The parents and children of Marlborough School first heard about the redevelopment project in the second half of academic year 2012/2013. We were told the school was going to be demolished and rebuilt and that a representative of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would be coming to explain to us how it was all going to be done.
What we weren’t told was that planning permission had not yet been granted. The procedure was not complete and the application wasn’t going to be reviewed by the Major Planning Development Committee until November 2013. It wasn’t mentioned that the whole project was going to be executed and paid for by John Lewis.
We were told the redevelopment plan included the company’s Clearings site behind the school and that a new commercial building was going to be erected. It wasn’t specified, however, that this new building was going to be private property built on public land owned by the RBKC, nor that it would take the place of what is now the nursery building and part of the school playground:
The whole documentation package reviewed by the Major Planning Development Committee can now be seen here. John Lewis themselves have also set up the website clearingsdevelopment.co.uk with some basic information on the project. Their drawings (one of which we have reproduced above) show clearly that the “commercial building” we were told of will be adjacent to the existing Harrods depository building. The commercial building on today’s school grounds is outlined by the red dotted line in the picture. It will stretch all the way from Sloane to Draycott Avenue and according to the project documentation will consist of 5 storeys, offering both retail and office space.
The project undoubtedly has some strong points like better energy efficiency and more modern facilities. But we find it worrying that RBKC is giving away public land to a commercial organisation in exchange for works that we pay taxes to finance. And they are doing it even if it means a beautiful historical building is going to be lost.