Ashmount School, ‘a building to be proud of’
Published: 8 June, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE Town Hall’s house-building policy will face further fierce opposition on Tuesday after plans to bulldoze a primary school described as “an influential piece of 20th century architecture by a seminal architect” were overwhelmingly rejected by heritage groups, residents and neighbouring Haringey Council.
In stinging and robust letters to the council, opponents have accused the Town Hall of a “flawed” and “intellectually incoherent” consultation as well as “short-sightedness” over plans to demolish Ashmount School, designed by leading 20th century architect HT Cadbury-Brown, and to build on its playing fields.
The Town Hall has been accused of double standards as four years ago it argued that the Archway building could not be demolished to justify siting a new school on public open space in nearby Crouch Hill Park.
That building is ready to take pupils in October, leading the council to apply to Education Secretary Michael Gove to declare the existing school building in Ashmount Road – and its playing fields – surplus to requirements to pave the way for demolition.
But heritage groups argue that the school is a leading example of 20th century architecture and should be refurbished – a point previously acknowledged by the council.
Haringey Council – part of that borough is in Ashmount’s catchment area – is worried about a future shortage of school places, made worse if new houses are built as it will mean more children in the area.
Residents and amenity groups who oppose the loss of open space want the building to remain in community use.
But the Town Hall is determined to push through the plans – it has already approached housing associations which might want to bid for the site – to tackle the borough’s acute housing shortage.
Objectors argue, however, that its housing-at- all-costs approach is too inflexible.
Residents of the King Square estate in Finsbury are fighting plans to build a block of homes in their car park.
There was also a demonstration at Holly Park yesterday (Thursday) over plans to “shoehorn” 45 new flats onto a car park in Stroud Green – a move challenged by Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North.
The Town Hall’s ruling Labour executive is to decide on Tuesday whether to press ahead with the school bulldozing plans.
Haringey Council – the school is just 30 metres from the borough boundary – fears an increased demand for school places in the area. “As the site is close to Haringey borders it is anticipated that... our borough will see an increase in reception demand,” it says.
The Better Archway Forum has raised concern about future education needs and the loss of the building. “The school is a singular example of both a public building on the road, and in a relatively rare and distinctive style,” its objection letter says. “As such we believe it should be repaired and refurbished.”
The Highgate Society sent an excoriating six-page letter condemning the consultation as “fundamentally flawed” and accused the council of ignoring “the overwhelming local opinion that the site should remain in education or community use”.
It said planners were being “misleading” when they claimed the building could not be repaired.
“Several reports pointed to refurbishment of the existing school as the cheaper option, compared to building a new school on Crouch Hill,” the letter says.
“Islington’s own assessment of primary school needs shows a shortfall of primary school places in 2017.”
Docomomo-UK, an international conservation body, pointed out that Cadbury-Brown, who died in 2009, was one of the principal architects of the Festival of Britain in 1951. It is to press for the building to be listed. “We believe it is one of the most interesting 20th century buildings in Islington and one of which the borough should be proud,” chairman James Dunnett has written.
The Twentieth Century Society describes the school as “an influential piece of 20th century architecture by a seminal architect”.
Fortior Court Residents’ Association has written to Mr Gove arguing that the consultation was “severely wanting”. It adds: “It is devoid of substance and disingenuous, as new plans seem to be already well advanced.”