Hackney parents: school playgrounds are not for sale”

Pic: The proposed Nightingale Primary School site on Tiger Way Credit: Hackney Council

The proposed Nightingale Primary School site on Tiger Way pic: Hackney Council

Angry Hackney parents have launched a petition urging the council to halt the development of private homes on school playgrounds.

The council is proposing to relocate and rebuild two primary schools, Benthal Primary School on Benthal road, and Nightingale Primary School on Rendlesham road, to make room for a new secondary school that will be built at the original Benthal school site.

All three newly-erected schools will share their land with “residential developments” according to the council. 

A council spokesperson said that the pre-planning proposals address the shortage of school places, with both land and funding being “extremely limited”.

The new schools will be funded through the income generated from the sale of private flats on the shared land.

However locals have likened the new schools to “battery farms”, calling the design of the new Nightingale school “poor” and “overcrowded”. 

Under the new plans, Nightingale would relocate to Tiger Way, with pre-planning proposals for the site revealing two residential towers of 11 and  13 storeys high facing the park, with the school underneath.

The school will be expanded from a single form of entry to a two form of entry, providing 420 pupil places, according to the council.

Christine Murray, a Nightingale school parent, has launched a petition calling on Ian Hodges, choice advisor at Hackney Learning Trust, a not-for-profit company responsible for all of Hackney’s schools, to stop the “selling off of this public land asset”.

She wrote in the petition, which has already gathered 900 signatures: “The new schools will be rebuilt on a fraction of the original sites, some with twice as many pupils squeezed in.”

“The number of private luxury flats crammed in doesn’t leave room for much else. At the first proposed school (Nightingale), the play spaces are on the roof, in permanent shadow of the towers.”

“The residents will be able to look right down on top of the school. As for the classrooms, there aren’t many windows. The corridors are internal, artificially lit rat-runs.”

Pic: The proposed Nightingale Primary School site on Tiger Way. Credit: Hackney Council

Pic: The proposed Nightingale Primary School site on Tiger Way. Credit: Hackney Council

Schoolchildren at Benthal primary school will be placed into a temporary building, eventually moving to a new building on the current Nightingale school site by 2020.

Catherine Maguire, a parent of two Benthal school pupils, told EastLondonLines: “My son has a mild disability, Juvenile Arthritis, and can struggle with stairs at times.”

“Benthal is great as everything is one level, however the new schools are likely to be two storeys in order to be accommodated on a smaller amount of land which could impact his learning.”

According to Murray, another key issue with the new Nightingale school site is the lack of affordable housing or homes for social rent.

Speaking to EastLondonLines, she said: “I would like to see a proposal for affordable housing. If they’re going to build on education land then it should be at least to solve the affordable housing crisis in the borough.”   

In response to concerns Councillor Antoinette Bramble, cabinet member for children’s services, said:

“The Council is not planning to sell off any playgrounds or schools. Hackney, like most of London, is facing a shortage of school places. We need to create nearly 500 extra primary and secondary places by 2020, and land and funding are extremely limited.”

“To ensure we can provide local school places for local children, we are looking at how we can remodel the school sites we own.”

“It’s our priority that children in Hackney should be taught in schools built to high standards, and as we are now less able to rely on Government funding for capital projects, in some locations we are looking at co-locating education and residential developments” she added.

“This will allow us to sell the homes to fund school building projects across the borough, while maintaining the freehold of the sites.”

Murray called the council’s response “an insult to the intelligence of the people involved in this campaign.”

“The fact the playgrounds are not for sale but the flats on the playground are is exactly the same thing.”

“I found it to be offensive that they tried to reply in that way, it’s clearly ignoring the issue of selling off education land in Hackney.”

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