St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

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Pally
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Pally »

Absolutely agree!
Robin Orton
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Robin Orton »

I hear that there is a lot of anxiety among parents about recent developments. They are worried about the potential disruption to their children's education. Where has the suggestion of a 'decant' to The Bridge come from? Would the parents find it acceptable?
stuart
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by stuart »

Why are they concerned Robin? Being decanted to a school 2 miles away was the highlight of my junior school time. Surely the Archdiocese will not try holding the kids hostage to the current building. Their Plan A may be hoping to win on the Appeal of the Appeal but I think parents should show concern if they haven't got a Plan B thought out. That would be irresponsible.

Didn't Adamsrill decant a few years ago during re-building? It would be good to hear what went right and what went wrong so lessons can be learnt.
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Robin Orton »

I don't know the details of the parents' concerns, I'm only reporting what I've heard at third or fourth hand. I gather the head teacher has written to parents seeking to reassure them, but I haven't seen the letter. Perhaps someone on this forum has seen it?
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JGD »

The matter of a possible need to decant OLSPN was discussed vigorously at the PINs Inquiry.

It flowed from what arrangements the school would have to make when remedial works (at that stage neither scale nor scope had been decided) would be carried out.

Options were debated that ranged from "stay-in-situ" to what locations or buildings could be used for any school decant option should that become necessary.

It was at this stage that the school itself made an error and seemed to state that neither an in-situ nor a decant option was viable for them.

In evidence, the HT seemed to make the case that in any circumstances where a sequence of work was to be carried out during school holidays or whilst classes were still being conducted, it would be entirely impractical, if not impossible, to achieve an adequate "deep-clean" or maintain effective separation measures from rooms where work was being carried out. The HT seemed to be heavily dependent upon second-hand reports of what the school's cleaning contractor had reported to him on the cleaning of the school. The realities of the fact that many schools have refurbishment programmes of work and where effective plans for the planning and smooth conduct of classes and short-turn-around deep cleans form a part, seemed not to configure in his evidence.

Evidence on the matter of decant were treated equally dismissively, once more, mainly on grounds of impracticality.

From a perspective where I have expressed the view that OLSPN as a school was an innocent party trapped an invidious position created by an errant contractor that erected a building that was so far out of compliance, it required a PINS Inquiry to be conducted, It was a puzzle to see such an inflexible stance being expressed at the Inquiry by the school itself. The HT has a difficult position to address - some remedial work is and was foreseeable and is now inevitable. The school must plan and make hard decisions on what options it elects to adopt.

Why this happened may provide some insight.

The Archdiocese team conducted their case in an aggressive style at the Inquiry, being openly hostile to every witness who presented for the Council. Their QC even challenged the authority of the Inquiry, openly stating to the Inspector "We have made notes" on any matter he had felt had not gone in favour of his client's case with an implication that he would take it further. To where, he did not state but his repetitious assertion drew one retort from the Inspector that she understood what his implication meant but that for the meantime she was conducting an Inquiry and was seeking evidence that would help her reach a decision.

But this intriguing and consistent attack process probably formed part of his brief from his client and they in turn pressed the HT to fall in line - irrespective of how irrational the stated position emerged to be.

The conduct of the Archdiocese and its team is a salutary lesson on how not to run projects. Do not appoint contractors who have no compunction and have a track record of failing to deliver things to plan; do not assume that contractors can be left without supervision or without a significant measure of in-house asset-protection measures in place; do not treat planners and planning laws with evident disregard and finally - do not treat your neighbours with a total absence of respect and openness.

How is the Archdiocese lead and by whom ? Who makes the final decisions on how the Archdiocese conducts its case?
JRW wrote: 24 May 2021 17:35 The Archdiocese of Southwark is now refusing to accept the Planning Inspector’s ruling, and plan to challenge it.
JRW astutely observes and in another place wrote: It emerged at the planning inquiry that the Archdiocese of Southwark’s Education Commission has no clear oversight. Its director, Dr Simon Hughes, was unable to name his line manager. In the end, he said he was under the authority of a very senior archdiocesan committee. With no clear line of supervision, a Director is allowed to act independently. This fiasco has stretched across three Directors (including one temporary Director), so perhaps a lack of continuity in direction may have contributed to the mess.

I hope that parents can see that this further delay is down to the Archdiocese, and push them to come to a compromise with Lewisham. By overreaching at the inquiry, they threw away the huge concessions they had already been offered by Lewisham, who were desperate to find a resolution. Those offers have been removed by the Inspector’s judgement, so we are back to square one. The longer they refuse to admit they are subject to the law, the more disruption and distress they will cause.
If the Archdiocese can now perceive that the conduct of their case and the loss caused by overreach to which JRW refers is substantial it may further conclude that the advice to that lead them to agree to this course of action was significantly flawed. It may decide that a change in direction is needed. Perhaps new people will be required to restore balance and trust with the school's neighbours and the LPA.

In consideration of an appeal (would that be to the High Court?) they will have to address their own conduct and the fact that their failures will probably place culpability firmly with them. Yes, they will cry "foul" regarding the contractors activities - but they were responsible for the contractor's appointment and the supervision of them. A matter in which failure could not be more clear.

The Archdiocese must consider that change and make it quickly.

Finish this school rebuild project at the earliest - it is essential.
Pally
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Pally »

Lewisham LA has very significant experience of decanting schools whilst works take place, lots of lessons learnt, and plenty of good advice available ...so no excuse for dismissing decanting as "impossible" or whatever!
JGD
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JGD »

Robin Orton wrote: 25 May 2021 19:58 I don't know the details of the parents' concerns, I'm only reporting what I've heard at third or fourth hand. I gather the head teacher has written to parents seeking to reassure them, but I haven't seen the letter. Perhaps someone on this forum has seen it?
I am not sure if this is the only correspondence, but this is the body of text in a letter from the HT on 14 May 2021.
OLSPN's HT in a letter published on the School's Web-site wrote: 14th May 2021
Dear Parents and Carers
Further to my message on Wednesday night I have spoken with the Local Authority and the Education Commission regarding the decision from the Public Enquiry. There has also been a great deal of activity on Social Media and within the local press about it as well. The Education Commission has put out a press statement that I wish to share with you.
Officers of the Archdiocese of Southwark are disappointed to receive the Planning Inspector’s judgement on the appeal against the refusal of planning permission at Our Lady and St Philip Neri School, Sydenham and the appeal against the complementary Enforcement Notice. Officers are working with the school, the governing body and legal advisors to explore all avenues to address the outcome. We recognise that public communications about this matter will be of concern to parents, pupils and staff and wish to offer them our reassurance that we will continue to do everything in our power to limit the impact on the school and the pupils’ education.
The Diocese is meeting with the legal representatives next week to discuss putting in an appeal to the decision given by the Inspector who led the Public Enquiry as the Diocese has twenty eight days to submit the appeal if it is felt appropriate.

I am sure that many you have may read the article that is on the Newshopper website about the school being demolished and I am sure this is causing you concern. The word demolished is not used at all in the Appeal decision and the Enforcement Notice has been changed to state that the building does not need to be rebuilt according to the agreed plans. The team will be looking at ways that the work can be completed so that this can be achieved with limited disruption to the children’s education. At present it would seem that I am unable to confirm much yet but this will become clearer over the next few weeks and months. Unfortunately this is not a matter that is going to be solved immediately but as always I will keep you informed about what is happening.

I would ask you to remember that all this is about the outside of the school and not about the inside. As we have done throughout the whole of this process we will continue to offer the best education, care and support that we can give your children.

As a community we must remain positive and patient about the school and its future, we need to share within the local community all the good things that happen within the school each day. I am sure that a positive result will come from all of this and that the children will get the school that they thoroughly deserve.

As always I thank you for your continued support that you have given the school throughout this whole process.

God Bless

M.Ringham
Headteacher
Robin Orton
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Robin Orton »

Good, thanks. I'm sure this is the letter I heard about. I'm a bit clearer now.
JRW
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JRW »

OK, well if they have 28 days to lodge an appeal, that window expires on 10 June. There's no way they will announce their position before the very last minute, so we'll just have to grit our teeth and hope they make the right decision.
JRW
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JRW »

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... the Archdiocese strikes again. They are seeking judicial review of the planning Inspectorate's decision on OLSPN school. Lewisham Council has been served as a second respondent, but the appeal is against PINS, so Lewisham would be grateful if you don't besiege them about it.

I have no idea what they think they can gain from this, but it is absolutely certain that the decision will have a terrible effect on the families who have trusted their children's education to the Archdiocese.
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JGD »

Julia - thank you for the rapidity on the update .

So the Archdiocese of Southwark seeks a judicial review of the planning Inspectorate's adjudication on OLSPN school and Lewisham Council has been served as a second respondent.
JRW wrote: 9 Jun 2021 13:18 I have no idea what they think they can gain from this, but it is absolutely certain that the decision will have a terrible effect on the families who have trusted their children's education to the Archdiocese.
This selected course of action by the Archdiocese is as hostile as it can get and in an industry where proponents are brought up in an adversarial culture, that is saying a lot.
JGD wrote: 26 May 2021 10:22 Why this happened may provide some insight.

The Archdiocese team conducted their case in an aggressive style at the Inquiry, being openly hostile to every witness who presented for the Council. Their QC even challenged the authority of the Inquiry, openly stating to the Inspector "We have made notes" on any matter he had felt had not gone in favour of his client's case with an implication that he would take it further. To where, he did not state but his repetitious assertion drew one retort from the Inspector that she understood what his implication meant but that for the meantime she was conducting an Inquiry and was seeking evidence that would help her reach a decision.

But this intriguing and consistent attack process probably formed part of his brief from his client and they in turn pressed the HT to fall in line - irrespective of how irrational the stated position emerged to be.

The conduct of the Archdiocese and its team is a salutary lesson on how not to run projects. Do not appoint contractors who have no compunction and have a track record of failing to deliver things to plan; do not assume that contractors can be left without supervision or without a significant measure of in-house asset-protection measures in place; do not treat planners and planning laws with evident disregard and finally - do not treat your neighbours with a total absence of respect and openness.

How is the Archdiocese lead and by whom ? Who makes the final decisions on how the Archdiocese conducts its case?
....

If the Archdiocese can now perceive that the conduct of their case and the loss caused by overreach to which JRW refers is substantial it may further conclude that the advice to that lead them to agree to this course of action was significantly flawed. It may decide that a change in direction is needed. Perhaps new people will be required to restore balance and trust with the school's neighbours and the LPA.

In consideration of an appeal (would that be to the High Court?) they will have to address their own conduct and the fact that their failures will probably place culpability firmly with them. Yes, they will cry "foul" regarding the contractors activities - but they were responsible for the contractor's appointment and the supervision of them. A matter in which failure could not be more clear.

The Archdiocese must consider that change and make it quickly.
Whilst the decision and subsequent action will not be viewed as unprecedented it is rare and is hugely significant.

For those who watched the the PINS Inquiry live - and there is a recorded version - they will have witnessed an Archdiocese team conduct themselves aggressively and will find it difficult not to conclude that a major effort was made to traduce every witness who did not agree with the Archdiocese's view. Neighbours views were treated equally dismissively.

Observers may also conclude that the Archdiocese engaged in a hired-gun policy where their appointed silk uttered the phrase, frequently, "We have made a note ...", in what simply cannot now be seen to be benign circumstances.

Governors, School, Archdiocese - make note, this is not how it is done. You are part of the community - you cannot set yourselves apart from the community whilst claiming none of the problem is of your making.

LB of Lewisham nor the neighbours nor the school itself lost control of the contractor who was selected and appointed by the Archdiocese and who built a non-compliant building.

The Archdiocese was the party who lost control. They may claim, in mitigation, that they were deceived by their appointed contractor.

However, it was an abject professional failure to exercise appropriate oversight and control on the part oi the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese made veiled reference to making legal pursuit of the contractor in circumstances that were not made clear.

But it might be deemed to be clearly evident where the Archdiocese would elect to have the liability placed - and that is with the contractor over whom they lost control.

If the Archdiocese hold that this is an accurate depiction of the root-cause of this problem they would better be placed to abandon a hostile campaign against the LPA, its neighbours and now PINS.

The Archdiocese must alter course, engage in whatever compromise is required, agree a final design and complete the construction of the school.

As soon as and as quickly as is practical.
Last edited by JGD on 9 Jun 2021 15:59, edited 1 time in total.
Robin Orton
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Robin Orton »

JRW wrote: 9 Jun 2021 13:18 ...it it is absolutely certain that the decision will have a terrible effect on the families who have trusted their children's education to the Archdiocese.
Don't understand this. What will the 'terrible effect' be?

Perhaps someone could remind those of us who haven't followed this in detail whether neighbours' objections to the current building are purely aesthetic or whether there are other things as well?
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JGD »

Not to answer or explain or amplify what JRW wrote, but the Archdiocese's position could be viewed as to lie between two extremes.

On one hand the Archdiocese alluded to a view that an adverse decision would require them to withdraw from agreements made with Lewisham, close the school and demolish the building. Perhaps based upon their stated position that they did not have any remaining funds to carry out remedial work.

On the other hand a rather circular argument was presented that the School could not be managed in such a way that any remedial work could be carried out at all or in any circumstances. That issue seemed to presented in both the context of the remedial work being carried out in the form that the Archdiocese preferred and for any scheme preferred by the LPA. So a lose-lose outcome for all.

I'm sure many will see more than one inference.

Others may see mythological and biblical dilemmas that parallel this one.

Sword of Damoclese, an allusion to an imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power, comes to my mind.

The peril in this case being a never ending legal debate about why the school project cannot be completed.

The wisdom of Solomon might be a route to compromise and solution however.
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JRW »

Robin Orton wrote: 9 Jun 2021 15:22
JRW wrote: 9 Jun 2021 13:18 ...it it is absolutely certain that the decision will have a terrible effect on the families who have trusted their children's education to the Archdiocese.
Don't understand this. What will the 'terrible effect' be?

Perhaps someone could remind those of us who haven't followed this in detail whether neighbours' objections to the current building are purely aesthetic or whether there are other things as well?
Hi Robin,
The terrible effect is that parents, who have been hoping for the swift resolution promised to them by the Archdiocese, have to face another year of uncertainty and stress. While the Archdiocese could have been arranging a decant for September, which would allow the building to be tackled, they have instead focused on maintaining they have no need to cooperate with planning law.

Yes, as we have gone over repeatedly, there is much more than aesthetics at stake. At the inquiry, the Archdiocese admitted to having no information about the construction, no technical drawings, and none were submitted to Lewisham as is required. They would have to 'investigate the structure' before they could be confident it could bear the weight of the new cladding. Personally, I think that should worry everyone.
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by Robin Orton »

Hm.
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by stuart »

It's easy to criticise the Archdiocese. I know, I've done it in spades. But while education and aesthetics should be in the lead here - it's money that in the end counts.

I cannot imagine the Archdiocese don't have eyes and can't see what the rest of us can. But to rebuild will cost money the Ed department doesn't have. Pushing through every legal avenue to save the current build could save that. A long shot maybe. But maybe there is another consideration which makes an Appeal their only choice? Maybe they can afford to lose?

A forced rebuild possibly re-enforces an Archdiocese case against the builder who has been proven to flouted the planning law in the highest court. Yes, the Archdiocese has to take some responsibility for failure to manage the build - but then the contract possibly passed much of this to the company. So if the Archdiocese wins such a case against the builder their losses may be mitigated. Another decent outcome for their treasury. Or have I been watching too much Rumpole?

Is the contractor still in business or was it done all through some shell organisation that can be disappeared leaving the Archdiocese with the entire cost of a rebuild?

Stuart
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Re: St Philip Neri school: Archdiocese appeals planning enforcement order

Post by JGD »

Let me apply organisation names at a later date. Their ongoing existence will bear examination.

The Archdiocese selected and appointed a contractor on a Design and Build basis. Let us label them Contractor A.

The selection process is poorly managed with a due diligence process that failed to discover that Contractor A had a track record of failed projects within the educational sphere and had failed to satisfactorily complete projects in Lewisham. Or if due diligence did uncover this track record the Archdiocese chose to ignore the risk and elected to proceed with the appointment. Historically and frequently, Contractor A had failed to keep clients appraised of what was happening with their projects and appeared to have little compunction about not conforming with planning requirements or Building Control.

During the build phase at OLSPN, as in many of its projects, it is reported that continuity of contract management was poor. Changes in management was frequent and consequently conformance to the agreed design was sketchy. It would not be difficult to understand that design and build decisions made by one set of managers was left to be sorted out by the next team of incumbents.

Interestingly Contractor A was NEVER named at the PINS Inquiry.

During the build phase, Contractor A was "bought out" by a second company. Let us call them Contractor B.

The backstory to the acquisition is not clear.

Hence for the meantime we did not know with certainty whether Contractor A had hit difficulties, whether they were subject of an expansion drive by Contractor B or whether Contractor B simply bought their order book.

Contractor B's company logos appeared on the site and work continued to progress.

For some time it was evident that anomalies were identifiable in the build and these matters came to a head as the roof construction was clearly of a design that differed from the approved scheme significantly. Cladding and window details followed that same route of non-conformance and the public clamour and opprobrium culminated in the LPA having to intervene and ultimately police the non-conformance.

Move to the PINS Inquiry and only Contractor B is named (it's on the record) and the Archdiocese allude to their intent to pursue matters separately through legal recourse. There is no discussion or presentation of evidence that the Archdiocese or the LPA hold or express any view on the culpability of Contractor A or Contractor B.

So we have a bald statement that the Archdiocese intend to pursue Contractor B but little else is known of the status of that matter.

Will the Archdiocese ever recover any monies?

These cases frequently take years. Positions are made complex by companies being declared Insolvent and by insurance companies, who may or may not have underwritten performance bonds and design guarantees, conducting protracted processes to limit any liabilities that a court might adjudge to lie with them.

With continuity of management that at best was fractious and with a declared absence of "as-built" data and drawings, alluded to by the Archdiocese at the Inquiry, it can be anticipated that any outcome will be some years downstream.

Therefore, with an outcome that has no prospect of short-term recovery of monies from the design and build contractor side, the Archdiocese must look to the funding position created by the original deals. At the Inquiry, in perhaps the most muddled presentation of that phase of evidence, the Archdiocese team presented a position that was less than clear.

It might be speculative, but could the Archdiocese be prepared to stretch the Judicial Review stage for the PINS Inquiry to give them time to recover monies from a contractor who may or may not still be trading?

Any early decision that rejects the validity of the case to conduct such a Judicial Review will perhaps bring matters to a more rapid conclusion.
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