17 April 2009

Listing for Lewisham Bridge School Site - Your Thoughts

Cllr Sue Luxton reported on her blog about the recent decision to grant the existing primary school at Lewisham Bridge grade II listing.

What this means for plans for the site at Lewisham Bridge is not clear. Additionally as a member of a planning committee that might be called upon to determine a formal planning application, I will need to review all the relevant evidence prepared by Lewisham's officers before I can reach a decision on the particular application.

However the Mayor has taken a somewhat more robust approach to the plans with his press release today:

Lewisham Council has vowed to use all available processes to get the project to provide a new secondary school in the north of the borough back on track.
The declaration has come after the shock decision by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), on the advice of English Heritage, to list Lewisham Bridge primary school. The Council had been about to demolish the school to make way for a brand new state-of-the-art all-age school providing 835 pupils with the best possible learning environment, the latest technology and inspiring new surroundings.
“This decision beggars belief,” said Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock. “It has been made by an undisclosed civil servant with no regard whatsoever for local need. The future prospects of our children and young people cannot be sacrificed for the sake of somebody’s fancy for Edwardian sinks, butterfly designs and tiling.
“Protecting our heritage is important, but while there must be hundreds of schools like this across London, the Lewisham Bridge site is uniquely suited to provide a desperately needed new school to serve the children, young people and families of this area. We know that from our exhaustive searches and consultation over recent years. We have looked at no less than 29 sites, this was the only possible realistic option.
“I will be doing everything I can to get this project back on track.”
The Council will be writing to the Secretary of State at the DCMS to object to the listing. It has until 6 May to do this.
Even if the building remains listed it may still be possible to get consent to demolish.
Lewisham needs additional secondary school capacity to meet current needs and its population is growing, with increased housing capacity on the Sundermead Estate, Heathside and in the Lewisham corridor of the Thames Gateway. The Lewisham Bridge site, close to all these new developments, is ideally located to meet the demand for new school places this will create.

The press release explains that Lewisham has 28 days to formally object to the listing - what do you think?

There's a poll on my blog.


Andrew Brown said...

On the face of it the decision seems odd, and as someone with kids who is hoping that the new secondary school will be ready by the time they need it, I really hope it'll be overturned on appeal.

thomas said...

Bullocks comments beggar belief! Has this philistine no sense of history or architectural heritage? This is a beautiful building that local people (not just heritage experts in Whitehall) cherish and want to see retained, preferably in school use.

We need local political leaders with the imagination to commission architects to refurbish this historic landmark and incorporate it within a new school, with well designed new buildings that complement this Edwardian icon. This is the green sustainable approach - not knocking down a perfectly sound old building.

We need to turn our backs on the trhow-away mentality and reuse, recycle and celebrate our past. This school building has served the area very well for enarly a century, there is no readon why it can't do the same for another century.


lee bright said...

Thomas - completely agree, this and a host of other reasons such as the overwhelming majority of parents don't want the school knocked down, that the Environment Agency requires surveys and risk management assessments regarding contamination and possible groundwater flooding;
that Thames Water requires assurances for and plans regarding the water infrastructure for a school of this size;
that A full bat survey is needed
that A government agency has condemned the plans as 'not yet good enough' and the site is so cramped that a series of government guidelines on educational and play provision are flouted.

do lewisham councillors care about anything that the people who elected them care about - or are they simply puppets controlled by central government -

god help us

Eleanor said...

Councillor Walton as a member of the planning cttee you might want to take note of the points that Lee made i.e. There are a number of objections from "official" sources as well as from parents and residents.

This is the response from Defend Education in Lewisham

Press Release 16.04.09
Defend Education in Lewisham’s response to the Grade II listing awarded to Lewisham Bridge Primary School

Defend Education in Lewisham demand that Lewisham Council reverse its decision to decant the children and staff of Lewisham Bridge Primary School on 23rd April following English Heritage’s welcome decision to grant a Grade II listing to the existing building. It is now clear that Lewisham Council will not receive planning permission for their proposed new school scheme. The full report is attached.

English Heritage Report

The following are extracts of the full report which highlight some of the reasons for the listing.

“The school’s design also shows how wider educational reforms and new ideas about sanitation had percolated down to the School’s Division of the LCC.”

“Lewisham Bridge was still one of the first London schools with ‘single-banking’, where classrooms open off a corridor on one side only thus enabling cross-ventilation to the classrooms.”

“Historically it was one of the first attempts by the LCC to adapt the design of board schools to improve lighting and cross-ventilation encouraged by the Board of Education at the time.”

“Lewisham Bridge School is a vital link between the Victorian board schools and the more child-centred learning environments of the inter-and post-war years.”

“Lewisham Bridge School is an exemplar of the previous decade’s response to the same aspiration: to teach children in light clean well-ventilated surroundings. These principles are manifest in myriad elements of the school’s design. From the abundance of tiles providing easily-cleaned surfaces, to individual ventilation grilles in each classroom, to a clerestory providing extra light in the upper storey classrooms, the attention to detail at Lewisham Bridge School is noteworthy.”

Objections to the Plans

We have consistently pointed out to Lewisham that it is entirely misconceived to turn the children and staff out of the school when they do not have planning permission. Their failure to receive such permission was always likely yet Chris Threlfall, Head of School Effectiveness at Lewisham, refused to contemplate such an outcome, even though a series of major obstacles stood in the way of the council implementing their plan.

1. English Heritage were always likely to list Lewisham Bridge an outstanding example of Victorian architecture and philanthropy.
2.) Environment Agency requires surveys and risk management assessments regarding contamination and possible groundwater flooding.
3.) Thames Water requires assurances for and plans regarding the water infrastructure for a school of this size.
4.) A full bat survey is needed.
5.) CABE the government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space has condemned the plans as 'not yet good enough' and the site is so cramped that a series of government guidelines on educational and play provision are flouted.

To decant children before planning permission and all the other requirements has been fulfilled will needlessly jeopardise the children's chances in the SATS and banding tests in May.
It will cause much unnecessary stress to children, some as young as 3 years old, as they are made to spend over half an hour of their day being transported to and from the temporary site at the Mornington Centre in New Cross over 1.5 miles away from the school.


Chris Threlfall, Frankie Sulke (Director of Children and Young People’s Services), Robert Massey (Lewisham Councillor & Cabinet member with responsibility for Children and Young People, which covers schools, the youth service and care services for children.) and Steve Bullock, Lewisham Mayor have persistently ignored the objections from parents, staff and local residents in their determination to carry out their privatisation plans for Lewisham Bridge Primary School.

• Over 100 people at a public meeting 2 years ago to discuss the original proposal rejected it unanimously.
• Over 120 parents signed a petition to demand that the Mayor revoke his decision to give away Lewisham Bridge (its land and assets) to Leathersellers Company.
• Over 50 parents signed a petition to reverse the decant

Defend Education in Lewisham have always argued that this plan for a 3-16 school no this site will not work because it is too small.

We have always argued that this is in fact privatising our kids’ education and handing over our assets to a private unaccountable body. As the English Heritage report points out this school was established with child-centred learning in mind. Lewisham’s proposal stands in stark contrast to that as it ignores the needs of inner-city children in the interest of private finance and profit.


Defend Education in Lewisham demand that Sir Steve Bullock and Lewisham Council:

• Immediately reverse the decision to decant the school on 23rd April.

• Revoke the decision to hand over the building and assets to Leathersellers Company (a private unaccountable body) and to return to the ethos of providing a child-centred learning environment for the local children who are brought up in an urban inner-city area.

• Revoke the decision to reduce the school to a one-form entry with a view to establishing a 3-16 school on the site. The site is not suitable for such a school and the council should go back to alternative sites for the much-needed secondary school in the North of the Borough (Lewisham Bridge is not in the North of the borough).

• To address the growing problem of a shortage of primary places re-introduce the 2 form entry.

• Investigate the handling of this matter by Council officers, principally Chris Threlfall, who has wilfully ignored the facts and pursued a plan to the detriment of local people, the Lewisham Bridge school community, staff, parents and children.

I hope we can count on your support

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Eleanor - thanks for your comments.

Many of the issues that Defend Education in Lewisham have raised will be considered during planning stage. This includes (but is not restricted to) comments from the Environment Agency, the need for a bat survey, whether the existing building has been listed,the quality of the design, and the comments of Thames Water.

I am happy to listen to comments and the like from local people, and others but will not be formally expressing a view - the time for that is at the planning committee when I have heard all the evidence.

All the best


rp said...

Date: 20th April 2009
1, Lewisham Bridge Primary School building is an architectural gem
The Grade II listing of Lewisham Bridge Primary School is a ringing endorsement of LGAG’s views, expressed over many years, that the plans for the redevelopment of the Gateway and its surrounding areas can be done while cherishing the existing assets of the area, not destroying them.
According to English Heritage the school is not just any one of hundreds of old schools in London but a unique and outstanding examplar of a pioneering approach to school building with the Edwardian reforming concern for children’s health and an interest in child-centred learning.
The listing makes clear that the building is not just a significant element of Lewisham’s heritage, it is of national importance. This is not only for its innovative design and attention to detail, but because so much of the original interior is intact, and again not only in terms of the original layout but also all the original fixtures and fittings, including tiles, flooring, doors and cupboards, some sinks, cloakrooms with numbered pegs , school bells and even a boot-scrape. (see end of the press release for a more detailed quote)
LGAG calls on Lewisham Council to respond positively to this listing and to recognize the huge benefits to Lewisham.
We call on the Council to recognize the educational benefits of such an architectural asset –and work to realize these through:
o bringing back the primary school;
o providing Open Days for the public;
o allowing the use of the building also as a community resource devoted to the history of education and school design.
This would enhance Lewisham’s reputation as a centre of the creative industries.
2. The Council’s approach to the development of the area is piecemeal and contradictory
For example:
Lewisham Council spends millions making Cornmill Gardens a flagship Open Space, but then decides to destroy an outstanding historic building which makes it a flagship Open Space.
Lewisham Council wants to build private, speculative, high-rise and dense residential blocks which create additional demand for primary school places – 111 to be exact – and then decides to reduce the number of primary school places - 97 to be exact - by destroying Lewisham Bridge Primary School.
LGAG calls on Lewisham Council to recognize that the preservation of the building and school is not at odds with their plans for the rest of the area but a rational part of them
LGAG notes that there is growing and disquieting evidence of poor management and decision-making in Lewisham Council. The listing decision is proof that the piecemeal approach to the development of this whole area is bound to unravel and create a mess.
3. Lewisham Bridge is needed as a primary school
Lewisham Bridge Primary School should continue to provide the primary school places which are needed now and will be still more necessary if all the other plans for the area go ahead. Pressure on primary school places in the borough is now intensifying and the Council is looking for new sites for primary schools in Convoys Wharf.
There has never been a case made for creating secondary school places at the expense of primary school places, and these at an excellent, functioning local community school.
A public meeting two years ago voted unanimously against the removal of Lewisham Bridge Primary School, against the construction of a 3-16 school on the site, and against the handing over of the school to private developers.
LGAG calls on the Council to listen to the views of local residents, and the parents and re-instate the primary school and preserve the building
4. Why did the Council not make a proper assessment of the feasibility of the Lewisham Bridge site?
The feasibility of this site for the accommodation of a 3-16 school could not have been properly assessed.
Lewisham Gateway Action Group and other local residents have pointed out to the Council that the potential listing of the school building was just one of SIX major problems with the site as the places for a 3-16 school. The others were:
• Dangers of contamination and groundwater flooding – such that the Environment Agency could object to the plans if certain assessments and preventive measures were not taken;
• Thames Water has pointed out that the plans do not provide sufficient water infrastructure for a school of that size.
• CABE – the government’s watchdog for new architectural designs has described the plans as ‘not yet good enough’
• The planners failed to take into account the changes to the transport layout of the area proposed in the other plans for the areas
• The cramped conditions on the site, the failure to provide timetables, especially for playground use that would demonstrate that such a sized school could function there.
LGAG calls on the Council to locate the new secondary school on one of the other possible sites – where the dangers listed here do not exist. We suggest, however, that before going ahead they carry out full and detailed feasibility plans for any site first, rather than end up in another mess.

5. The bussing of the children is unnecessary and could damage their education
In spite of being warned of these problems the Council has proceeded with their plans for bussing the children from their school to the Mornington Centre two miles away. The timing of the start of this bussing is insensitive - after the Easter and therefore shortly before the children are due to sit their SATS and banding tests. Given that the plans were clearly a long way from being considered by a planning committee, such a decision was without justification and the local officer involved was unable to provide a coherent explanation at a recent public meeting.
LGAG supports the motion put forward by Chris Flood at the April 1st Emergency Meeting of Lewisham Council to halt the bussing of the children, given the delays to any planning permission.

Mat said...

There clearly aren't hundreds of schools like this throughout the country let alone London. This is clear in the English Heritage Report. Did the mayor read it, or just not understand it? Even if there were, why do we have to loose our local heritage. There may be state of the art equipment proposed for the new school, but its grounds are very lacking. It is certainly not looking at best practice. There seems far less playground than the current school and this to be shared with a mixed secondary school. There is lots of empty land in this area, adjacent to the school. I thought this had been owned by the council, as it was one of their housing estates. If you value your children use this, and stop ruining Lewisham with those tower blocks. I don't know one resident who wants the Lewisham Gateway Towers. They all want the empty tower taking down, so we can have a full view of the hills. Once our heritage is gone it has gone for ever. The quality and detailing of Victorian/Edwardian craftsmanship is wonderful. Lots of these skills were lost after the first world war.

If there is no other suitable site, where will the new primary school be? All these extra people who will be go into the towerblocks, will need a primary school too, and we are about to loose a third of the places. It is more important for primary schools to be located close to home than secondary. Down with the philistines.