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Southwark threatens Mayor Livingstone with legal action

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Southwark council is considering legal action against Ken Livingstone following his decision to block plans for the £22 million City Academy in Bermondsey.

The move came as the council became desperate to green light the 1,200-pupil school. The borough has a dire lack of secondary school places and is also concerned that the Corporation of London, one of the school's backers, could pull out if the scheme is delayed. Foster and Partners, Studio E, Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners and Jestico + Whiles have already been shortlisted for the project (AJ 7.2.02).

London mayor Livingstone rejected the proposal last week on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent - it is sited on a 3ha greenfield site, Paterson Park.He said he understood the need for a school, but 'building it on a site which would take away a park from local people is unacceptable'. The mayor promised to help the borough find an alternative site.

However, his aid was dismissed as costly and pointless. Stephanie Elsy, Southwark council leader, said: 'We are appalled at the mayor's behaviour on this. We must get on with building this school.'

She added that the council believed Livingstone had 'exceeded his powers as mayor' and that his decision had overlooked the fact that the new school will include leisure and educational facilities which will be open to the community.

A spokesman for the Corporation of London described the mayor's decision as 'exasperating' and added: 'We are considering our options. This could turn into a costly and lengthy process. It's all a bit galling really - half of the site is derelict and the park is a mess and barely used.'

A Southwark planning office spokesperson added: 'We've looked at all the alternative sites.

This is the best one. The mayor's advisors will just go over the same ground we have - and probably come to the same conclusion.'

On Tuesday, Coral Newell, chair of the City Academy action committee, organised a demonstration by local children who could not get secondary school places last September.

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