Rainham sixth form college plans delayed in parking row

Plans to build a new sixth form college in Rainham have been delayed after the Greater London Authority refused to allow it more than three parking spaces.

The proposed college at Harris Academy Rainham would serve up to 400 students aged 16-19, who currently have to travel up to 45 minutes to attend New City College in Hornchurch.

Despite largely approving of the plans, Havering Council’s planning committee decided last night to put off deciding whether to award planning permission until February to see if the parking issue could be resolved.

Councillor Ray Best said: “It just concerns me that I think the current mayor is behaving like Judge Dread in this scenario, we’re ending up entering a dystopian Mad Max scenario where everyone is going to be banned from using a car.

“Well that’s alright if you’re in London and you’ve got the tube every hundred yards and buses passing down virtually every road, but we’re right on the very very edge of the Greater London area with virtually no transport at all.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we have to actually abide by the rules which are really designed for central London where there are buses on virtually every corner..”

Cllr Reg Whitney added that the narrow road and nearby five-point junction would be “chaos” without a pick up point outside the college.

Councillors feared that the limited parking would cause so many issues in the surrounding area that it would force the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ), requiring neighbouring residents to pay for parking permits.

After a two-hour debate councillors agreed to defer the planning application until February so a more detailed travel plan can be drawn up, ensuring residents will not have to pay up in future.

The committee heard the proposed travel plan, which is legally binding, includes a £320,000 pledge from the Harris Academy to pay for improved pavements and road markings in the area, as well as £20,000 for a consultation on parking restrictions if traffic problems are a problem a year after the college opens.

The college would also promote and train students to walk and cycle, aiming to reduce car travel by 2 per cent by 2026, while students would also be asked to sign an undertaking that they will not travel to the college by car.

The travel plan would also include a threat of disciplinary action for students caught parking in nearby streets.

Graham Williamson called the travel plan “great” but “toothless” and said a CPZ for residents would be “totally unfair”.

He added: “It’s not very well serviced by public transport, there’s going to be a big demand to go by car, I’m disappointed about the parking, I’m not surprised it’s the GLA who’ve done it.”

Committee members voted to defer the application until the next Strategic Planning Committee on February 24, or an earlier meeting if an acceptable travel plan has been prepared.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter