Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Right of Reply: Toby Young talks to Shepherd's Bush Blog on Free School

Yesterday I reported that the Guardian had described local refugee groups being effectively made homeless by the arrival of the West London Free School, led by broadcaster Toby Young. I should say that two things have hapenned since then - the Guardian were forced to change their headline and Mr Young himself has been in touch to put his own side of the story, which I'm happy to reproduce in full.

In my own story I referred to Mr Young as "evictor-in-chief", in reference to the fact that local groups are having to leave Palingswick House in Hammersmith to make way for the school. Here's what Toby had to say in response:

"Incidentally, I'm not the evictor-in-chief. And my defence is ... I'm not. My group only became aware of Palingswick House when Hammersmith and Fulham listed it for disposal last year.

Now that the consultation about it and the other eight sites listed for disposal has been completed, the Council is minded to sell it. The choice, therefore, is not between selling the building or keeping it, but between selling it to our school or a commercial developer and I have no doubt that a developer would demolish it and stick up a block of flats.

The current tenants will have to be re-housed by the Council whoever buys it so it’s grossly misleading to claim that the West London Free School will be responsible for “expelling” them, as the Guardian did in its headline today. (I managed to get the Guardian to correct that headline by the way.)

Do you think that if the Council sold it to a commercial developer that said developer would allow the current groups to remain in the building paying 65% of the market rent? In any event, the groups won’t be “expelled”. The Council is working with them to find suitable alternative accommodation."

Mr Young has also offered to do a fuller interview with me on the subject of the West London Free School in early February which, whatever your opinion of the school coming to the Bush, is very welcome. So any comments or questions you'd like me to put to him please leave in the comments or directly to

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