Mixed views on proposed new sixth form on former Territorial Army site in Clapham

Local Government Reporter

A proposed 600-pupil sixth form is up for planning permission next week –­ but residents don’t think the site is big enough.

The Department for Education (DfE) and Harris Federation (HF) has applied to redevelop the site in King’s Avenue, Clapham, which currently hosts a former Territorial Army (TA) centre.

The two-storey mock-Victorian building, which is vacant but sometimes used by community groups, will be demolished if the plans are approved, to make way for a four-storey academy 6,000sqm building.

But residents have criticised the “overwhelming” size of the proposed school, and the lack of infrastructure in place to accommodate it.

A report by Lambeth planning officers said: “The building will accommodate some 600 sixth form students aged 16+ in Years 12 and 13, with some 70 teaching and other staff; in the first year of operation it is anticipated there will be 300 students in Year 12 and 50 staff.

“It will operate in conjunction with the HF’s other institutions in Lambeth and adjoining boroughs.

“The educational aims will be similar to that for Harris Westminster, but with a particular emphasis on prioritising students coming from backgrounds with a high level of deprivation, and promoting aspiration for entry to top universities.”

The applicants said: “The scale and massing reflect both the accommodation needs of the college and responds sensitively to the adjoining context.”

But residents in the area have said the site is too small for a 600-pupil school. They also want improved crossings, lights, and parking enforcement.

The Clapham Society objected on the grounds the site was “inappropriate for a sixth form college, being too small to accommodate the college building envisaged”.

It believes the scheme would result in “an over-development of the site”.

It said: “It is also adjacent to a busy road junction of poor geometry which young attendees would have to cross and use to get to public transport stops.

“The Society is keen to support such a project but on a more suitable site.”

One resident said: “There are already two [primary] schools within 125m of the site.

The micro-environment suffers many pick-ups and drop-offs for these schools, with increased traffic and erratic parental parking, including driveway blocking.

“An additional school, albeit for more mature students, will add to this issue.
“It is not prudent to add another substantial school where two already exist in close proximity.

“A further school is under construction around half a mile away towards Brixton Hill. A more even spread of schools across a wider area would limit the impact on any one specific area – especially one road.

“I cannot see how a site of this limited size will support so many people.

“The plans show only minimal outside areas for the young adults who will use the site.

“It is likely that large numbers of students will congregate outside the academy on the streets, which themselves are limited in size and have few facilities.

“There is simply nowhere for so many people to go.”

Other residents said the proposed building was “overwhelming” and that daylight would be diminished; the bus going to Brixton is “already at capacity”, and King’s Avenue is dangerous to cross as it is.

But some residents welcomed the idea of a school.

One said: “Currently, the building has been used intermittently so it is heartening to hear that it will be used in a form that is not entirely industrial/commercial but will provide a home for a sixth form academy.

“I hope the school will become an integral part of the local community and in doing so the children will feel part of the community and therefore respectful towards it and those who live in it.”

Councillors will decide whether to approve the school at a planning meeting on Tuesday.

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