school was running extremely well.
“If we refused the application, 60 pupils would have been thrown out.”
Governor Mohammed Asif said the decision was a “relief” to staff and parents whose children can continue at the school.
He added: “Now we’re able to have parents evenings and homework clubs and do what every other school is allowed to.”
Apex Primary School, which is formed of two terraced houses in a residential road, was allowed 48 pupils in 2010 but now has around 110.
The changes at the school date back to September 2010.
Several petitions and hundreds of letters were sent in a public consultation over the application.
Ilford South MP Mike Gapes supported residents calling for enforcement action, who complained about noise and traffic issues.
Syrie Peters, 59, who lives next to the school, organised a petition opposing it because of noise and disturbance.
She said: “I was gobsmacked – they’ve been rewarded for going against all the conditions and the council is saying it’s ok.”
The school was at the centre of another planning row earlier this year, when the Local Government Ombudsman found Redbridge Council at fault in allowing a 4m high extension to tower over homes.