South Hampstead school defends development plans

PUBLISHED: 16:23 01 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 07 September 2010

BOSSES at South Hampstead High School have defended their plans for a multi-million pound revamp and rejected residents suggestions it should move out of NW3. The Maresfield Gardens school has lodged plans with Camden Council to transform the site. Alth

BOSSES at South Hampstead High School have defended their plans for a multi-million pound revamp and rejected residents' suggestions it should move out of NW3.

The Maresfield Gardens school has lodged plans with Camden Council to transform the site.

Although the proposals would see a doubling in the space for classrooms, the school denies it wants to increase capacity.

Objectors, who include a former head girl and English Heritage, say the development is too big for the site and would prefer South Hampstead to find a new home, even if it means moving outside the area.

But the Girl's Day School Trust, which runs the school has no intention of seeing the prestigious school, whose alumni include Helena Bonham Carter, leave NW3.

"South Hampstead High School is rooted in its local community from which it draws its pupils," said chief executive Barbara Harrison. "Its location is integral to its character and ensures it makes a positive contribution to the local area.

"By engaging in partnerships and sharing our facilities and expertise with other schools and local community groups, the benefits of the proposed development can be shared even more widely than now."

One of the most controversial proposals is the bulldozing of the Victorian school building, which, although not listed, is considered to be of significant value to the heritage of the area.

The school has not revealed the exact cost of the scheme but it will include a new sports hall, music and arts centres and a roof terrace with views over the capital.

Mrs Harrison and headteacher Jenny Stephen defended the plans in a letter to the Ham&High.

"The trust built the original school to meet the needs of a 19th century education and it is our responsibility, in line with the national agenda of Every Child Matters, to ensure that it serves our students' requirements for the 21st century," they said.

"This is a carefully considered long-term solution for the Maresfield Gardens site which we have arrived at after an exhaustive review of all possible options over the past decade."

But despite revisions being made to the plans since they were first put forward to Camden Council last year, neighbours of the school, set in a conservation area, are still not happy.

Former head girl Ruth Stone, who lives in Maresfield Gardens, said: "The school should move. One solution would be to move it out along one of the tube lines then at least they would have some decent grounds."

Environmentalist Dr Mayer Hillman, from the Netherhall Neighbourhood Association, described the development as "critical" in terms of the precedent it would set if approved.

"What is the point of having a conservation area if the council is willing to grant permission to demolish the old building?" he said. "I think it would be mindless."

English Heritage has also urged Camden Council to reject the plans when they come before the planning committee in the autumn.

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