New proposal for Ark

Written by  Thursday, 17 August 2017 16:55
The proposed new Ark Pioneer Academy, facing south west The proposed new Ark Pioneer Academy, facing south west
After failing its first public examination, Ark Pioneer Academy (APA) is back for a re-sit – this time a planning application for a new 1,200-place secondary school and 6th form.

In January, APA’s planning application for a 1,690-place all-age school on the former Barnet FC football ground was thrown out by Barnet Council’s planning committee by 9 votes to nil, due in no small part to the Barnet Society’s strong objections.

However, since the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which sponsored the project, had spent £14.5m on the site, and since the Council expects a shortage of secondary school places across the borough, it was never likely to go away.

The latest planning application was submitted early in August – probably not co-incidentally when many interested residents were on their summer holidays. The deadline for public comments expires on 5 September.

Below is the Barnet Society’s draft response. We are keen to hear your views before it’s finalised, so please comment in the box below or contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. no later than the end of August.

You can also submit your own comments directly via the Council’s planning portal: key in application no. 17/4840/FUL on  https://publicaccess.barnet.gov.uk/online-applications/.

Overall, we are currently neutral about the latest proposal.

Although we normally oppose any development of the Green Belt, APA would have a smaller footprint than the existing redundant buildings.

We are not persuaded about need for additional secondary school places in view of the neighbouring Totteridge Academy’s capacity to expand. However that is a matter outside the planner’s remit.

In the latest scheme’s favour is that:

  • It is significantly smaller than before, in both pupil numbers and physical size.
  • The main entrance is now obvious and more welcoming.
  • The plan is less convoluted than before.
  • The building’s appearance is less fussy than before.
  • The proposed community access to APA’s outdoor and indoor PE, sport, fitness, drama, music, dance and other facilities would be welcome.

Against that:

  • The building design is ordinary, and fails to take advantage of its fine site on the edge of the Dollis Valley.
  • Its environmental target of BREEAM ‘Very Good’ is unambitious for a site in the Green Belt.
  • The new building would be some 2m higher than the existing stadium roof.
  • Out-of-hours access to the community facilities is unclear, potentially lengthy and inconvenient for wheelchairs.
  • The landscape design lacks a clear educational or social rationale. The mounds up to 2m high along the west boundary could oversee neighbours’ gardens and create nooks for unsocial behaviour.
  • The high fencing of the multi-use games area (MUGA) would be unsightly, and screen planting should be provided.
  • Insufficient information is provided about ownership of, use of, or work to, the former cricket field and pavilion. The cricket pavilion is to be retained, but not brought into use by the school – so who will pay for its upkeep?
  • The one-way parking loop might work better in reverse.
  • The proposal would exacerbate existing pressure on surrounding roads and pavements at the beginning and end of the school day.
  • It would require widening each arm of the A1000 / Underhill / Fairfield Way junction on a steep hillside (funding for which is unclear).
  • The road and pavement alignment would entail the loss of several mature trees at what is, in effect, the ‘green gateway’ to Chipping Barnet.
  • Pedestrian crossings are not shown. These would be essential to cope with hundreds of pupils (not always well-behaved).
  • High levels of pollution hereabouts would endanger the health of pupils and staff.
  • The capacity of the road between that junction and Mays Lane is questionable, given the need for residential parking and facilities for hail-and-ride buses.
  • No mention is made of the 606 buses serving The Totteridge Academy, which would be delayed by extra queues in Barnet Lane.
  • There are no direct bus connections with the Mill Hill or Colindale, which could prove popular home postcodes and warrant a new service – but Barnet Lane between Totteridge Academy and War Memorial is unsuitable for conventional buses on a regular public service, and substantial highway improvements would be required.

Our preference would be for another kind of educational use, for example a primary, special or ‘studio’ (small vocational) school – or some combination of these. But we would prefer a school with community facilities to residential or other alternative uses.

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8 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 17 August 2017 18:34 posted by Jo Ruckman

    Congestion, traffic and parking issuws will also be significant aswell as the danger to the pupil walking buses to Grasvenor.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 17 August 2017 20:04 posted by Paul Abbott

    As someone who lives off Mays Lane and has to go past the site every morning on the way to work , I think the whole area will grind to a halt with the extra traffic . They must be made to enter via the high road and not down mays lane .

  • Comment Link Thursday, 17 August 2017 20:14 posted by Ashley Bailey

    Have objected again for the same reasons as before.

  • Comment Link Friday, 18 August 2017 04:30 posted by Mirjana

    Barnet is in dire need of GOOD secondary schools which is well documented. Having good educational facilities and recreational facilities for our youth will by far outweigh the positive feedback than maintaining a green belt. If we make this school a "green" school, with solar panels, wind turbine, recycling, composting, allotments for vegetables and fruits, incentives for walk/bike/public transport/car pool to school and environmental clubs/classes, I think this would be a benefit for all of Barnet and our future, which the youth are. Don't stop change just tweak it.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 August 2017 14:21 posted by Hazel Conway

    There is already a GOOD secondary school very nearby, Totteridge Academy. It makes sense to put resources into existing schools rather than building an additional school. Why is it that people are unwilling to support a local comprehensive which has high standards and good facilities? There are many myths about 'good' and 'bad' schools in Barnet. Labelling schools in this way is detrimental to the work of dedicated teachers and to pupils' education.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 August 2017 15:25 posted by Quinton Dighton

    As a local resident (beginning Grasvenor Ave) and former teacher I am marginally inclined to support this application IF the concerns below are addressed. It is a little smaller and seems better planned esp using using natural light and providing a little more play and informal space.

    -Is it needed? I would like more information on needs and the alternative of expanding Totteridge Academy which is on a bigger and better site. Where are pupils likely to be from?
    -Can the height be reduced to no more than the present stadium?
    -I'm still very worried about the traffic impact at a very difficult and congested junction. Possible slight mitigation if Fairfield way widened to left and right turn lanes with box junction? We need proposals to mitigate increased traffic. I would have thought the council need works and funding to be agreed before deciding.
    -Parking is extremely limited so likely to badly affect neighbourhood. No allowance so far for all the visiting support teachers, maintenance people and other visitors any large school constantly has. Many cannot use public transport because they carry equipment or go on elsewhere.
    -The local exhibitions were very (2x3hrs)and badly publicised. I and as far as I can find out none of my neighbors received the Ark notice though they told me we should all have been mail dropped.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 03 September 2017 12:50 posted by Quinton Dighton

    After further consideration plus reading many of the objections on the application I have decided to object.

    Though slightly improved the school is still very large for the site. There needs to be proper examination of the supposed need for more places and the option of expanding Totteridge Academy which is so close and on a bigger and generally superior site. Ark would badly increase traffic congestion and pollution in a very confined and already congested area. I might well support a smaller school or leisure centre.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 21 September 2017 09:40 posted by MMG

    What about sport facilities for Barnet boys and girls? Thousands of them play football on Sundays and Saturdays yet they have to use horrible, third world football pitches with no access to the toilets not to mention changing rooms. Barnet stadium is a part of the London heritage if it comes to football. It should remain as a smaller, modernised soccer stadium for benefits of local children and schools...

    BTW if the Ark already spent as they claim 16m on the project (CGI made in Minecraft by 7 years old kid) good luck in the future...

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