Residents warn Hampstead school expansion will worsen school-run traffic plague

The daily school-runs cause traffic queues in Fitzjohn's Avenue and Arkwright Road. Picture: St Anth

The daily school-runs cause traffic queues in Fitzjohn's Avenue and Arkwright Road. Picture: St Anthony's School - Credit: Archant

A row has broken out over plans to expand a Hampstead school to improve pupil safety in a road described by frustrated residents as “plagued by school-runs”.

All-boys St Anthony’s School wants to stop pupils at its site in Arkwright Road having to cross a busy road to eat at the school’s canteen in Fitzjohn’s Avenue.

The Catholic prep school, owned by a group of independent schools called Alpha Plus, has bought a neighbouring residential building in Arkwright Road and proposes to create a new dining hall as well as more classrooms, a co-educational nursery and an additional all-girls form.

The plans have provoked anger from many of Hampstead’s resident associations, who say the expansion will draw even more traffic into what is already a school run black spot.

Enough is enough

Siobhan Ezra, of the Redington and Frognal Residents’ Association, said: “The road is plagued by school runs. We can’t move outside our houses.

“It would mean the end of it as a residential road.”

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“At some point we have to say, enough is enough,” added Ms Ezra, who is chair of Arkwright Road Residents’ Association.

“It’s not a massive increase at the school but with the growth of other schools this is not something we’re going to accept.”

Concerns have also been raised about depleting Camden’s in-demand housing stock by turning a residential building into a school.

Headteacher Paul Keyte said proposals will in fact reduce traffic because many of the extra pupils will be siblings who can share transport.

In addition, the school would introduce a “legally binding” travel plan to cut the number of car journeys. This would include a parent agreement to travel sustainably where possible and the introduction of a breakfast club to reduce peak school-run traffic in the mornings.

He told the Ham&High that children currently have to cross Fitzjohn’s Avenue 2,000 times a week to reach the school’s senior house for lunch, blocking traffic and creating a danger for pupils.

Mr Keyte said: “Everyone agrees it’s an ongoing concern with so many children.

“With some irresponsible drivers and emergency vehicles, we have to be ever vigilant.

“Our argument is that the expansion is going to cut 80 per cent of traffic of children crossing the road.”

The school said it is also expanding in response to a rising demand for places in Camden.

But Ms Ezra said: “We know there’s a demand for school places, but these are children coming from outside Camden, not from Hampstead.”

According to St Anthony’s eight out of 10 of pupils live within a three-mile radius of the school.