Council Defends Plans to Build Housing on School Sites

Avonmore and Flora Gardens schemes condemned by the Hammersmith Society

A visualisation of the plan for Avonmore Primary School from the planning application
A visualisation of the plan for Avonmore Primary School from the planning application

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has defended its plans to rebuild two primary schools and create new homes after backlash from a local campaign group. The council wants plans to redevelop Avonmore Primary School and Flora Gardens Primary School with money generated by building new homes on the sites.

The Labour-led council claims building housing on the existing sites in Avonmore Road and Dalling Road is the best way to source funds to upgrade the ageing school buildings. But the Hammersmith Society, which campaigns to preserve historic buildings and outdoor spaces, has slammed the plans.

Richard Farthing, chairman of the society, said it supports the creation of new homes locally but the council shouldn’t build on existing school sites. He added, “We don’t believe the community schools programme – building on school land – is the right way to finance schools.

“We’re supportive of cost-effective re-building but not at any cost financial or loss of land or environmental… The provision of more affordable housing obviously is extremely welcome but it does of course with itself create the need for more school places.”

Mr Farthing also said if the council eventually decides to build new schools, it would be “more cost-effective” to build them from wood. He added, “We shouldn’t be losing school land, we don’t know what education’s going to look like in the future.”

The council plans for the new homes to be at least 50 per cent affordable and 50 per cent private leasehold with the council always remaining as the freeholder of the site. The money from selling the new homes will fund the school revamps.

Council leader Stephen Cowan said the schools support the plan and it’s hoped some of new the homes will be for teachers. Cllr Cowan said the council’s revenue budget in 2010 was £184 million and now it’s £125 million.

A visualisation of the plan for Flora Gardens Primary School from the planning application

He added, “Fundamentally the schools are asking us to do this… there are huge eclectic challenges across the board… to quote Theresa May, there has never been ‘a magic money tree’ at any point in the last eight years…

“There is a great desire to try and get this right… we’ve consulted more probably on this than any other issue. Given the schools want this… we’re going to move forward… but we are going to do it by making sure it fits the hard standards we’ve already met.”

The main building at Flora Gardens Primary School in Hammersmith was built in 1953. The council says there is no funding available to refurbish the site, where there are also many temporary classrooms, whereas rebuilding it would work. Avonmore Primary School in West Kensington was also built in the 1950s and is “out-dated” according to the council.

Hannah Neary - Local Democracy Reporter

September 6, 2022