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Hackney Downs: everyone’s back yard

I write in response to a reader’s facebook comment (24 February at 9.38pm) on a recent Hackney Citizen article on the issue of plans to build Stormont school on common land, which reads: “Many of the pupils at this special school will never be in the luxury position of having to worry about a slight dip in the value of their property. Please don’t let the protests derail this project or force the kids to have to uproot while building work takes place.”

Open space, green fields, a beautiful view … it is a shame that these things have become a luxury in London. But it is precisely the kind of ‘land-swap-loophole’ thinking behind the plans for Stormont House School, which got us to a time and a place where we are talking about ‘common land’ and ‘luxury’ in the same sentence.

I am very much in support of a new school, one that provides updated facilities for its students, but believe this should be commensurate with the existing school, on its existing site and not in any other part of the park.

In my mind, any infringement on common land should be regarded with much caution, as it runs the risk of creating a precedent in planning regulations and could lead the way for other organisations to slowly appropriate more and more of the park.

While the proposal to build on the bowling green and tennis court in the middle of the park has now been withdrawn, there is still another daunting plan on the cards: to build along the southern edge of the park, opposite Mossbourne Academy.

The needs of the school users are important, but in a democracy, it has to be acknowledged that there are many more hundreds of park users, for whom the proposed re-development would be, to quote our local councillors, ‘an intrusion and an eye-sore, and would limit the open space available’.

For us, it is not a question of the value of our property depreciating, so much as the value of our view and of our experience of the park – and this shouldn’t be disparaged. The environment we live and work in is important to our health and well-being and to this end, I hope the students of Stormont House School get the valuable building they need. Just not in everyone’s back yard.

Chiara Williams

Local resident, E5

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