I’m not going to beat about the bush. The news is frustrating. Kuhn Way has to stay closed for (even) longer because the work on the school has over-run.
That’s the summary. Read on for more…
For some background, you might remember that there was a debate a while back about whether Kuhn Way (an alleyway that runs north-south basically from the station up towards Forest Street, Dimond Close, Essex Street, Norfolk Street, Suffolk Street, and the other streets that I have heard optimistic estate agents refer to as ‘the Lanes’.) Forest Gate Community School (FGCS) is a really fantastic, nationally acclaimed successful school, and is constrained as many urban schools are by small grounds that are effectively cut in two by Kuhn Way. With a bit of a heavy heart, I argued that although closing the access through Kuhn Way would enable the school to use their site better, actually this was an important route through for a large number of residents to get to the station, and it was really vital to keep it open. You can read about that in my blog post here and again in this post here.
So FGCS went back to the drawing board with their architects, and came up with a new plan, which I felt (and the planning committee felt) represented a real compromise which kept this alley open in the long term, but did involve closing it for a time whilst building works were done on the school’s walkways that run over the top. You can read my brief thoughts on the revised application at the top of my ward report here. (Stories that this blog is going to be renamed ‘Rachel’s ongoing ponderings on Kuhn Way’ have been greatly overstated…).
So it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I was informed, very politely by an officer keen to keep me in the loop, that in fact the works had over-run, and Kuhn Way would have to be kept closed for longer than we anticipated. I am really disappointed about this and I know local residents will be too. Actually the officer who told me wasn’t exactly delighted about it, and told me how she’d gone back to the contractors to ask whether it could be temporarily re-opened for a while, whether any work could be brought forward, and when I pressed about the delay and the duration I was assured she’d basically pursued all the avenues she could think of but that they just couldn’t find a way to make the delay any shorter.
The following newsletter has been sent out to local households. I did some redrafting of it as the first draft focussed more on the work and less on the outcome (longer closure) so I am happy that it’s as clear as it could be, which is at least something in terms of transparency. I also asked that the newsletter could be sent out to a larger area this time, so although it certainly won’t go to all of the roads that use Kuhn Way, it has gone through more residents’ doors this time which is again an improvement.
For what it’s worth, I am sorry about this. I use Kuhn Way myself, and so know that the diverted route is a bit of a pain, and obviously more so if you are disabled or elderly. I am glad that once the work on the school is finished we will be doing some improvements around it. I have seen an early draft of these and was keen that they should include planters, bollards to help stop pavement parking, a new sign marking Kuhn Way so that people know where it is, and more to help that area feel and be safer and better lit.
Which is all to say: Kuhn Way will reopen in September 2020. It will be improved and nicer and well-lit and safer. The closure is not brilliant, but I do believe that we all benefit as a community from having such a great school part of where we live, and so overall I do still think it’s worth it.
Edited 9/3/2020 to add an electronic version of the newsletter referred to above.