Stogs building circa 1970 (the school moved to Orpington over the 1967 Christmas holidays).

Article published in the printed edition of Southwark News

“Planning permission has been granted for developer Berkeley Homes to convert the historic Lambeth College buidling on Tooley St. into a boutique hotel.

The controversial scheme – which has been vociferously opposed by North Southwark and Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes and Southwark Council leader Nick Stanton – was given the green light by a government inspector following a recent planning inquiry.

As the building is listed [patrimonio histórico], the planning permission will not enable Berkeley to demolish anything other than a toilet block at the rear of the site; merely allowing them to convert the building internally from an old school to a new hotel.

The decision also means that Mr. Hughes’ dream of renovating the building – which was originally built in 1893 – and turning it back into a school is now unlikely to be fulfilled. The MP had recently been trailing the prospect of him fronting a multi-million pound consortium to purchase the building from Berkeley Homes for educational usage.

Speaking to the “News” this week, the MP was still refusing to give in, saying: “Clearly this appeal result is disappointing to all of us who are clear this building should stay in educational use. The fact that the owners have received permission for a hotel does not mean there will be a hotel.”

“Obviously, with the progress on the rest of the site the logical thing for everybody is to see the future of the grammar school building as part of the whole development and I hope that Berkeley Homes will be happy to do this. The campaign to keep the grammar school for educational use does not stop here.”

The planning inspector’s call is also likely to cause rancour between Southwark Council and Berkeley Homes – their new partner at Potter’s Field, directly behind the disputed Lambeth College site.

Whilst the pair have claimed to put years of fighting behind them to work together on a solution for Potter’s Field, a deal on Lambeth College was pointedly never included.

The “News” also contacted Southwark Council and Berkeley Homes but received no response at the time of going to press.”

On hearing the news, an old school friend wrote to me:

“We should get the Old Boys together and occupy the place in protest. Although I bet it can be spooky there in the dead of night with the ghost of the Oaf pacing up and down the balcony…”

PS: On reading about the demolition of the school toilets, I was reminded of something my friend Alan mentioned last week that I had forgotten. The older boys played a trick on the new boys (first years, known affectionately as “weeds”). “Have you seen the goldfish?”, they would ask. Innocents like me would be shown to the toilets (bogs), where they would have their heads thrust down the lavatory (as in the movie “If”).

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