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liddell-road-site_ft

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.

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

Teachers are now pupils at former West End Lane school

The London Diocesan Board for Schools has taken over the old St Mary’s School in West End Lane to use as its training centre. Over the years St Mary’s School has occupied four different buildings, all within a short walk of each other.

The West End Lane school site today

The West End Lane school site today

Until the mid 1870s all new churches provided their own day school. The foundation stone for St Mary’s Church in Abbey Road was laid in 1856 in the midst of open fields. When the main building opened in 1862, the neighbouring streets were still being built. Once the money was raised, the church tower and spire were added ten years later.

The first St Mary’s School was established near the corner of Upton Road and Kilburn Priory, backing onto the railway line. Upton Road was the original name given to the stretch of Belsize Road between Abbey Road and Kilburn Priory. The school appears in the 1861 census as St Mary’s District School and on the 1866 OS Map as St Mary’s National School. It occupied rooms that stood behind 1 Upton Road, today’s 195 Belsize Road. The OS Map made the unsubstantiated claim that this had been the site of Kilburn Priory.

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

Scenery painter Charles Marshall lived at 1 Upton Road from at least 1853 to 1855. He was employed by several theatres, including Drury Lane and Her Majesty’s. He originated and developed transformational scenes and is credited with introducing limelight on the stage. Marshall also exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy. His studio was the space referred to in the 1859 sales particulars for the property, when specific mention was made of a ‘large school room or studio’ adjoining the house. This was the space occupied by the first St Mary’s School until Spring 1868.

In 1869, £510 was paid for the freehold of an existing ‘incommodious’ school that served St Paul’s Chapel in Kilburn Square. The school stood at the Kilburn end of West End Lane. The old building was demolished and the second St Mary’s School was built on its site by Manley and Rogers, at a cost of £1,648. Until it opened in 1870, pupils were taught in rented rooms in Priory Mews. When the school opened the school mistress originally lived on site: in 1871 it was 24 year old Emma Watson, when the school roll was 162 boys, 70 girls and 80 infants.

Over the years the buildings were extended and improved but the site was very restrictive and finally a new school was opened at the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane in November 1991. Costing £1.75 million, the school was designed by Professor Hans Haenlein and was one of the most modern in the country. The hall is in a central covered courtyard with a slide back roof, the classrooms opening off the hall on three sides. Ex-pupils of the old school include the actor Peter Egan and Fred Housego, the taxi driver, who won Mastermind.

The old building at 2 West End Lane was taken over by ‘Teddies Nursery’ in 2004 for about 100 children. This was one of a chain of nurseries run by BUPA. In 2014 the London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS SCITT), took the building to train teachers. It works with more than 70 Church of England schools in London to provide school-based training for students.

Liddell Road plan_July 2014_ft

Camden plans 14-storey tower block for Liddell Road

Liddell Road plan_July 2014

The redevelopment of Liddell Road is a cornerstone of Camden’s plans for West Hampstead. The site is presently occupied by a dwindling number of businesses. Dwindling because Camden, which owns the land, has already begun to terminate their leases and they are trying to find alternative premises.

Liddell Road is slated to be the site for a new local authority primary school opening in September 2016. Technically, this is an expansion of Kingsgate School – although it’s very much a satellite expansion as the two sites are almost a mile apart.

To pay for this school, cash-strapped Camden is planning to build residential flats for private sale on the site alongside an office block. The original plan has been revised and the bulk of the 105 flats will be in a 14-storey high building as well as lower-rise units. That’s higher than the tallest Ballymore block at West Hampstead Square. There is also criticism that Camden has been awarded £6m in central government funding for school building and plans to make a £3m profit from the development, but all that money is to be spent elsewhere rather than some (or all) of it being used to enable some affordable housing in the Liddell Road scheme.

Camden’s quota for affordable housing in any private development is 50% of floorspace. This is rarely met in reality, but many will find it hard to swallow that a development led by the council itself has absolutely no affordable housing whatsoever. It should put more pressure on the development of 156 West End Lane to deliver at or even over quota if West Hampstead is to remain an even slightly mixed community and not become a neighbourhood dominated by two-bed flats of affluent young professionals.

The original proposals was for commercial space for around 130 jobs, which has been raised to 160. This is now being mooted as flexible office space for fast growing small busineses.

School places
The West Hampstead International School – a campaign for an enormous primary/secondary free school – would like the Liddell Road site for its school, and a new free school called Kilburn Grange free school already has Department for Education approval.

It plans to move into the former College of North West London on Priory Park Road in Kilburn once the Marylebone Boys free school, which opens there this September, moves to its permanent home in Paddington a year later. It will offer 420 places, which is precisely the number of primary places locally that are needed. Interestingly, both its consultation meetings are being held in Kingsgate Community Centre, the Camden side of Kilburn, and firmly within the catchment of any expanded Kingsgate School.

Would this mean that the Kingsgate expansion school is still needed? Would it mean that the primary school component of the West Hampstead International School was still needed? To move from too few primary places to too many – and all at the cost of the tallest tower block in West Hampstead – would seem perverse.

Find out more
There are meetings about this (of course). Next week there are public drop-in events
Tuesday July 15th
9am-12pm Sidings Community Centre, 150 Brassey Road
1pm-4pm West Hampstead Community Centre, 17 Dornfell Street
6.30pm-8.30pm Sidings Community Centre
Wednesday 16 July
5pm-8pm West Hampstead library.

The big meeting though is on July 22nd from 7-9pm when there’s a “Devlopment Management Forum” at Sidings Community Centre. If you’re interested in this – for, against, or want to know more – this is the place to come. For more info on the proposal, Camden has a dedicated page.

Dr Clare Craig submits the free school application to the DfE

Schools: What the parties say

It’s fast becoming the most divisive issue in north-west Camden politics. Do we need more schools? What sort of schools? Where should they be? Who should run them?

Primary schools
It’s universally accepted that a new primary school is needed in our part of Camden. Under current legislation, a new school would have to be an academy – i.e., outside of local authority control. The only way round this is to expand an existing school.

Camden council, rightly proud of its primary schools, proposes to expand Kingsgate Primary School, which sits on the corner of Kingsgate Road and Messina Avenue. Kingsgate can’t expand on its existing site. Instead, the council wants to open a remote extension on what is now the Liddell Road industrial estate. We have covered this in some detail before. To fund the expansion, the council plans to allow a private residential development to occupy the rest of the site – controversially with next to no affordable housing, even though it intends to make a £9 million profit on the site (£3m from the housing + the £6m central government funding it has received since the first plans were put forward). It is not clear whether that £9m would be reinvested in West Hampstead, or be dispersed throughout the borough.

Secondary schools
It’s not universally accepted that we need another secondary school. In fact it’s almost impossible to get clarity on the statistics being bandied around by both sides.

Parents campaigning for a new school mix up statistics from different geographic areas: constituency, ward, borough, postcode, which makes it hard to decipher the true need. Here’s the free school page on numbers (including links to the data). Meanwhile, the council argues that its analysis shows that there will be sufficient school places in the borough until 2022/23, including the NW6 area.

The only stat that seems clear cut is that across Camden, eight children ended up without a secondary school place in the last round of allocations.

The group pushing for a free school – already named the West Hampstead International School – submitted its application to the Department for Education about 10 days ago. The application is now for a primary and secondary school, and parents are also eyeing up the Liddell Road site. With 1,600 students, it would be the largest school in Camden when full in 2022, so potential sites are not obvious.

Dr Clare Craig submits the free school application to the DfE

Dr Clare Craig submits the free school application to the DfE

If the free school can’t secure the Liddell Road site, it’s not clear where else it could set up. The campaign website says only “Before securing a site we need to show the Department for Education there is sufficient demand so the school will be full when it opens. We are confident some of the brownfield land at the West Hampstead railway interchange can be secured for the school.”

There are almost no brownfield sites left that would be large enough – 156 West End Lane is large, but would be controversial for a school given the traffic situation on West End Lane. The O2 car park redevelopment would certainly have the size, but is a long way off. There’s likely to be more development of Blackburn Road, which could work but again, it’s not imminent and the school is hoping to take its first children in September 2015.

This issue of location has dogged proposed free schools locally. It’s been widely reported that some of these have had to tell parents who thought their child had a place that they don’t have a site and therefore parents should look at local authority options. The lack of sites is turning out to be a major problem and it’s hard to imagine that parents would have confidence in a school that has yet to secure classrooms but wants to open in 2015.

What do the parties have to say?
Labour opposes the idea of a new secondary school. It disputes the figures that suggest demand, and is pushing hard for the Kingsgate primary expansion on Liddell Road. It has by far the clearest position of the three main parties.

The Conservatives, said council candidate Andrew Parkinson at hustings, are “completely against Liddell Road as a site for a primary school”. In a more considered written response, he said, “Until we are satisfied that a full search for and assessment of other potential sites has been carried out, we will continue to oppose the choice of Liddell Road”.

The party has a manifesto commitment to supporting the free school but doesn’t seem to be throwing its weight behind the statistical analysis suggesting that a new school is needed, simply saying “Local people tell us that there are not enough local state school places for our children.”

Nor are the Tories willing to say where such a school would be located:

As for potential sites apart from Liddell Road, it would be inappropriate to name one site until a full assessment of suitability both for children and residents is carried out. However, the Travis Perkins building has been closed for three years and could potentially support either a primary or secondary school. Further, West Hampstead is to undergo significant change in the next few years as the railway lands (including sites at the O2 centre and Midland Crescent) are developed. The potential for a school to be included within these developments will also need to be fully considered.

Caught between the two seem to be the Liberal Democrats. They have argued against the expansion of Kingsgate to Liddell Road which, according to Cllr John Bryant at Monday night’s hustings, “for educational reasons, we think is wrong”. However, the party is not against Liddell Road being used as a primary school site, arguing that “we do not believe that the planned expansion of Kingsgate School is the right solution, and would prefer to proceed with either a totally new stand-alone primary school or consider the merits of a through school.”

In terms of supporting the free school, the Lib Dems say that they “support local campaigns for new schools, but would wish those schools to form part of the Camden family of schools”, which presumably means that they would come under some form of local authority control. This is broadly in line with national party policy on free schools, which boils down to “knock yourself out, but they’ve got to stick to the national curriculum and use qualified teachers”.

In a lengthy written response, the Lib Dems are keen to point out that they have supported the parents behind the free school campaign (although they acutally stop short of saying they support the proposed school itself), but that they also support Hampstead School as a “good local school.”

Where might a secondary school go?

“We believe that a general review of suitable sites for both primary and secondary school provisions in the West Hampstead and Kilburn area is needed, looking at all possible sites in the area, including Liddell Road itself, but taking full advantage of central government funding to avoid unnecessarily pushing businesses off of the site and using private housing to fund a school there; the 156 West End Lane site and other future development sites including the O2 car park, although it is important to be aware that unlike the other two sites mentioned that is not of course owned by the London Borough of Camden.”

When asked how they would ensure school place provision should the free school application fail, the Lib Dems’ response is

“We would say that the expansion of Emmanuel School and the building of the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage have already gone a considerable way to addressing the shortage of both primary and secondary places in the area.” They continue “Should the WHIS application fail on technical grounds, we would encourage this parents’ group to continue in their efforts to provide further secondary school places in our area, possibly looking outside the precise geographical area of West Hampstead and Fortune Green.”

For the Greens, Leila Mars said at the hustings that the party supports free schools. This is in fact, not Green Party policy. The policy is to bring existing free schools back under local authority control.

UKIP‘s Magnus Nielsen didn’t have anything specifically to say on this issue at hustings, other than to recognise that primary education is very important. This was possibly the least controversial thing he said all evening.

Listen to all the parties’ comments on the schools question from last Monday night’s hustings

Abercorn School in Alfred Court

Camden says no to school on Fortune Green

The lack of a convincing transport plan meant that Camden threw out the proposals to turn the empty ground floor units of Alfred Court into a branch of Abercorn private school (that’s the modern block of flats that looks over the park).

Abercorn School in Alfred Court

Camden cited five reasons for refusal, of which four are related to the transport issues that had local residents understandably up in arms, and which you can read much more about here.

1) The proposed private school, by reason of its catchment, reliance on private transport, unsatisfactory arrangements for on-site servicing and parking for the proposed use, would result in an unsustainable development, detrimental to the operation of the site and contributing to congestion in the local area and highway safety impacts on and near to the site.

2) The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement requiring a management plan for the school, would be likely to result in unacceptable impact on the site and local area

3) The proposed development, in the absence of a Workplace and Student Travel Plan, would be likely to give rise to significantly increased car-borne trips and would result in a unsustainable form of development

4) The proposed development, in the absence of a legal agreement to secure a delivery and servicing management plan, would be likely to contribute unacceptably to traffic disruption, and would be detrimental to the amenities of the area generally

5) The proposal, in the absence of a legal agreement securing contributions towards Camden’s Pedestrian, Environmental and Safety improvement initiative would fail to undertake external works outside the application site, and would fail to secure adequate provision for the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles

Abercorn School could appeal of course, but even back in August it seemed as if this location was a hedge rather than the preferred strategy.

Local residents will be pleased. Bafflingly, the local Conservatives are trying to take some credit for the council throwing the idea out despite a extremely high number of comments from individual residents and collectively from the residents of the block itself.

LiddellRoadwalk

Kingsgate school expands… a mile away

While debate rages on whether we need a new secondary school in the area, younger children are almost certainly getting a “new school”. Why the quote marks? Well, it’s not technically a new school, because that would add to the bureaucratic hoops – it’s going to be an extension to Kingsgate School, only it probably won’t be anywhere near Kingsgate’s existing premises.

The plan has been floating around for some time – Camden agreed to the idea in July 2012 – but this week we moved into the consultation phase. This might seem like a no-brainer. Population projections predict demand; Kingsgate – deemed to be outstanding by OFSTED – is already bursting at the seams, so lets build a new school.

Kingsgate has two classes for each year group (60 children). The expansion will allow it to double that to 120 children. They’ll be split across the sites by age. The new site will teach 360 kids aged 4-7, and provide nursery places for 52 children aged 3-4. The existing Kingsgate site will teach the 8-11 year olds

Where?
Camden has identified Liddell Road as its preferred site for a new school. Where’s that, you ask. It’s the light industrial estate just off Maygrove Road that you may have walked past but have almost certainly never walked into unless you work in one of the businesses there.

LiddellRoadwalk

How’s it funded?
Here’s the bit that’s going to cause more challenges. To fund the school, the council also needs to build 100 homes on the site. Yep. 100 more homes coming to West Hampstead. The local businesses that are already there? They’ll have to move out. There’ll be some “employment space” as part of the development, but as we’ve seen with Handrail House on Maygrove Road, it’s not always easy to lure in office-based businesses to the area.

LiddellRoadplan

Confusingly, in what seems like a Kafkaesque move, there will be two consultations and two separate proposals. The first, running now, is for the school. The second will come next year and will be for the rest of the development. But the two are inextricably linked, so it’s hard to imagine that if the school is given the go-ahead that the rest of the development wouldn’t be a done deal.

There are lots of questions that need to be addressed: Will the developments around the new school will be right for the area? What’s the catchment area of the new dual-site school to be? Will the housing be affordable to ordinary people, or will it be sold off to investors as looks to be happening at West Hampstead Square? Will the employment space be designated as office only, or will workshops and studios be allowed in (for which there does appear to be some demand)? How will parents with children at both sites manage? Will it increase traffic?

An integrated plan would surely make more sense and then residents could discuss how the whole thing might work. I don’t get the sense that too many people object to the idea of a new primary school, nor especially to the location, but there are a lot of other considerations if this is to be a successful development.

Assuming the Neighbourhood Development Plan is ratified in the referendum next year, this will be the first major development over which it will have some influence. It will be an interesting test case as this development touches on housing, the local economy, public services, green spaces and transport. If Camden rides roughshod over NDP policies, it will serve notice to any developer that “Localism” is merely a sop to the community rather than something with statutory teeth.

What’s the timeframe?
The school consultation runs from now to October 15th. The results will be presented as part of a business case report to Camden cabinet in December. The separate consultation on the design for the redevelopment of Liddell Road will take place in 2014 as part of the planning application process assuming the school is approved.

In early 2015, the school will consult on any changes to its admissions policy in January and February, with the policy being determined in April 15. Businesses will have left the site (vacant possession) and the works will start, running through to the summer of 2016. The new school would open at the start of the 2016/17 school year.

To respond to the consultation, and find out a bit more information, head to Camden’s dedicated webpage or download the leaflet.

Clare_Craig_NW6_School

NW6 School campaign: Camden vs. parents

The debate over whether West Hampstead does or doesn’t need an additional school – likely a free school – has been raging on for some months. I have found the claims and counter-claims hard to track and harder to verify as both sides draw on various sets of data to prove their point.

The story took an unnecessarily personal turn on the front page of the Ham & High a couple of weeks ago when an unnamed Labour source described the parents campaigning for a free school as “snobs”. The argument was that Hampstead School, which is to the north-west of our area, is a perfectly good school and parents who wanted a state education for their children should send them there.

Rather than wade into the debate myself, I thought I’d let the two most important people have their say on these pages. First, Dr Clare Craig. Dr Craig has been the most public face of the NW6 School campaign team. After she sets out her stall, Cllr. Angela Mason, Camden’s cabinet member for children, explains why the council believes there is no need for an additional school. (If you’re familiar with the story, you can jump straight to the debate in the comments section).

The campaigners

Dr Clare Craig

After being called “middle class, church-going snobs” in the Ham & High last week by a ‘well placed Labour party source’, I would like to explain the real reasons we are going to open a new school and why it needs to be at the heart of West Hampstead. The unnamed source implied that we put the needs of our own children above that of our community. This could not be further from the truth. Ours is a large group of concerned parents, from all walks of life, and from varied religious backgrounds and ethnic groups, who recognise a problem that Labour does not seem to want to acknowledge: there simply aren’t enough secondary school places to go around.

Only a handful of constituencies have fewer secondary school places than Hampstead and Kilburn across the UK. Against this background we can add two straws which will break the camel’s back: the first is a dramatic population boom that will launch us into the top 20% of constituencies for number of 11 year olds by 2016, and we’ll still be climbing that league table thereafter; the second is the arrival of new children due to the unprecedented level of housing developments planned in and around our area.

Current situation
The Hampstead and Kilburn constituency has only three state secondary schools: Hampstead School, UCL Academy and Queens Park Community School. They are all oversubscribed and the latter two have tiny geographical catchment areas. Brent and Camden Councils are responsible for ensuring enough schools across their boroughs but both have neglected our area. The distribution of Camden schools shows the black hole that has been allowed to develop.

Camden schools. click for larger version
Schools in the Hampstead & Kilburn constituency

The result of this shortage is that in 2010 49% of state school children from West Hampstead, Fortune Green and Kilburn wards found places out of Camden. There are no good schools just over the borough borders and children end up travelling a long way to attend Barnet grammar schools or church schools elsewhere.

The opening of the UCL Academy reduced the proportion travelling to 36% for the year in which it opened. However, the already tiny catchment area shrank further this year and is likely to continue doing so: It thus offers no practical solution for children from our three wards.

Our population explosion
The next few years will see a frighteningly sharp increase in the number of children searching for a secondary school place. Across Hampstead and Kilburn there are 1106 11 year olds this year. This will rise to 1300 in 2016 and 1380 by 2019, without taking into account additional children arriving from the many new housing developments. By 2016 we estimate there will be 184 extra children looking for a school place from population growth alone.

In terms of provision, there will still be only three schools in the whole constituency – the average London constituency has six. These three have places for 590 children (rising to 600 from 2016 with a slight expansion of Queens Park Community School). Brent Council, which is responsible for 35% of Hampstead & Kilburn’s intake, now sees this as a problem; Camden, by contrast, is responsible for 65% of constituency’s children (and 80% of the forecast increase), and yet senior councillors deny that there is a problem.

No. of 11-year-olds* No. of state school places** No. currently finding alternative schooling Deficit
2013 1,106 590 516 0
2016 1,300 600 516 184
2019 1,380 600 516 264
*These figures are calculated by modeling population changes between the 2001 and 2011 censuses and assuming a constant drop out rate for each age cohort, over the next 10 years.
**Hampstead school has 210 places, UCL Academy 180 and Queens Park Community School has 200 increasing to 210 in 2016.

Camden is predicting that the number of secondary school places in our area is about to peak and will then flatten off. Camden secures its planning data from the Greater London Assembly. Camden officials agree that the population is rising rapidly; but they believe that the GLA’s formula works well for predicting the proportion of children who will take up a state school place. Camden seems to think that the extra children are a ‘problem’ that must be addressed by the private sector and not by Camden. So what are parents who can’t afford to send their children to private school supposed to do?

We believe the Council’s analysis of provision outside state schools is flawed and shockingly complacent for a number of reasons:

First, it is unrealistic to expect the private sector to add places for a growing number of Camden families – instead, we are likely to see prices increase, with little if any additional capacity. Contrary to perception, the proportion of children attending private schools within our campaign’s target area is in fact lower than the Camden average (26% vs. 31%). Also West Hampstead has not become more wealthy between the two censuses unlike other inner London areas

Camden should not be relying on the private sector as an opt-out from its responsibilities, and in the current economic climate it is reprehensible to take the view that ever more parents should pay twice for their children to receive an education. It seems doubly bizarre for this reliance on the fee-paying sector to come from Labour councillors, many of whom have long opposed the very principle of private education on ideological grounds.

Secondly, the projections assume that a constant proportion of places will be provided in neighbouring boroughs, when in reality the well-publicised shortages across London mean that out-of-borough provision is likely to shrink and has already started shrinking for our three wards from 39% of all children, in 2010 to 32% in 2011 and 24% in 2012.

Thirdly, the benefit from the opening of the popular UCL Academy is highly localised, and offers little to address the problem in the most under-supplied parts of the borough.

Finally, the GLA formula has been shown to fail when a new school is built and is supported by the whole community. It is fair to assume that the GLA formula will also be less effective at times of dramatic, rather than gradual population growth.

Camden have told us that there is a strong possibility that some of our children would be able to get a place at some of the state schools in the east of the borough. They don’t seem to realise that parents want to know their child can get into a school, not just have an increasing possibility of doing so. What we really want is a local school where a cohort of children from the local primaries move on to secondary together. What we have now is a scattering of our primary children all over London and a breaking up of the strong community bonds that have formed.

The Travis Perkins building
Since our campaign for a school started, Camden has been falling over itself to sell off the most obvious site for placing a secondary school.

The Travis Perkins building has commercial leases running until December 2016 yet Camden will be taking bids for the freehold up until 19th September 2013.

This site would be ideal because it:

  • is at the heart of the gap in schools
  • is council owned
  • is big enough
  • has plenty of social housing nearby
  • has neighbouring public open space including a sports court
  • is by the railway sidings reducing the objections in the planning process
  • already has a large building that could be adapted.

We believe this shows that Camden’s real intentions are to obstruct any thoughts of new schooling on purely ideological grounds.

We are trying to create a school for the whole community in a part of London that has always been neglected for schooling. We are working hard to identify the best educational partners to will help us to achieve this vision. In the meantime, you can help by telling parents of school-aged children that we need their support. We need parents to give us their emails so we can contact them, once we have a concrete plan, to ask if they would send their child to the new school. You can do that here.
NW6 School Campaign team

* * *

Camden council

Cllr. Angela Mason

There has been a lot of discussion in the area and in the pages of the Ham and High about whether a new secondary school is needed in the north west of the borough. I know what an important issue this is and I have been increasingly concerned that the true position is being lost amongst the welter of publicity. It is particularly important that parents have the right information in arriving at the choices open to them as part of the 2014 secondary school admissions process, the closing date for which is 31 October.

As I understand the position, a group of parents from NW6 is concerned about securing places in a local secondary school. They are concerned that they will be forced either to go out of borough or to leave the area. They do not believe that Camden’s school place planning takes into account housing development in Camden or neighbouring boroughs. They also believe that historically a high proportion of children from NW6 have attended private schools and that this may decrease in the future with insufficient provision within Camden’s maintained schools to accommodate them.

School place planning projections
It is important to start with what the Council is required to do in law. We must ensure that there are sufficient school places in the area. For secondary education, the area is defined as the borough of Camden. We fulfil this duty by comparing the availability of places in our schools with the need for places expressed by parental preference. Parents, for a whole host of reasons, choose to send their children to different schools, some in Camden, some in other boroughs and some to private schools.

We use data provided by the Greater London Assembly (GLA) team that collates information across London to arrive at projections of the need for school places in each London borough. The basis of these projections is the past patterns of admission to schools, based on the preferences for schools that parents have shown. We take this information and check it with our own local data. The sources of information include all known housing developments within Camden, so the additional growth that the campaigners talk about is taken into account in our projections.

Our neighbouring boroughs go through the same process and are also making plans for dealing with population growth in their own areas.

What the analysis shows is that will be sufficient school places in the borough until 2022/23, including the NW6 area. Our detailed analysis is set out in our annual school place planning report.

It is important to stress what the place planning projections and the Council’s duty don’t do. We can’t provide for unlimited choice. Indeed we are not allowed in law to propose schools where there is no need for a school. If we did, there would be schools with large numbers of vacancies and this would not be a good use of public money, particularly in the current climate.

Review of admissions’ information
We have also looked at information about admissions in response to the concern from parents about getting a place in a Camden school.

To set the scene, wherever you live, you may apply for a place at a state school in any London borough or other area. Parents can name up to six schools that should be listed in preference order on the application form.

It should be noted that the definition of the NW6 area used by the campaign changes, dependent on data/information available. The campaign has used two definitions: first, those Camden residents with an NW6 postcode (parts of Fortune Green, Kilburn, Swiss Cottage and West Hampstead wards) and second an NW6 ‘proxy’ based on Fortune Green, Kilburn, and West Hampstead wards in their entirety i.e. not Swiss Cottage.

It is not disputed that only a proportion of NW6 Camden residents are offered a Camden secondary school. Using three wards above as a proxy, 63%, 54% and 45% for 2012/13, 2011/12 and 2010/11 respectively of applicants from these wards are offered a place in a Camden school. These figures reflect the fact that many NW6 residents put out of borough schools as a higher preference than a Camden school. If they obtain their higher preference place in the out of borough school they are not then considered for their lower preference Camden school.

A number of parents opt for nearby schools in Westminster, particularly Quintin Kynaston which is on the border and St. Augustines CofE Secondary and St Georges RC school.

Analysis of Year 7 applications from NW6 residents shows that a high percentage have been offered one of their top three preference schools whether inside or outside the borough. For 2012/13, 56% of NW6 applicants received their 1st preference school and 84% received one of their top three preferences by September 2012 with comparative figures for all Camden resident applicants (59% and 81% respectively).

It is not true to say, as the campaign suggests, that NW6 residents don’t obtain Camden places because of a shortage. In the latest admissions round for September 2013, 103 of the 190 Camden residents from NW6 (using NW6 postcode) have been offered places at a number of Camden schools, based on parental preference. However, of the total of 190, all 68 applicants from Fortune Green and West Hampstead wards could have been accommodated at Hampstead School as they are closer to the school than many of those non-Camden residents being offered a place. Furthermore, the majority (if not all) of the 122 NW6 applicants from Kilburn and Swiss Cottage could have been accommodated at one of the five non-denominational schools in the north of the borough, including the UCL academy.

If parents had made a local Camden school a higher preference, the likelihood is that they would have been successful in obtaining a place in a Camden school. My job as Cabinet Member is to work with schools to get the message out there of the really good education in Camden’s existing schools so that more NW6 parents choose to send their children to Camden schools, where we have enough places to provide an excellent education for them.
Angela Mason

Abercorn School in Alfred Court

Is Abercorn School hedging its bets?

It’s been several months since Abercorn School announced it was interested in moving into the vacant ground-floor unit at Alfred Court – a formal application has been submitted, but is this just a backup plan?

The private school based in St John’s Wood was looking for somewhere to expand and seemed to think that this site, in the modern bulding that overlooks Fortune Green, would be a viable option. Initial resident feedback wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.

No formal plans were submitted and people began to wonder whether the idea had been quietly shelved. Then, in late July an application was submitted. You can view the whole document here.

Architects’ impression from across the road

Residents have objected in no uncertain terms. Traffic is the big problem and the lengthy transport assessment document that forms part of the application has done nothing to ease locals’ concerns. I’ve added some of the main statistics and a few quotes from residents at the end of this piece.

But is all this (understandable) wailing and gnashing of teeth necessary. A letter from the High Mistress Andrea Greystoke sent to parents in early July, and kindly forwarded to West Hampstead Life, says

I promised to keep you updated on the expansion issue. We are still waiting on lawyers, planners, etc. but I can tell you that we do hope some time in the next 12 months to move our Wyndham Place pupils (Years 4-8) to magnificent premises on Portland Place. The larger space in that building will enable us to give a much enhanced offering to our older pupils. The exact timing is still uncertain—watch this space!! As you are aware this street is much closer to our existing premises than our previous option, and I hope when we do move, it will prove a seamless transition.

Are we meant to infer from this that Fortune Green, which is surely the “previous option”, is now no more than a backup plan or a temporary solution should there be problems with the Portland Place site? I am waiting to hear back from the school on this. It’s also possible that since that letter was sent out the Portland Place site has fallen through so they have had to press ahead with Fortune Green. Either way, something doesn’t quite add up.

Talking of not adding up… here are some of the details on the transport situation. If you are a local resident and want to object then there’s plenty to get your teeth into.

“Due to the transport strategy, local residents on and off the site will not experience any adverse effects as predicted traffic flows will still be well within capacity of the current site access.”

Local residents disagree. Here are just three comments sent to Camden:

As a long term resident I have seen traffic and specifically parking problems exacerbate since the Council approved the whole Sager development. Ingham road is used as a parking/drop off place for Tesco customers, gym attendees and the nursery school. Buses already cannot pass each other due to the unmonitored parking.

As a local Resident I am very concerned about the drop off and pick up points from School Buses and Cars. This road is already busy at Mornings and evenings. I have read the proposed transport section and just do not believe that people will not use their cars causing chaos on Fortune green road and the adjacent roads

We are already experiencing enormous congestion and parking problems from the users of the Gym on Fortune Green Road as also people who park to shop at the Tesco store on Fortune Green Road. Not only is parking difficult through out the day but jams are caused by the volume of parking on Fortune Green Road and deliveries by Tesco lorries. A school will add still further with the inevitable large numbers of drop off and collections by parents, minibuses and buses. There is simply no capacity for this in an already very congested environment.

You get the idea.

The transport assessment goes into inordinate detail about the “pick-up/drop-off strategy”, which involves parents driving into the basement car park and number plate recogntiion technology alerting school staff as to which child they have to go and meet (the youngest children are 8, not 5). Hard to imagine that, despite the Bat Cave approach, most parents won’t just drop their kids off as near as they can to the front door rather than go through all that palaver.

The school’s masterplan is that most of the kids would be bussed from its other site in Abercorn Place in St John’s Wood. The theory is that most children live around there, so they can get to the Abercorn Place site as usual and then be ferried up to Fortune Green. That’s assuming that parents would prefer this, which no doubt means an earlier start, than doing the school run themselves. However, this still means three buses in the morning and three in the afternoon. The transport strategy claims that

A school bus would only stop for the minimum time required to pick up or drop off pupils who are accompanied at all times by a teacher on the bus. There is no need for a school bus to wait here.

Such punctuality would be astounding.

One reader who used to live near Abercorn Place snapped a photo of one of the buses waiting at 3.30pm outside Abercorn school. “Abercorn Place is a very wide road, and relatively traffic free, yet still the bus causes problems. It is a regular occurrence seeing these buses in these stops, and there for a significant period of time, 25 mins+”

Not driving but waiting

There’s also a strange assumption that all kids coming by public bus would take the 328, but how many actually live near the 328 bus route? Some do, most don’t. This map (click to enlarge) shows at postcode level (not address level) where existing pupils live. You can decide for yourself whether it’s optimistic to suggest that all the kids living where the blue stars are will faithfully take the school bus every day.

The transport survey is phenomenally detailed, especially if you get into the appendices. However, one group of local residents have retaliated with a pretty detailed assessment of their own that focuses (rather cleverly) less on the issues of traffic congestion and more on the emotive topic of child safety.

If you want to express your view to Camden on this, all the details are here.

Alfred Court

School to move in to Alfred Court?

Abercorn School is a three-site private school based in St John’s Wood and Marylebone that takes children from 2 1/2 to 13. Each site takes a different age group.

Now, the school is seeking to open a school for 7-13 year-olds in the vacant unit of Alfred Court (also known locally as the Sager Building) on Fortune Green Road. It’s always been an oddity that this unit hasn’t been sold, but I don’t think many people would have predicted a school to try and move in.

Alfred Court from across Fortune Green
Photo via CZWG architects

The school would need to apply for a change of use from Camden and it’s likely that residents in the area will have questions about the implications for traffic, parking, and noise.

The High Mistress (which sounds more a title you’d find at Hogwarts rather than Grange Hill) Andrea Greystoke has already been in touch with the Neighbourhood Development Forum, and there will be a public exhibition on the site on December 17th and 18th that locals will be able to attend.

Hampstead Cricket Club to become temporary school

When I gatecrashed the Crediton Hill Residents Association meeting a few weeks ago, it wasn’t just to see how many of the celebs who live on West Hampstead’s poshest road I could spot. It was also a great opportunity to catch up on the proposal to turn part of the cricket club land into a temporary school – temporary being two years. The proposal went before Camden’s Development Control committee last Thursday and was narrowly passed.

The background
South Hampstead High School, a private girls school in Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead, is undergoing an enormous refurbishment/rebuilding program. It had initially hoped that the school could function around these works, but it became increasingly clear this was not viable, so an alternative was needed.

The school is run by an organisation called The Girls’ Day School Trust, which conveniently owns the cricket club land in Lymington Road. So, the proposal is to relocate the majority of the school to the cricket club for two years while work is carried out. Despite owning the land, this isn’t something the school can do without planning permission as it’s a change of use and requires the present day squash courts to be knocked down (and then rebuilt afterwards). All the details are in the document below (the tick marks show the most important pages).

South Hampstead High School Design Access Statement (annotated)
Crediton Hill voices concern
The idea has been discussed for some months now but, although public meetings have been held, judging by the mood at the residents association meeting (held in the bar in the cricket club itself) some local residents remain sceptical. The primary concern is traffic and parking, noise is a secondary concern, and for actor, local resident, and keen cricketer Greg Wise, the risk of girls invading the cricket pitch itself.

The deputation from the school and developers handled the discussion rather well I though – if a little caught on the back foot initially. They argued that today, some 80% of their 500 pupils walk or cycle to school, and that they are working very hard to explain to parents that driving their child to the new site is a bad idea. Maresfield Gardens is about a 10 minute walk away from the sports ground, and depending where you live a child’s new route to school might involve walking down the less than user-friendly Finchley Road. It’s hard to believe that some parents – especially of younger children – won’t be tempted at least initially to run their kids down rather than have them walk further along a busy road. Of course, the reverse also holds true and perhaps some kids will now live nearer and that will make life easier for them.

There is simply no parking along Lymington Road, so a little bit of coordination with Camden council could see revenues from parking tickets soar!

Aside from the traffic, noise is understandably a concern – one resident who works from home, clearly envisages two years of high-pitched screaming ahead of her. The school argued that while, of course, some noise was inevitable at breaktimes and as pupils arrive and leave, the girl at South Hampstead were generally a well-behaved lot and there were so many school activities organized at lunchtimes that they weren’t generally running around the place. Lunch would be held in the large room in the cricket club.

The deputy head also explained that not all the children would be on the site at any one time – most sixth formers and approximately a fifth of the other pupils would be at the Maresfield Gardens site as some lessons will stay there (I think largely for science, so no bunsen burners to burn down the portacabins… temporary modular accommodation. Equally, she was sure that the girls would respect the wicket and although they couldn’t be stopped from walking over the outfield of a lunchtime [here she adopted a slightly steely gaze and politely reminded Mr Wise that the school owned the land], many of the girls were keen on sports and would quite understand.

Some residents were keen to pin the school’s deputation down on exactly how many children, teachers, and other staff would be on site at any one time, but given that the existing site will still be operational, this number seemed hard to come by but around 400 seemed to be the broad consensus.

Over to Camden
On the surface, this might have looked like a fairly simple decision. A school needs land, whether its private or state-owned. The school owns the land, and visually it is not an eyesore. In fact, it turned out to be a rather contentious application. The planning officer’s report, which recommends apprival is below.

Camden Report on SHHS Hampstead CC Application – annotated
There were strong objections here from residents of Alvanley Gardens and from West Hampstead ward councillor Keith Moffitt (who does not sit on the Development Control committee). The objections boil down to three topics: increased risk of flooding, noise and traffic. The flooding issue is hard to understand without diving into the details, but given that hard surface tennis courts are going to be built on I’m certainly not sure what the additional impact is meant to be – it would be different if the units were being built on grass or open land.

Cllr Marshall made the point that it’s hard to consider noise at school breaktimes as a serious planning consideration in an urban area, especially when one factors in that this is weekdays, working hours, and term times only. The planning officer pointed out that noise is a legitimate planning consideration, but far more so for a restaurant open in the evenings than for a school active only during weekdays. Cllr Freeman suggested that it was a sad indictment of our times when the innocent noise of schoolchildren is deemed offensive.

Traffic was unsurprisingly by far the most legitimate consideration. There was some disagreement about the impact on traffic, with the school arguing that it is putting in place all sorts of measures to mitigate the impact on traffic – and from the meeting I went to on this, I believe they really are doing this. At the same time, it’s “a stretch” as Cllr Marshall put it, to believe that parents are going to drop their kids at the Maresfield site and let them walk down.

For Cllr Simpson and others, the traffic plan currently in place was simply too vague. There was a high degree of scepticism that any attempts to dissuade parents from dropping their kids off could be enforced; concern about the girls crossing the Finchley Road; and general worry about a main east/west road being cluttered up with cars at peak morning times. My personal view on this is that the school should be given the benefit of the doubt but that the situation should be very carefully monitored and if traffic and short-term parking levels become unaccpetably high, then further action should be taken.

There was a broader point that the Girls Day School Trust is a wealthy organisation, so although it’s clear that trying to combine the work on the Maresfield site with the running of the school would add substantially to the time taken for the build, and thus the cost, this shouldn’t mean that local residents have to suffer for two years as a result of saving money. I suppose a counter argument is that the pupils deserve a reasonably quiet educational environment with minimal disruption, especially those in exam years – and that is independent of their parents’ ability to afford a private education.

There was also some confusion about the number of pupils on site at any given time. The vote was taken as to whether to grant planning permission conditional on a limit of 500 pupils (which is the size of the school, so not going to be breached, and who’s going to count anyway) and, more importantly, a much stronger travel plan to be submitted ahead of work starting on the site.

On that basis, the decision was approved by six vote to five.
Councillors in favor: Hayward, Apak, Freeman, Marshall, Braithwaite, Nuti.
Councillors against: Simpson, Gimson, Rea, Risso-Gill, Sanders.

The whole webcast of the discussion is available below:

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