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Liddell Road school to open with spare capacity

Liddell Road has a new name. After much careful thought and consideration it has been renamed, wait for it…, “Liddell Place”. Someone suggested an alternative, but for some reason Camden didn’t like it.

Where’s Liddell Road? It’s the former council-owned light industrial estate just off Maygrove Road that’s being redeveloped to house an infants school that will be part of Kilburn’s Kingsgate School, alongside a large residential tower block, some modern mansion blocks and some office space that will be privately developed. Was big news. You should have been there.

Anyway, work is underway on site, so time for an update.

The whole reason a new school… sorry, a new building for Kingsgate School, was needed was because of a projected dramatic shortage in primary places in this part of the borough. The new school was planned to opened in September 2016 with four-form entry. That’s 120 places.

Strange then that just a year later  (clearing the site had taken much longer than expected), the school is now to be a three-form entry with 90 kids starting instead of 120. Where did those 30 kids go?

Camden’s cabinet member for schools, Angela Mason, explained in a written response, “The proposed change is in response to our latest school place-planning data, which now suggests a slower growth in demand. If we left the admissions number at 120, the school would have to employ enough staff to cover these extra places. As school funding is linked to the actual number of pupils on roll, it would be a strain on the school’s budget if the places were not filled. This is why we’ve applied to the Schools Adjudicator to vary the arrangements for the September 2017 intake, though we expect demand to rise again in future years.”

Too few kids, too much money?

The development is taking place in two phases; first the school and second the housing and workspace. The school is on track to be finished in July 2017, ready for the new school year next September. The deadline for applying for reception and nursery places is 15th January.

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

However, Camden has been taking a long time to market the site for phase two. It is now due to be marketed next year.

It will be interesting to see what the asking price is. Camden refused to disclose the viability figures at the time of the planning application in 2014/15, but what we know is that Camden wanted to cover the £13.4 million cost of the new school and make a surplus of £1.9 million. Therefore if the site is sold for anything more than £15.3 million, Camden will receive more money than planned. Chances of the value of the land having gone up over two to three years?

Any additional surplus could have helped increase the amount of affordable housing in 156 West End Lane (the council justified the lack of affordable housing at Liddell Road by saying that 156 would get 50%, which it has). But Liddell Road won’t be put up for sale until after the 156 West End Lane planning decision is decided. So will additional surplus flow out of West Hampstead again?

Classrooms and construction

It may be simpler to build the school first and the residential units afterwards, but it does mean the entire construction period will be very long, and there’ll be enormous disruption for local residents, and of course for the schoolchildren on site. Construction of the second phase is anticipated to take 18 months.

Recent view of Liddell Rd. Image: West Hampstead NDF

Recent view of Liddell Rd. Image: West Hampstead NDF

Maygrove Road residents are very concerned about the impact the new school, flats and offices will have on parking in the area. They have already been affected by the adjacent Regal Homes development, called ‘The Residence’, which is now complete and occupied. Although that development is nominally ‘car-free’ , Monica Regli, chair of MILAM, the local residents association says, “We have noticed that parking has become significantly worse now that the new flats are built despite it being a “carless” development. We assume it’s because new residents are using cars to commute and parking on Maygrove outside of restricted hours. In fact, parking is becoming such an issue that a petition has been started”.  

Finally, five of the nine trees with preservation orders on the Liddell Road site were fatally damaged in Storm Katie last year.  This may be because they no longer had the shelter provided by the old buildings. Local residents have pressed Camden to replace them, after having been unclear, they have now said they will be replaced as part of the landscaping for the school playground.

We’ll keep you updated on Liddell Road’s progress and especially on how much the development rights are sold for next year.