CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Ruling due on school’s move into Hampstead police station

Neighbourhood split on Abacus plan

10 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot

THIS MEETING HAS BEEN ADJOURNED

PLANNING chiefs are set to make a final ruling on a primary school’s long-held ambition of moving into the former Hampstead Police Station.

Abacus – an outstand­ing-rated “free” school set up for parents living in Belsize ward – has been busing children to temporary premises in King’s Cross during a dispute with the council that dates back to 2014.

The police station in Rosslyn Hill was bought for the school by the Department for Education at a cost of £14million after it was shuttered by former London Mayor Boris Johnson and has been empty for almost six years. Camden Council refused planning permission for it to be turned into a two-form-entry school arguing there is a surplus of school places in the area and would destabilise the local-authority education system.

Abacus and the DfE have submitted a revised application to turn the building into a one-form-entry school and set up a “business centre” on site that could be used to raise funds to keep the project afloat. Parents have written in support of the project, arguing that they want to walk their children to school; while the headteacher has pleaded with the council to let it set up an alternative to the “pay or pray” primary school options available in Belsize.

But the Heath and Hampstead Society has lodged a strong objection to the “absurd” proposal, arguing that the school is not in its Belsize ward catchment area, there is already too much traffic and pollution on the morning school run, and adding: “This government expenditure is taking place at a time when existing state schools are being deprived of funding, and in a location where the existing schools are finding difficulty in filling their places – reducing even further their funding.”

Nearby schools including New End have objected arguing that Abacus, with its modern building and money-generating business centre, will hit already dwindling admissions with devastating consequences.

The planning meeting was due to be held this month but is now expected in December.

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