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Abacus Belsize free school seeks Michael Gove’s support to move into Hampstead Police Station or Belsize Fire Station

PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 December 2012

Michael Gove MP (centre), secretary of state for education, pictured with Malcolm and Linda Grove from the Abacus Belsize free school campaign and councillors Claire-Louise Leyland and Don Williams, at the Hampstead & Kilburn Conservatives annual dinner. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Michael Gove MP (centre), secretary of state for education, pictured with Malcolm and Linda Grove from the Abacus Belsize free school campaign and councillors Claire-Louise Leyland and Don Williams, at the Hampstead & Kilburn Conservatives annual dinner. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Free school campaigners in Belsize have sought education secretary Michael Gove’s support to help them secure premises in a nearby police or fire station if Boris Johnson pushes ahead with radical plans to reuse the buildings.

Campaigners setting up the new Abacus Belsize Primary School handed the MP a one page document at a Conservative dinner in Hampstead on Thursday, November 22.

It suggested that either Hampstead Police Station or Belsize Fire Station would make a good permanent home for the new school should the buildings become available.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced he is seeking to support 10 free school projects across London by making public buildings available, possibly empty police or fire stations.

Malcolm Grove, 67, of the Abacus Belsize free school campaign, who handed Mr Gove the document, said: “We wanted to raise the profile of our school with Michael Gove and in that we succeeded.

“I had prepared this document simply pointing out that Boris has made this announcement about providing 10 sites. There are two of these sites on our patch, the police station and the fire station.

“We wanted to be sure that the Department for Education (DfE) was fully aware of our feelings regarding this and that we should be one of the schools bidding for these sites should they become available.”

The DfE team working with the free school campaigners have said their bid has a “high profile” with Mr Gove and within DfE.

The group has been working to bring a new school to Belsize to meet a shortfall of primary places for five years and Abacus Belsize Primary free school won DfE backing last year.

It is due to open with a single form entry of 30 children in 2013 and will eventually take 210 pupils.

Campaigners are currently working with DfE to secure temporary premises within walking distance of Belsize, but believe the police station or fire station could provide a good permanent home under the Mayor of London’s proposals.

Hampstead police station is believed to be the more viable of the two buildings as police sources say it could be empty as early as this Christmas.

But campaigners stressed they are not looking to push out police or fire services and that they would happily consider keeping a police presence on any new school site.

Mr Gove did not read the document at the dinner but said: “Everyone I’ve talked to so far is hugely enthusiastic about the growth of free schools. Of course people who are engaged in the free school movement want access to the best possible sites and that’s why it’s so fantastic that Boris Johnson has said that he’s going to do everything he can to ensure that we have the best possible sites available for free schools.”

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