Concerns have been raised about Lewisham Council’s plans not to ask to be reimbursed for inquiry costs amid budget cuts and a council tax hike.  

The council is currently involved in a planning inquiry after contractors for the Archdiocese of Southwark failed to comply with planning consent when building a new school in Sydenham.  

St Winifred’s Primary School and Our Lady and St Philip Neri Primary School in Lewisham are both undergoing re-development in partnership with the Archdiocese. 

In 2016, Lewisham approved plans to demolish the existing buildings on the OLSPN site in Sydenham Road and build a three-storey school.  

But after construction began it became clear that the building “varied significantly from the original planning permission granted”, leaving residents, councillors, and the local authority very concerned.  

The main issues of contention are to do with design - the type of cladding that was installed, the type of windows, the roof, guttering, and drainpipes, external lighting, and air vents.  

The height of the building, work on which has since halted, is also a concern.  

The Archdiocese submitted a section 73 application, that would allow it to vary the agreed conditions. This was rejected by the council in May 2019.  

Lewisham issued an enforcement notice in October of the same year ordering the Archdiocese to either demolish and re-build the school in a way that is compliant or make a series of changes to the build, including replacing the cladding and windows with what was originally agreed.   

After working with an architect, the council has since provided two other options that would not involve the demolition of the school.  

The inquiry is looking at an appeal from the Archdiocese on the enforcement notice, as well as an appeal on its section 73 scheme refusal.  

The appellant argues that the proposed options are not “viable” and the Archdiocese cannot afford to make the changes the council is asking for.  

They say the section 73 scheme “achieves most closely the ascertainable design intentions of the consented 2016 scheme” and “it is clear that the 2016 permission is unimplementable”. 

The council argues that the “built scheme does not comply with policy”. 

“In essence, it is low quality, poorly detailed, and is harmful to the character and appearance of the local street scene,” it says.  

A full report will be published when all evidence has been presented to the planning inspector.  

The council’s legal representative, barrister Sasha Blackmore, told the hearing on March 19 that Lewisham would not be applying for costs from the Archdiocese of Southwark.  

Ms Blackmore said that in “these circumstances the local planning authority is not minded to make an application for partial award of the costs against the appellant”.  

A council spokesperson said: “When preparing and attending a public inquiry each party is required to meet their own costs.  

“As is standard practice, the council has budgeted for costs which relate to cases where planning decisions are appealed. 

“Our priority in this case has always been to secure the right outcome for the community by resolving the unauthorised development at Our Lady and St Philip Neri School and that remains our focus. 

“Following legal advice, the council will not be applying for costs at this time.”