Go-ahead for Holloway special needs school leaves pensioner in tears and green activists ‘gutted’

Friends of Mary Magdelene Gardens

Friends of Mary Magdelene Gardens - Credit: Archant

»A pensioner was left in tears and a conservation group say they are “gutted” after a plan for a special school near a park was given the nod.

On Monday an Islington Council planning committee gave the green light to The Courtyard, a school for children with autism, on the site of the former coroner’s court close to St Mary Magdalene Gardens.

But the Friends of St Mary Magadalene Gardens (FSMMG) believe that a road allowing vehicle access to the school will put park users at risk, as well as damaging the garden’s green space.

Meanwhile 78-year-old Eileen Richardson, who lives in the mortuary keeper’s cottage within the gardens, has been left distraught by the news – Ms Richardson has lived in the cottage for 46 years and is worried about her privacy and loiterers dumping rubbish.

She said: “I just don’t know what to do. The decision has caused me a lot of stress and I’m very upset.”

Val Hammon, vice chair of FSMMG, said: “We are absolutely gutted with the decision; we actually thought that Cllr Martin Klute [ committee chairman] was sympathetic to our views but he clearly got absolutely no support in the committee meeting. We feel let down.”

The Courtyard, a new development by the nearby St Mary Magdelene Academy, has space for 36 pupils with learning difficulties and will be Islington’s fourth special school.

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Cllr Klute said: “At the moment pupils with special needs who aren’t schooled locally are being bussed out of the borough, so the development of this new facility is an improvement for them and their families.”

Paul Hollingum, head of the academy, claimed that the members of the FSMMG were “completely wrong” and that he didn’t think they were “educationalists”.


The FSMMG has come under criticism since publically opposing the development, with some people questioning why they want to stand in the way of developing facilities for children with special needs.

Mrs Hammon, a primary schoolteacher, said: “We have absolutely nothing against the building of special schools for children with autism whatsoever. But just not here.”

A date is still to be set for work to start.