Downhall Under Fives – how things should work, and what happens in real life

Downhall Under 5 pre-school have a problem at the moment. Their usual premises – the Scout hut behind Ferndale Road – is not available because it’s fallen into disrepair, even though the District Council own the freehold. So they’ve had to move temporarily into the cricket pavilion in Rawreth Lane. They had to apply for planning permission, even though it’s only for three months. County Highways and the District Council had concerns about the safety of the access onto Rawreth Lane.

What we would have liked to have happened :“When we realised what a predicament the preschool was in, we had to move quickly “said a County Council Spokesman. “I mean, we’ve made millions out of flogging some of the Park School Playing Fields for housing. So we thought we’d spend a tiny percentage of the money by getting some contractors in to improve the access.

“Yeah, we’re feeling a bit guilty ourselves ” said a District Council Spokesman”. After all, we let the County build houses on that land in return for providing a country park near the border with Southend. The local people along there were really stitched up. So we’re doing our best to help. “

What really happened: County Highways recommended refusing the temporary use, partly on the grounds of safety, partly because it’s so far along Rawreth Lane it conflicts with government policy on accessibility. The District Council Officers also recommended refusal.

However Chris and Ron talked to the preschool, had a good look at the access, and saw that the preschool had laid down some hardcore to improve the access. We felt that if it was safe enough for the cricket club, it was safe enough for the pre school. We persuaded the planning committee to allow permission until the end of March.