Joy as new Archway school building plans approved

Ashmount School

Ashmount School - Credit: Archant

Parents and teachers cheered and wept with joy as plans were finally approved for a new school to be built on the site of the former Ashmount Primary School

The decision follows years of planning disputes, which have left pupils being taught in portacabins on the school grounds.

Earlier this year, construction of the Whitehall Park free school at the site in Hornsey Lane, Hornsey Rise, was delayed due to changes to the design of the government-funded building, which is estimated to cost £5.6 million.

As part of the latest plans, the existing school building will be demolished, and a smaller, three-storey, flat-roofed building will be constructed for the two-form entry school for pupils aged four to 11.

After the decision was announced at Islington Town Hall on Tuesday night, parents were elated.

Laura Birkett, the head teacher at Whitehall Park School – who was in tears, said: “I am overwhelmed and so excited. We are finally going to have a real school after a year in portable cabins.”

Alex Rumford, who has two children at the school, was also at the meeting.

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He said: “I’m thrilled – it’s been a long time coming. When I told my son, he was relieved that he is going to get to go to a proper school and be in a proper classroom.”

The unanimous decision, which was made at a planning meeting on Tuesday evening, follows a long battle over what to do with the site, which became vacant after Ashmount Primary School moved

to Crouch Park Hill in January 2013.

The council originally planned to use the site for social housing, declaring that the school was surplus to requirements.

These plans, however, were rejected by the then Education Secretary Michael Gove, who gave the green light for a new free school to be built on the site.

Free schools are part of the government’s flagship policy which allows teachers, parents or businesses to open their own schools independent of the local authority.

Although councillors claimed that the extra school places were not needed, the Department for Education insisted that demand was high.

A Freedom of Information request later revealed that the new school had received 72 applications from parents to send their children there in the reception year. However, only 56 places are available.

At this week’s planning meeting, only one objection was made.

James Dunnett, of the Islington Society, claimed that the original school building, which was designed by Henry Thomas Cadbury-Brown in 1953 and is locally listed, should be conserved as it has historical and architectural significance.

He said: “The existing school buildings are too important for their fate to be sealed after a decision-making process that has been as unsatisfactory as it has been so far.”

Nick Taylor, the agent for the planning application, said that the current building was “simply past its sell-by-date” and “in dire need of repair”.

It did not even have corridors, meaning that pupils had to walk through one classroom to another.

The new site, he claimed, would bring considerable benefits both to the school and the wider community.

These include lifts for disabled students, corridors, a games area that can also be used by the public, affordable housing to the south of the site, and more efficient energy consumption.