Earlier this month, the loathsome Toby Young took exception to a post on this blog about the problems being encountered by the West London Free School (WLFS), the domain of Himself Personally Now. In particular, he was most unhappy about my observation that “The building work at Palingswick House in Hammersmith appears stalled”. Tobes wanted to put me straight on that one.
Tobes still won't come out from the Weinbunker
“Work on Pallingswick [sic] House has not stalled. On the contrary, the contractors are due to start the main programme of works shortly with a view to delivering the school next year”, he retorted. As I reached my conclusion after viewing the photographic evidence provided by Tom Barry of Boris Watch – which is shown once more right here – Tobes’ assertion did not dispel the doubts.
Palingswick House main entrance: not much work in evidence late last month (Photographs (c) Tom Barry 2014)
The idea that work at Palingswick House had not stalled in some way or other is truly fanciful: the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) had previously told that “West London Free School – which opened in September 2011 – hopes to open at the King Street address next September (2013)”. The “King Street address” is Palingswick House. That target date was not met.
Palingswick House, rear view: not much work in evidence here, either
So what’s causing the delay? “Discharging the conditions atttached to our planning permission has taken longer than expected due to the discovery of contamination on the site”. Contamination? “Asbestos remediation works on a defined area of the site have already taken place”. But work has not started on the main event. Why not?
Site of former annex - so that has definitely been demolished
“Further remediation works are planned to deal with contamination discovered in a defined area of the site and at between 8 and 10 metres below ground level. No contamination has been discovered within or underneath Palingswick House itself or within or underneath the Lodge building to the north of the site. The Annex building to the south of the site has now been demolished”. That sounds like something had been infilled or buried somewhere in the grounds.
In any case, not only did the WLFS not open at Palingswick House in September 2013, it will also not open there in September 2014. So when Tobes said “next year”, he did not mean “academic year”. It gets worse: “The planned date for the school to move into Palingswick House is September 2015”. That’s a whole two years late, with remediation costs to add to the delays. I call that stalled.
And it’s stalled with yet more costs attached, in addition to the running total which at present stands at over £20 million, for which we the taxpayer will be stumping up. All of which shows that not only did Toby Young mislead significantly, and possibly deliberately, when he left that comment, but also that there is a difference between journalists slagging off the education system and doing that job themselves.
WLFS is going to be late making its move. Perhaps without Toby Young as CEO.