The Mayor of London is preparing to intervene in the sell-off of the former Southwark Fire Station to ensure that a new secondary 'free school' is opened at the Southwark Bridge Road site.
Exactly a year since Southwark Fire Station closed its doors after 135 years of service, papers published on Friday show that the Mayor of London intends to use his power of direction to instruct the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to accept a bid for the site that includes a new secondary school and housing even though it is not the highest cash offer.
"In regard to the Southwark site, the Mayor is minded to direct the authority to accept the bid received for a joint development involving housing and the provision of a new school, and to seek the specific consent of the secretary of state to dispose of the Southwark site for less than the best consideration," wrote LFEPA finance director Sue Budden.
"The Mayor has advised that his provisional view is that there is good reason for the Authority to receive less than the best consideration because there is a significant need for a secondary school in the north Southwark area.
"He notes that the EFA [Education Funding Agency] considers that the Southwark site is the only viable site in the area for a new school and he places strong emphasis on the support expressed by the local borough for this scheme and the benefits which would arise for the whole community from its implementation."
Southwark Council leader Peter John wrote to Boris Johnson last month in support of the free school proposal.
"We are continuing to anticipate a shortage of secondary school places in the north of Southwark in coming years and this site would provide a perfect opportunity for such an educational use," Cllr John wrote.
"It would also answer the concerns of many local residents who do not believe that they enjoy the benefits of the massive change and regeneration which is going on around them in this part of the borough."
The mayor's proposed intervention in the sale process will be discussed at a meeting at LFEPA headquarters in Union Street on Monday morning.
The identity of the prospective sponsor of the new free school has been redacted from the correspondence published by the fire authority.
For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.
7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?
Read the latest issue before signing up