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A desperate attempt to salvage 50 new homes at a site picked for a new free school has been launched by Islington Council.

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The town hall is offering a compromise to the government’s plans to open two new schools at the former Ashmount Primary School building in Hornsey Rise, where the government plans to run two free schools from September.

The council closed the school in 2012, rebuilding it in Crouch Hill, and had hoped to sell the land for affordable housing, freeing up £3.5million to cover the cost and providing 82 new homes.

However, residents opposed plans – saying that the area was crying out for a new school – and were supported by Education Secretary Michael Gove who has earmarked the site for the Whitehall Park Free School and the new Bridge Integrated Learning Space Free School.

But the council have attacked the plans, saying there is no demand for school places in the north of the borough. In plans set to go before a meeting of its executive on January 6, the town hall is proposing that half the site is used for the new free school while the Bridge school is merged with the New River College Primary PRU in Barnsbury, in a new building.

Cllr Joe Calouri, Islington’s member for education, said: “We’re opposed to the idea of a school at the site as we don’t need the places, but given that, we have still come up with what we think is a reasonable compromise.

“We suggest that half the site is used for the free school and the other half used for approximately 50 units of affordable housing.”

Cllr Calouri said that the council had already accepted that it will not be receiving the £3.5m, but sees the this resolution as a “score draw”.

However, in a statement on its website, residents group Ashmount Site Action Group (ASAG) have said they are not happy with anything other than the whole site being used for the school.

They say that anything less would not give the children enough outside space.

A statement on the group’s site reads: “In confining the site and thereby stopping the proposed school obtaining a natural and healthy growth, LBI feel they can still obtain profits from their high density housing proposals while once more ignoring the wishes of the community and, indeed, the school providers.

“ASAG is continuing to fight for Whitehall Park School to occupy the full, legitimate-sized site when it opens in September 2014.”

In response Cllr Calouri said: “The previous school on the site was a three form school, but under our proposal this would only be a two form school.

“We recognise that Islington children will be attending the school and we’ve looked at how much space they will have and it will be fair for the kids.”

Whitehall Park is already taking applications for the new school year in September.

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