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.
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.
- 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.