School dominated by black and Asian pupils will lead to a "sexual volcano", warns Tory councillor

Allowing the Durand Academy in Brixton to open a branch in West Sussex will lead to a "sexual volcano" with too many pupils from "nationalities where they are uncertain what hard work is about", says councillor.

The Durand Academy in Brixton is a high-performing London school whose leadership has been repeatedly praised by education secretary Michael Gove.

Next year, it plans to open a second site in Stedham, West Sussex where pupils will be housed Monday to Friday in a disused school building. 

The Mail on Sunday today reports that several Stedham residents have objected to the scheme. While some of those quoted undoubtedly have genuine objections, there are also some whose statements range from the eyebrow-raising to the outright shocking.

For example, John Cherry, county councillor for Midhurst, told the MoS:

"Ninety-seven per cent of pupils will be black or Asian. It depends what type of Asian. If they’re Chinese they’ll rise to the top. If they’re Indian they’ll rise to the top. If they’re Pakistani they won’t.

"There are certain nationalities where hard work is highly valued. There are certain nationalities where they are uncertain what this hard work is all about.

"If the children are not allowed out of the site then it will make them want to escape into the forest – it will be a sexual volcano.

"Stockwell is a coloured area – I have no problem with that. To be honest, I would far rather Durand took over a secondary school in London rather than shoving everybody here."

Cherry won his county council seat in November 2012 with 78 per cent of the vote. The only other candidate was Ukip's Douglas Denny, who gained 21.8 per cent. 

Cherry has been contacted for comment.

Update, 3pm: Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg made this statement earlier today: "When a Tory councillor makes openly racist comments like these, it's no surprise people still think of the Conservatives as the nasty party. David Cameron must condemn his councillor's words and take immediate action against Councillor Cherry to show that he will not accept racism in his party."

James Chapman, the Daily Mail's political editor, has just tweeted the following, making it likely that John Cherry will not be a Conservative councillor for much longer.

Update 22 April 2013 8.20am:

John Cherry has now resigned as a councillor. In a statement, he said:

My remarks about Durand Academy, as reported in the Mail on Sunday, were plainly wrong. They were thoughtless and extremely foolish. I unreservedly apologise and withdraw them. I very much regret the distress this must have caused.

According to the BBC, a Conservative Party spokesman said Cherry's comments were "totally unacceptable" and did "not reflect the views of the Conservative Party".

Michael Gove has praised the Durand Academy. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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