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Pijnacker – The move of the ‘Casa Bilingual Montessori School’ from the current locations on Acacialaan/Meidoornlaan and Duivestein in Pijnacker, respectively, to a building that is yet to be built new school on the Groen van Prinstererlaan, is not without a struggle. There is a big one difference of opinion about the use of the outdoor space.
The municipality of Pijnacker-Nootdorp is fully committed to a good road infrastructure around the new construction site, while school director Tessa Wessels would much rather see the outdoor space designed with a focus on greenery, quality of life, play facilities and recreation. A green, multifunctional buffer that ultimately benefits the entire neighborhood. Of course, the school board also considers good access and sufficient parking spaces extremely important, but not in the way the municipality is now trying to ‘push it through’, without listening to the wishes of the school management and those involved. Because that’s how it feels right now.
Director Wessels is supported in this by John Verheusen. The Pijnackernaar told his story to the editors of this newspaper last Friday. John knows better than anyone how important it is to properly design the outdoor space, because as an independent consultant he is regularly asked for advice by municipalities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In this capacity, John was approached by the school board to think along about the new building in Pijnacker Noord. John likes to do that, not in the least because his three children attend the Casa school themselves.
“Gradually my involvement has become more and more professional”, says John, while he conjures up a stack of sketches and a complete e-mail correspondence with the Pijnacker-Nootdorp civil service. He shakes his head. “Everything that is currently not recommended for the design of public space, the municipality wants to do here”, is how he begins his story. “In the plan of the municipality, cars and parking spaces dominate the area around the school. And there has also been opted for cluttered diagonal parking, something that is not recommended everywhere in the Netherlands, especially around schools. First of all, in my alternative plan I have incorporated just as many parking spaces (89 units, ed.) as in the municipality’s plan, but I also took into account the quality of life in the neighbourhood. My design includes cozy meeting places, vegetable gardens, playground equipment and lots of greenery. That is all missing from the plans of the municipality.”
John says he has written to the municipality, the council and responsible alderman Peter Hennevanger several times, but is constantly rejected. “I get a nice letter back, but they don’t start the conversation. We, the school and I, think it is important that the neighborhood is informed of our alternative plan, but we are not given that opportunity. That is why we are organizing a residents’ evening ourselves on Tuesday 6 December,” he says. What time and where will all be communicated. The idea is that the students of the Casaschool will soon distribute flyers in the neighbourhood.
“I just don’t get it”, John sighs. “All political parties in Pijnacker-Nootdorp have citizen participation, but also greenery and quality of life at number one, but our ‘green plan’ is not listened to at all. Incidentally, the municipality itself has been campaigning for a natural living environment for years. Why is this plan not being listened to?”, John wonders aloud. He does not get an answer, because the municipality sticks to its own design, as he was told several times. ‘We do not see any new information in your letter, so there is no reason to enter into a conversation’, literally says in the e-mails he receives back time and time again.
Tomorrow, Thursday 24 November, there will be an opportunity to discuss all of John’s submissions in the council meeting. “My letters are already on the list of documents received, so I hope that the council will take a critical look at the plans and discuss them. With my plan, the number of parking spaces remains intact, but about 1800 square meters of recreational space will be added. Space to meet each other, to grow your own vegetables, to play and to allow local residents and the school to integrate with each other. Purely through a different layout. If you think logically, you choose such a plan, don’t you?”
If the school is surrounded by asphalt, road signs, roaring cars and densely tiled parking spaces, then the school board will have a problem: “A green environment is one of the important pillars of the Casaschool,” says John. The new school in Pijnacker Noord should open its doors in the autumn of 2024. “So now is the time to take a critical look at the design around the school. It is certainly not too late to make a different decision,” said John, who indicates that he wants to explain his plans to anyone who wants to.
Check out John’s alternate plan below.
In the context of hearing both sides, our editors have submitted the story to the municipality of Pijnacker-Nootdorp.
“The municipality understands Casa’s wishes for an ideal environment and respects this. This has been discussed with Casa several times. But the municipality also has to deal with the limited space available and the wishes of others. When deciding on the development of this project, the city council stated that traffic (collection and delivery) must be properly arranged. Local residents and the residents’ association also mentioned this as the main concern. This has been carefully incorporated into the spatial plans in which the schools and childcare facilities have been involved.”
“The parking solution is intended for both Casa and the Schatkaart child center and there is sufficient space on the Groen van Prinstererlaan to set it up properly and safely. It is also the responsibility of the municipality to take into account the safety of the various road users. Wanting to change the parking bays and abandoning the one-way traffic makes it less safe, especially for crossing pedestrians.”
“The plans do take into account the desire for a larger outdoor space. Casa will now have an outdoor space of 1080 m2 instead of the 600 m2 to which it is entitled according to the rules. In addition, Casa’s bicycle shed will not be placed on the schoolyard, but on municipal land. Naturally, in the plans we take into account the request of the environment to preserve the water and greenery around the schools with green parking spaces, new trees and extra planting. In our eyes, Casa will have a beautiful new school in a beautiful location in Pijnacker.”