Abacus Belsize Primary planning inquiry: School’s police station move ‘vital’ but neighbours concerned about noise pollution

Vicky Briody speaking to a Camden Council planning commitee meeting about Abacus Primary's planned m

Vicky Briody speaking to a Camden Council planning commitee meeting about Abacus Primary's planned move to the old Hampstead police station. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

On day four of the inquiry into plans which would see Abacus Belsize Primary School move into the disused former Hampstead police station, the school’s headteacher and parents of pupils spoke of the importance of the school to the Belsize community.

But a prospective new neighbour in Rosslyn Hill voiced the concerns of many in Hampstead: that the school’s move will bring noise, disruption and danger to the heart of the village.

Headteacher Vicky Briody, who has been at the school since shortly before it opened in 2013, told inspector Paul Jackson: “It’s so vital to bring our school closer to our community so it can fulfil its role better. If a child or a parent misses our school bus they are 45 minutes late. If you are late for a walk-to-school school you are just going to be five or so minutes late.

“When we move children will be able to walk all the way to school with parents.”

READ MORE: Abacus Primary’s move to Hampstead police station could see rush hour journeys decrease, inquiry toldREAD MORE: Coronavirus should rule out Abacus Primary’s plan to move to the old Hampstead police station, inquiry hearsShe explained that moving back to the Hampstead area – the school occupied the old Hampstead Town Hall in Haverstock Hill between 2013 and 2015, would bring huge benefits to the school’s pupils, and also improve its visibility locally.

She added; “Staff will be able to build more trusting relationships with parents. At the moment we are less visible to young families in the area. A lot of our new children are joining us because of word of mouth.

“In the permanent location we will be visible in Belsize and families will see children walking to school, in uniform, and know there’s a viable option for them in the area.”

Parent Emily McCarron echoed this, telling the inquiry: “Abacus deserves a permanent home. I worry what will happen to the school is this appeal is unsuccessful.”

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John Joseph, who was awarded an MBE in 2015 for his work as founder of the Jewish Blind and Deaf charity, reflrected the concerns of a number of neighbours as he told the inquiry he was concerned about the noise pollution the school could bring.

Mr Joseph, who lives next door to the site in Rosslyn Hill, said: “Noise coming from the playground will not just be heard in the garden, but in most of the rooms of the house. Children are noisy, particularly when they are grouped together – they scream and they shriek and they shout.”

He said he thought it was “hard to see” how the school could keep use of the playground to just two hours a day – particularly as children would need to somewhere to wait before and after the school day – and he also raised how the issue of noise pollution could impact on mental health. He said this would be exacerbated given changes in behaviour and increased working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Anthem schools trust and the Department for Education are appealing a Camden Council decision to reject a planning permission application for the school to move to the Rosslyn Hill site which was vacated by the police in 2013.

Earlier in the week lawyers and experts for Anthem, Camden Council, and the Hampstead Community for Responsible Development (HCRD) group, all made arguments discussing transport and air pollution for the benefit of the planning inspectorate’s inspector Mr Jackson.

The inquiry will continue on Tuesday with further discussions of noise issues and the impact of the proposed move on Hampstead’s heritage – the old police station is grade-II listed.

It will end with two days of hearings in October.