Plans to turn Highbury office block next to two comprehensives into free school branded ‘extremely foolish’
- Credit: Archant
Plans to turn a Highbury office block into a secondary free school on the doorstep of two comprehensives were this week greeted with scorn by the community.
A public meeting was held at Highbury Fields School last night to discuss the future of Ladbroke House, which the government bought for £33.5m and plans to turn into a 1,000-pupil school with a specialism in film.
The plans – expected to be submitted to Islington Council by the Mellor Trust in January – include a provision of luxury flats on the site to help finance the school.
Chairing the meeting was Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s children and young people boss, who encouraged the floor to give their own views on the proposals through an independent consultation launched on the night.
Highbury Fields headteacher Gladys Berry opened the meeting by talking through some of the challenges facing her school and nearby Highbury Grove School.
“The pavements around our schools are narrow and there is an incredible amount of traffic. So I think the idea of adding in 1,000 students is extremely foolish,” she said.
“Who in their right mind would plonk another secondary school here with no thought to the population?
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“Another matter to consider is that there are a lot of primary schools in the area.”
Rachel Archer, who is vice-president of the Islington National Union of Teachers, was one of many on the night who called for the building to be used for the development of 60 or 70 units of “key worker housing”.
She said: “We do not have a free school crisis in this area, but we do have a housing crisis, especially for teachers who want to live in the community and start a family.
“This building could be used to house people in frontline services such as teachers and social workers.”
Julie Horten of the Highbury Community Association – a group that represents more than 950 residents and businesses in Highbury, Holloway and Finsbury Park – said the trust need to shed more light on its plans.
“We are very anxious about this development, with safety a primary concern,” she said. “The area around Ladbroke House is already a nightmare.
“It seems like the only place that an extra thousand students can go is on the road.
“We must keep our children safe.”
But Karen Sullivan, head of planning at the town hall, said that Ladbroke House is already listed as an education setting because it was last occupied by London Metropolitan University.
“We can’t refuse the plans on the basis of its proposed use as a school,” she said, “but it can fail on other factors such as various transport and traffic assessments.”
Representatives of the Mellor Trust were contacted about the meeting, but did not attend on the night.
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