Avanti House School Issue

BERA

 
 

In 1942 The Broadfields Infants and Juniors Schools first opened their doors to local children from the Broadfields Estate and the nearby area. Ten years later in 1952 a permanent building was opened and that’s how the Schools remained until a programme to modernise Schools was introduced by the last government.

In 2010 the new Broadfields Primary School was opened incorporating the two previous schools on one site. This freed up the site that was the Infants School and this surplus land was to be re-developed as housing to pay for the new School, however this didn’t happen.

Broadfields Schools before re-development (before 2010)

Key
A = Road leading to Broadfields Infants School.
B = Road leading to Broadfields Juniors School.

Old Broadfields

The Avanti House School according to their website is

“A new school for boys and girls aged four to eighteen. The School was set up in response to parental demand and is set to be a world-class school. It will become the largest free school in the country, receiving a larger amount of government funding than any other free school.

Based in Harrow and open to students of any faith and from any borough, Avanti House School offers a broad, challenging curriculum focused on core skills and subjects as well as specialisms in Mathematics and Performing Arts. What makes the school distinctive is its values-based approach to the humanities, which encourages students to value self, others and the environment and empowers them to be effective learners and good citizens. The school also offers opportunities to study ethics, philosophy, Sanskrit (as the root of almost all eastern and western languages), leadership training, meditation and yoga.”

We first learnt of Avanti House School’s interest in Broadfields in March 2013 from a flyer Broadfields Primary School sent to local residents. We thank Broadfields Primary School for sharing this information because without it we wouldn’t have been able to organise our objections. We would have only been notified at the planning stage and this would have given us only a short time to object.

The flyer stated.

“Proposal to build a Free School on land adjacent to Broadfields Primary School

Avanti Schools Trust made the following announcement on 6th March 2013
“Avanti House is pleased to announce a potential new permanent site for the school; the site which has been identified is in the London Borough of Barnet, next to Broadfields Primary School, Roseberry Drive, Edgware HA8 8JP. If after further investigation it is deemed suitable, the timetable for the new-build suggests a completion date of September 2015 and thus a temporary site has also been identified adjacent to Fairways Primary School, The Fairway NW7 3HS.”

Broadfields after re-development (2010)

Key
A = Broadfields Primary School.
Black Outline = Proposed School.

New Picture

Avanti Schools Trust and the Department for Education, through the Education Funding Agency, have identified the land for sale site (outlined above) between Hartland Drive and Broadfields Primary School, for a new school that would accommodate 1680 pupils. The sports pitches may be placed on an adjoining area of land which is green belt and is currently going through the planning process for development as a multi-faith cemetery.The proposal is to build two schools, a primary school for 480 children and a secondary school for 1200 children. The school will open on a temporary site near Fairway School in September 2013 whilst the Broadfields site is built. The plan is for the Broadfields site to open in September 2015.”

The two pieces of land identified for possible sport pitches by Avanti House School are in fact the Camden Sports and Social Club (derelict for over 15 years) and a piece of unused Green Belt land. While we can appreciate that it is a waste to see areas abandoned and derelict we need to make sure if any changes are proposed they are within the keeping of the existing area. This isn’t being a member of the not in my backyard brigade (NIMBY), this is just looking out for the area you live in. In fact by the bias shown by the EFA and government towards Free Schools I could quite easily level the same term but in reverse at them. The build free schools anywhere and at any cost attitude is a definite vote loser in my opinion.

We who live on the Broadfields Estate and surrounding areas are best placed to understand the issues our area faces be it traffic, vandalism, crime etc. as we experience it first hand.

In the same way a free school is encouraged to take control of its running the residents of Edgware and Councillors at Barnet council should be allowed to freely make their choice if they want, need or can accommodate  “The biggest free school in England”.

However there are external pressures from the government through the EFA that are trying to force through such developments. I emailed the EFA to ask several questions about why the Broadfields site that only ever accommodated 250 pupils could be recommended for a school of 1680 pupils. To put the school’s size in perspective it is 180 pupils larger than the London Academy (formerly Edgware School). The questions to, and answers from the EFA are below:

1. Can you tell me what is the site size for the proposed temporary site at Northway Fairway School NW7 and what will be the expected pupil intake?

Based upon information provided by Barnet Council we understand that the site is approximately 15,000m2.  Pupil intake figures are subject to change however at the time of writing we anticipate them to be 180 in September 13 and 360 in September 2014.

2. Can you tell me what is the site size of the proposed permanent site at Broadfields HA8 Edgware?

Based upon information provided by Barnet Council we understand that the site is approximately 18,000m2. 

3. What calculation did you use to recommend a site (Broadfields) that once contained a maximum of 250 pupils to a School for 1680 pupils?

Our calculations take into account site specific parameters and accommodation requirements for the school.

4. Has it been made clear that a planning application is currently in the final stages to build a Cemetery to the west of the site behind Hartland Close and up to Edgwarebury Lane?

We are aware of this planning application.

5. Considering point 4 what provision is there for playing fields at the Broadfields site?

We are awaiting the outcome of the planning application.

6. Has it been made clear that there are TPOs on trees that run across the Broadfields site to the entrance from Roseberry Drive, Broadfields Avenue which will restrict access to vehicles?

We are aware of the tree preservation orders.

7. Will the site at Broadfields be disposed of in a way that Barnet Council would be complying with their statutory obligations under s.123 Local Government Act 1972 to obtain best consideration for their assets?

We are not in a position to comment on Barnet Council’s statutory obligations.  We suggest that this question is best answered by Barnet Council.

8. Does the EFA just recommend sites based on the site size or does it take into consideration other factors like roads, transport and already existing schools?

Size of a site is one of range of factors which are taken into consideration when searching for sites for schools.

9. For both temporary and permanent sites does the EFA feel that non-binding suggestions like encouraging car-pooling, staggered start times and public transport are appropriate solutions for a project that would have a major impact on both residential areas?

The suggestions stated appear to be appropriate solutions to limit the impacts mentioned.  We would add that the school actively encourages and promotes a range of measures to limit traffic impact.  As part of our planning application we will develop a travel plan that includes a range of measures.

10. Is it an EFA policy to encourage Schools to relocate out of their catchment area and to contribute to road traffic? Is it not more appropriate to find a Harrow School a site in Harrow?

The EFA do not have a policy that ‘encourages schools to relocate out of their catchment area and to contribute to road traffic’.

It is quite clear that the EFA are not overly concerned about any impact such a sizeable School will have on our area. I find it hard to believe they think voluntary measures such as car pooling and drop off points work as valid suggestions and even if implemented they could be reversed by the School at any time without any penalty.

Unfortunately it is up to us to make sure Barnet Council and the Government understand our point of view. The EFA also seem to have an over simplistic view in recommending sites. It would seem they don’t care about the proximity of already existing Schools of which we have four totalling around 1500 pupils, or if the roads will be able to take double the existing traffic levels and how vehicles would access the School site.

The pictures below are of the two entrances to the site being offered to Avanti House School.

The Hartland Drive entrance.

In between two houses it’s hardly big enough to get one car at a time in or out. Not much of an entrance for “The biggest free school in England”.

Entrance A

The Roseberry Drive (Broadfields Avenue) entrance

The area is already a traffic hotspot. The entrance is narrow and would be shared with Broadfields Primary School that has 600 pupils of its own. This area would be an even bigger traffic hotspot and a potential accident waiting to happen with 1680 + 600 pupils all trying to get into School.

Entrance B 1

However its not only poor access to the School site that is of concern. Access to the Broadfields Estate isn’t much better. The Estate has no roads from the North as the M1 motorway cuts this off effectively making Broadfields a virtual island estate with the only way in and out via two roads, Edgwarebury Lane and Broadfields Avenue heading south to the A41. If these roads are blocked no-one goes anywhere.

Access to the Broadfields Estate from Broadfields Avenue.

The road is narrow and runs right in front of an existing school, Holland House. This junction is already a traffic hotspot in the mornings and afternoons.

Broadfields Ave bottom

Access to the Broadfields Estate from Edgwarebury Lane

This road is very narrow at points. Cars often park up along both sides of the road causing traffic to only be able to pass by in one direction in single file. The local doctors’ surgery is by this junction making it busy in the mornings and early evenings.

Edgwarebury Lane bottom

If Avanti House School were able to purchase the land currently going through planning for a cemetery they may propose access to a School from Edgwarebury Lane. Apart from the road only being able to handle single lane traffic it also services Edgwarebury Farm and Edgwarebury Cemetery. The lane is used by horse riders and is an area of natural beauty.

Edgwarebury Lane top

Edgware residents need to understand that this proposal will not just effect the immediate locality of Hartland Drive, Bushfield Crescent, Broadfields Avenue and Edgwarebury Lane. It will affect traffic through Stanmore and Edgware town centres as most pupils will be travelling in from Harrow. It has the potential to bring the A41 to a standstill. We need to object to this now before it is too late.

In summary why this development is wrong for Broadfields:

1. Poor access for vehicles entering the school site. A very narrow entrance between two houses in Hartland Drive and a shared entrance with Broadfields Primary in Rosebury Drive off Broadfields Ave.
2. Poor site layout. The site maybe sizeable but much of it is narrow and unusable for building space. The only area a building of any size could be sited is to the west behind Hartland Close. The area to the East would have to contain an access road.
3. The original site (Broadfields Infants) only ever had 250 pupils how can it now be expected to hold 1680?
4. The new Broadfields Primary School built on a similar plot as the one for sale only holds 600 pupils but also has two playing fields to the North to accommodate pupils. The site for sale has no additional playing fields.
5. Poor access to the Broadfields Estate. We only have two main roads in and out. Both roads have narrow points and are only single lane. Cars are often parked on the road side (totally understandable after all it is a residential area) making access tight.
6. We already have Broadfields, Rosh Pinah and Holland House Schools in our small Estate so do we need another School that won’t even cater for children from our area or even our borough?
7. We already have parking issues from our existing Schools.  The proposed School could have as many as 200 staff where would they park?
8. Extra traffic will mean extra danger to children walking to existing Schools.
9. Extra noise and polution.
10. This School won’t be a quiet School that opens at 9am and shuts its doors at 4pm. They have already said they will run a breakfast club from 7:30am and maybe have staggered starting times (no doubt an effort to calm peak time traffic by making it an all day event instead).
11. The land was original cleared to be developed for housing. Why and what has changed?

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