Monday, November 23, 2009

Local meeting on Gordonbrock Planning Application

A meeting has been arranged by planning officers to give local residents a chance to discuss the planning application for Gordonbrock Primary School with officers and the applicants. The meeting will take place this Thursday, 26th November, 7pm, at the school.

These meetings are normally held if there are more than 10 objections to an application, which is the case in this instance. I have been asked to chair the meeting so will be remaining neutral. Officers have indicated that a living roof and rainwater harvesting have been added to the plans since the consultation event at the school. I have also asked them to provide further information about the building footprint and the size and design of the outside play areas, as this is one of the aspects of the application that seems to have caused most concern to those who commented on my previous post on this.

Do come along if you want to discuss the proposals in more detail with officers. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

7 comments:

angelj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hilly said...

The meeting was kind of unsatisfactory as we had lots to discuss and the answers were not always correct and there was quite a lot of architectural speak which meant very little. I thought answers were given that I wanted to discuss further, but it wasn't really possible.

Particularly contentious are reasons for demolishing such as "modern learning environments". Did we ever establish whether the larger classrooms needed to take the cloakrooms, which are currently separate? The Government's booklet on sustainable schools has lots about using the grounds and outdoor learning, connecting with nature etc. having vegetable gardens. This school is going to be the largest primary school I know and yet there is a tiny space for all of these things. Yet one government publication talks of this as being the future and part of modern learning. Our plan did not even manage to look at the playground until after it was in planning. Thank goodness the planners expect to see some thought here, otherwise we would be doomed.

The Ladywell Society Contribution was right to refer to the Victorian Society report and question why the buildings could not be adapted. I think another set of more sympathetic architects would be able to give us the sustainable and more economical scheme with a greater mix to refurbishment to new build. There are already classrooms comparable to the new ones and there seems to be flexibility within that grid where it exists to knock through and amalgamate. I'm not convinced the new build won't end up with a more rectangular room by the remember the children will need a cloakroom.

There was a landscape plan showing existing playground areas, which was completely wrong and had areas allocated to the wrong year groups.

Then Lewisham's project manager very proudly tells us that Lewisham Schools are already poor at fulfilling educational guidelines for space in schools. Gordonbrock currently fails to meet the guidelines, so lets not worry about further reducing the area and bringing in a 100 more children.
Lewisham, proud to fail in style.

He also said that there was a shortage of school places and that was why we were being forced to go 3 form entry. So why would the neighbouring school be reducing to one form entry? We are also all wondering how Ashmead managed to be funded for a new build without being made to go 2 form entry? Their carpark alone is something like a sixth of the play ground for the 180 children planned for KS1.

Of course the school which Lewisham has planned to reduce in size is right next to the towers which are to hold 5000 new residents. Things aren't really adding up, are they?

One day, some wise person might care to take a look at the Cambridge Primary Review and realise that a healthy and more successful education could be achieved by reception and year one working closely together, but here the layout has them decidedly set apart.

We'll probably be finding the school already has an out of date layout before it is built.

An architect even jumped up to explain why it was good that the smaller children were banished to the main road side of the site. Healthy lungs not considered, but I'm not sure such ungenerous neighbours will be any more impressed that they will now be next to a ball court which will be used for a minimum of 12 PE lessons outside of break times.

Am I right that the same architects have been responsible for at least two of the now over heating problem schools. So we get split windows to help deal with the problem and roof lights...the Victorian's went for high ceilings and high windows to draw the air through?

Has any one checked the colour of the proposed render, because for some reason I am imagining that they won't manage any harmony with the area. Red brick work will look good with what colour?

hilly said...

The meeting was kind of unsatisfactory as we had lots to discuss and the answers were not always correct and there was quite a lot of architectural speak which meant very little. I thought answers were given that I wanted to discuss further, but it wasn't really possible.

Particularly contentious are reasons for demolishing such as "modern learning environments". Did we ever establish whether the larger classrooms needed to take the cloakrooms, which are currently separate? The Government's booklet on sustainable schools has lots about using the grounds and outdoor learning, connecting with nature etc. having vegetable gardens. This school is going to be the largest primary school I know and yet there is a tiny space for all of these things. Yet one government publication talks of this as being the future and part of modern learning. Our plan did not even manage to look at the playground until after it was in planning. Thank goodness the planners expect to see some thought here, otherwise we would be doomed.

The Ladywell Society Contribution was right to refer to the Victorian Society report and question why the buildings could not be adapted. I think another set of more sympathetic architects would be able to give us the sustainable and more economical scheme with a greater mix to refurbishment to new build. There are already classrooms comparable to the new ones and there seems to be flexibility within that grid where it exists to knock through and amalgamate. I'm not convinced the new build won't end up with a more rectangular room by the remember the children will need a cloakroom.

There was a landscape plan showing existing playground areas, which was completely wrong and had areas allocated to the wrong year groups.

Then Lewisham's project manager very proudly tells us that Lewisham Schools are already poor at fulfilling educational guidelines for space in schools. Gordonbrock currently fails to meet the guidelines, so lets not worry about further reducing the area and bringing in a 100 more children.
Lewisham, proud to fail in style.

He also said that there was a shortage of school places and that was why we were being forced to go 3 form entry. So why would the neighbouring school be reducing to one form entry? We are also all wondering how Ashmead managed to be funded for a new build without being made to go 2 form entry? Their carpark alone is something like a sixth of the play ground for the 180 children planned for KS1.

Of course the school which Lewisham has planned to reduce in size is right next to the towers which are to hold 5000 new residents. Things aren't really adding up, are they?

One day, some wise person might care to take a look at the Cambridge Primary Review and realise that a healthy and more successful education could be achieved by reception and year one working closely together, but here the layout has them decidedly set apart.

We'll probably be finding the school already has an out of date layout before it is built.

An architect even jumped up to explain why it was good that the smaller children were banished to the main road side of the site. Healthy lungs not considered, but I'm not sure such ungenerous neighbours will be any more impressed that they will now be next to a ball court which will be used for a minimum of 12 PE lessons outside of break times.

Am I right that the same architects have been responsible for at least two of the now over heating problem schools. So we get split windows to help deal with the problem and roof lights...the Victorian's went for high ceilings and high windows to draw the air through?

Has any one checked the colour of the proposed render, because for some reason I am imagining that they won't manage any harmony with the area. Red brick work will look good with what colour?

M said...

Wanton vandalism imposed on Gordonbrock and the Victorian Society's response.

The Society has been made aware of proposals to demolish part of the above school in order to erect new teaching accommodation. We wish to state our very strongest objection to these proposals.

Gordonbrock Primary School is made up of a collection of buildings of intrinsic architectural and historic interest. As with many public buildings of this period, the school was built to last and is well-constructed from fine quality materials. The historic school building forms an important part of Lewisham’s built heritage, and makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area. Furthermore, there is strong local attachment to this building which has played an important role in the community for many years; the social value of the building is irreplaceable. Local and national planning policies set out a strong presumption in favour of retaining such buildings. Bearing in mind the recent plans to demolish Lewisham Bridge Primary School we are disappointed that proposals have been put forward to demolish more of Lewisham’s historic building stock. The arguments for retention of the buildings at Gordonbrock are very similar to those that we made for Lewisham Bridge.

The partial demolition of Gordonbrock Primary School would be an appalling waste of structurally sound historic buildings. The fact that they are still used for teaching would suggest that continued educational use is a very viable option. Buildings of this type lend themselves well to adaptation and extension and should not be regarded as limited in their potential to serve modern needs. In fact, Victorian and Edwardian schools can provide incredibly good working environments; the large, airy rooms were designed with children’s health in mind; allowing fresh air and natural light to create a pleasant and healthy environment in which education could take place. Some of our most successful schools are housed in buildings very similar to this one, and are proof that the historic character of the building can contribute, rather than stand in the way of success.

The proposal for extended teaching accommodation offers wholly inadequate justification for the demolition of existing buildings on the site. At a time when sustainability is on the agenda for all new development it should be a priority to utilise the resources already existing. Replacing attractive, well-loved and well-built buildings with new structures that have a relatively short design life is unimaginative and unsustainable. The school occupies a large site and it should be possible to retain the existing buildings whilst accommodating the desired additional teaching space in a new building that makes better use of the space available than the proposed low rise buildings which fail to respond to the scale of the existing school buildings.

In order to clarify these points I would like to draw your attention to the landmark conference that The Victorian Society ran in 2006 on the role of historic schools in the future called ‘Learning from the Past’ (I enclose a copy of its report). The conclusion from the discussions was that school buildings such as those at Gordonbrock Primary School can be successfully used and adapted to provide for the needs of modern education.

In summary, the Society believes that the demolition of these building is unnecessary and would be contrary to local and national planning policy as well as government guidance on sustainability and good conservation practice. We would like to see an application that retains the historic buildings on site. Conversion, renovation and extension are all very viable alternatives to demolition. In fact, recent research has proved that refurbishing existing buildings is much more energy efficient than the construction of new ones. We therefore urge your Council to refuse permission for this application.

Alan Gallery said...

Has anyone approached English Heritage to see if they can get the buildings listed and therefore protected.

Sue said...

Yes, the Council contacted English Heritage itself, having had its fingers burnt before by them. English Heritage are not planning to list the buildings.

M said...

Gordonbrock is on the Victorian Soceity's buildings at risk section.

http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/another-historic-lewisham-school-at-risk/

Listing only happens when they identify something distinctive or transitional or all the other wonderful buildings by the said architect have been demolished and this is the last one. Lewisham's imminent act of vandalism may help another community not loose their historic buildings in the future.

Of Gordonbrock English Heritage say:

These are characterful historic school buildings which have local significance both for the arrangement of separate blocks, unusual in London where, typically, schools are three-storey, and for the good quality Queen Anne-style architecture. Bailey (the architect) is noted in the recent edition of the Buildings of England series for East London as having a flair for small buildings, and this is well-illustrated at Gordonbrock School, with its plentiful red-brick dressings, varying roof pitches, tiny oculi with oversized voussoirs, and diminutive cupolas.

We are going to get some dubiously ventilated mediocrity and the head seems to have been mislead about the fact they are reducing the area of the playground.

The planners said they would view the demolition differently now if it was a new application, but the recent application had to be viewed on what had been previously been allowed, however bad it was.

Lewisham's project manager were also intent on bullying this through, even though it is not a good scheme and fails the children on lots of points.