Kingston Council will need to act fast to salvage a land swap deal that would secure a desperately-needed primary school for north Kingston.
Opposition councillors have urged the authority to take up an offer from property developers Goldcrest for the Kingsgate Business Centre, in Kingsgate Road, just north of the train station.
The company is willing to trade the site for the council-owned Canbury Place car park, in order to build a mixed-use shop, restaurant and office development with 210-bed student accommodation.
The Kingsgate site is the preferred location for a new two-form primary school, with the triangular car park deemed unsuitable because of heavy traffic from Kingsgate Road, Sopwith Way and Richmond Road.
But the council has yet to agree to the swap, and Goldcrest has since submitted a planning application for the Kingsgate site, which does not include a school.
Conservative deputy leader Councillor David Cunningham said: “Goldcrest’s site would make an acceptable site for the school, and they are willing to do a land swap.
“But the administration hasn’t had the guts to do anything about it.
“As a result Goldcrest, who have waited patiently, have said they’re going to have to go ahead with the planning application.”
Councillors on the development control committee, mindful of the potential land swap, deferred a decision on Goldcrest’s application in March.
It is understood the company is now appealing on the grounds of non-determination.
But Kingston Council leader Councillor Liz Green said a deal could still be reached with Goldcrest.
She said: “It’s still an aim to get a primary school on that site.
“My understanding is that although Goldcrest are putting in an appeal for non-determination, that doesn’t mean they are not open to negotiations over a land swap.
“But we don’t want to just say yes to the land swap. It’s not that simple.
“We want to look at the whole site organically.”
Richmond Park and North Kingston Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said: “Goldcrest are still willing to consider the swap, but time is not on our side and the council needs to prioritise this.
“We can still salvage this but it is now urgent.”