Barnet Society criticisms of Ark Pioneer Academy

Written by  Monday, 27 June 2016 15:12
View of Ark courtyard - the only playground currently proposed for 600 primary pupils View of Ark courtyard - the only playground currently proposed for 600 primary pupils
While we welcome educational use of the site, particularly if coupled with community access to the Academy’s indoor and outdoor sports and other facilities, the current proposal for 1,890 pupils plus 150 or so staff would be an over development.

Its size and design should be reconsidered before a planning application is made later this summer. 

Here is a summary of the Barnet Society's letter  last week to Ark's team from Robin Bishop, Chair, Planning & Environment Committee.

  • So many pupils and staff, plus parents/carers, would put excessive pressure on surrounding roads and pavements.

We acknowledge efforts to mitigate this through negotiations with the Council, TfL and the Everyman cinema, and would welcome a new cycle path from the south.

However, we have considerable doubt whether these would suffice given present traffic congestion at peak times – which will only get worse as planned housing developments are completed in the locality.

  • There is insufficient recreation area, especially for primary pupils.

The total site is less than half the size recommended by the DfE’s Building Bulletin 103, and the designated primary outdoor play area is less than half that recommended in BB 99 for a confined site.

Nursery children are even worse off: DfE & CABE guidance recommends at least 500m2 for 60 pupils; the present plan provides about a third of that.

Such a drastic reduction would be unworkable.

The proposed staggering of pupil play times would impact on teaching and learning in classes overlooking the play court, even if the classrooms were mechanically ventilated.

Ball games in the courtyard would be especially disruptive (and potentially damaging).

At the very least, a 3-form entry primary school would require a multi-use games court for PE and recreation.

Providing just one for the whole Academy means that KS2, 3 & 4 pupils would be lucky to have one timetabled session per week – inadequate for a balanced curriculum, let alone a healthy lifestyle.

  • This weakness is compounded by landscape design that lacks a clear rationale or understanding of pupils' educational and recreational needs.

  • There is a notable lack, outside and inside the building, of smaller or calmer spaces for shy or vulnerable children and those with special needs to resort to.

  • The building design is based largely on DfE standard plans that may work on more expansive sites with choice of access points but do not suit this heavily constrained site.

  • An unfortunate result is that the most prominent (north-east) corner of the building is dominated by the kitchen and plant area, whereas the main visitor entrance to the Academy is nearly 100m away - and barely visible - from the street.

  • Although distributing pupil entrances around the perimeter is sensible, the lobbies and stairways most of them enter are minimal and not conducive to good behaviour.

  • The elevations are disappointing, but at least most of them would be out of view from the street (though not from neighbouring houses).

  • Ark's commitment to community access to its facilities is as yet unclear.

  • Insufficient information is provided so far about work to, and use of, the former cricket field and pavilion.  Restoration of a publicly-accessible cricket ground would be welcome, though not necessarily at the expense of other track and field sports.

  • Insufficient priority appears to be given to sustainable design or environmental education. Greater commitment to these would help offset the Academy’s impact on the Green Belt.

To sum up, the combined effect of such tight planning, both inside and out – coupled with the difficulty of managing pedestrian and vehicle movement around the site – would stress both Academy and neighbourhood unacceptably, and jeopardise the success and reputation of Ark Pioneer Academy.

A scaled-down proposal could be acceptable, however, and we would be happy to discuss this further if you wish.

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 28 June 2016 08:38 posted by Elizabeth Burling

    A couple of years ago it was 'Every Child Matters'. Now it seems to be 'How Much Money can we Squeeze from this Site'.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 29 June 2016 16:09 posted by Simon S

    Well done-an excellent summary of some of the concerns which many of us have this with this large development, in particular from the many local residents who will be adversely affected by the scale of this plan.

    It would be better in my view, that additional resources are used to fund local schools, eg Totteridge academy.

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