Monday, March 29, 2010

Prendergast Hilly Fields Plans - what did you think?

I popped in to look at the proposals for Prendergast Hilly Fields at the drop in session this evening. I was quite favourably impressed, but would be keen to hear what others who saw the plans thought.

I suspect the two potentially most contentious aspects of the plans will be where to place the temporary classrooms while the lower site is decanted and rebuilt, and the extra height of the lower site buildings. The two options proposed for the decant classrooms are either to put them on two of the tennis courts for the year while the work takes place, or to put them on the land adjacent to the upper site school, near the basketball courts. With the first option, the community would lose the use of the tennis courts for a year, but potentially at the end of it, get brand new, resurfaced tennis courts. The second option would involve temporary loss of green space adjacent to the school but not, I'm told, involve needing to remove any mature trees. I need to go and take a look at the site to get a clear picture of it in my mind, and would be keen to hear the community's views on this, and the thoughts of Friends of Hilly Fields.

I like the idea of having one, high quality building on the lower site rather than the mish mash that is currently there. The proposals involve keeping the existing sports hall, but building around and above it. The new buildings would be 4 storeys in the middle and 3 storeys at the sides adjacent to the neighbouring houses. The extra height would enable the sixth form to grow, while the plans also include more landscaped outside space in the middle, with a sightline from Hilly Fields through to the cemeteries, 'connecting the two green spaces'.

The boundary treatment would be a combination of brick wall and quality railings, rather than the rather tatty chainlink fence currently there. There haven't decided on the exact materials they plan to use the the building itself, but are looking at brick, rather than a rendered finish, which should age better. The architect seemed keen to go for a brick colour that contrasted with the neighbouring red brick buildings on Adelaide Avenue rather than trying to match it.

I was keen to see how they envisaged the new building relating to Ivy Road, which has been problematic in the past. The windows of the exam hall that face onto Ivy Road have been boarded up almost since it was built, due to vandalism problems. Ivy Road is looking better these days, with less graffiti and flytipping, but there is still limited footfall along there and security is an issue. They seemed to be planning a delivery entrance on the Ivy Road side, and a bit more landscaping, rather than just the back wall of buildings, but it's a tricky issue to resolve.

The flat roofs on the new building incorporate both brown and green living roofs, which if done properly could look good from Hilly Fields, and while they were uncertain how they would attain the 20% renewables target, were looking at using air source heat pumps and solar thermal on the roof. Previous BSF schools in Lewisham have tended to go for biomass boilers, as they proved the most cost-effective way to meet the 20% target, but now there are concerns over the impact these may have on air quality and they are looking at other options. Solar thermal is not normally a viable option at schools, as there isn't a huge demand for hot water, but if the kitchens and sports facilities are all on the lower site, this may be more viable.

The changes to the top site building are fairly minor and, as far as I can tell involve adding a lift inside the main building, moving the kitchens down to the lower site to create more space next to the main hall, demolishing the rather tatty white toilet block and replacing it with outside space, and, rearranging some of the classrooms to create extra space.

The project team are looking to submit the planning application in April with a view to getting planning permission over the summer and starting the rebuild/refurb in the Autumn term. I would be keen to hear your views on the plans, if you saw them. I've asked if they can also be made available online for those who were unable to attend the drop-in session.

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