Expansion of Queen’s Park school to go ahead despite legal threat

Threat of judicial review fails to deter Brent Council from reinstating funding for Islamia Primary School rebuild

Controversial plans to expand a primary school will go ahead despite fears the project could be derailed by a judicial review and a Government claw back of funds.

The Times exclusively revealed in February that an �8million project to rebuild Islamia Primary School in Salusbury Road, Queen’s Park, was thrown into doubt after the council withdrew a �3million grant due to concerns over delays.

However, Brent have now decided to award the cash, subject to planning approval and the school’s governing body assuming responsibility for any funding shortfall.

The money will fund 14 new classrooms, a library and a specialist teaching room for pupils with special needs, and create 30 extra school places.

Cllr Mary Arnold (Lab: Kilburn), lead member for children, said: “Things have been a bit difficult and we have taken stock of the situation.

“It is a question of moving fairly fast to get the school built within the new deadline.”

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The viability of the project had been called into question after the council failed to spend a �4m Government grant by its March deadline.

After negotiations, the Department of Education agreed to push this back to next March provided that �1.2m of it was spent before April. However, the project’s spend still falls short, meaning that the Government could demand its money back.

The council is also at ‘significant’ risk of a judicial review after concerned residents issued the authority with a pre action notice which has forced Brent to reconsider the planning application.

Critics warned that Brent Council was risking public funds on a project which may not go ahead.

Cllr Simon Green (Lib Dem: Queen’s Park) said: “I am extremely cautious about pouring public money down the drain where there is a real risk of judicial review.

“The council is under an obligation to safeguard public money. We may have to go back to the drawing board with this.”

Officers say the planned expansion is desperately needed as the school, which was built more than 100 years ago, is no longer complaint with disability regulations.

However, the project has been shrouded in controversy since it was announced last year. And 326 residents have signed a petition calling on the Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles to call in the project, which they claim flouts traffic guidelines, poses a risk to a Grade II listed site, and opens the door to a large 800 pupil school.