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Ham&High letters: Milkmen, Abacus School and 100 Avenue Road

PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 December 2019

The former Hampstead police station which Abacus  Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: Harry Taylor

The former Hampstead police station which Abacus Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: Harry Taylor

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Thanks for showing plight of milkmen

Janet Shapiro, Connaught Gardens, Hornsey, writes:

Thankyou for alerting readers to the industry giant Milk & More and its high-handed treatment of our loyal local milkmen (Ham&High).

The company is going big with online purchasing but the local heroes that deliver, rain or shine, with door-step deliveries have built up a personal relationship with customers; they read notes, accept payment by cheque, take text messages - all those services so welcome to older people unwilling to engage with the internet.

Milk & More has made up new rules; these are forcing milkmen to use more distant suppliers. Granted, the company does supply milk in reusable glass bottles, but it is important to me that our local milkmen are not prevented from continuing to deliver their independent service.

Oh for a government elected today that would review milk marketing that currently gives unfair advantage to large companies! Of course, reforms would also make a considerable reduction in throwaway plastic packaging.

Governors back Abacus appeal

Harriet Nowell-Smith, chairwoman of governors, writes:

I am writing to express my disappointment at the decision of the council to refuse to grant planning approval for Abacus Primary School to move into the former Hampstead police station, against the recommendation of Camden's officers.

I am confident the decision will be appealed. The school's governors, with Anthem Trust, will do all we can to support an appeal. More generally, we will continue to support the school, the headteacher and the staff, who are doing an incredible job in difficult circumstances. We are confident in the quality of our planning application and expect an appeal to succeed.

The councillors appeared to have made up their minds for reasons unconnected with planning. Despite watching the hearing in person and on the webcast, it is not clear to us what use the council would permit for this site or why it does not use its powers more to reduce traffic and air pollution, if those are the councillors' concerns.

The councillors also referred obliquely to school place planning issues. They appear not to have appreciated the new data published on October, 9 just a month before the planning committee meeting. It is available here . Appendix B has information about primary school places. Table 2C shows that in most of the last five years, it would not have been possible to find places for the 30 Abacus children in reception in North-West Camden schools. Abacus has been full in reception for many years, and so are other local schools. In 2019, it would only have been possible place Abacus children elsewhere if several attended a Catholic school, or schools over an hour's walk away. We understand the council is concerned about falling birth rates, but the birth rate is rising is the Abacus catchment area, according to its own statistics.

It is not realistic to hope that the children at Abacus would simply move to another Camden school if Abacus did not exist. Nor is it likely that the reception class in Gospel Oak Primary School would have empty spaces if Abacus were located in the former police station, because that is also a popular school. Carleton Primary School has spaces but it is an hours walk from Swiss Cottage. The population shifted west many years ago; wishful thinking will not move it back east. More importantly, children are not cash cows to be herded into schools with empty places to suit administrative convenience and vested interests.

Parents will continue to prefer to send their children to Abacus by bus rather than to send them to other Camden schools. We see that preference clearly expressed in the decisions families have made for the last six years. It's quite simple. Abacus is full every year in Reception because it provides outstanding education that is accessible within easy walking distance of where families live. The school will continue to focus on educating children and we as governors will do everything we can to support an appeal of the planning decision over the next few months.

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'Perplexed' by school refusal

Jenny Kananov Shayo, Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

Replying to Andrew Neal, John Stratton and Marc Hutchinson (December 5) as well as to Cllr Stephen Stark (November 28).

Reading the letters published during the last two weeks admiring the planning committee's decision to reject Abacus' application has left me perplexed. All these people who claim to care so much about the local community have spent so much time, money and effort campaigning, objecting and putting at risk a small, state funded primary school. One has to wonder, are there no other important causes left to fight for?

To respond to these letters, I would like to remind these gentlemen that the police station building is the only option for Abacus. An extended search was conducted in the area and several alternatives were considered before as well as after the previous application. Unfortunately, none of these options were found to be suitable to accommodate a primary school. As local residents I'm sure you can appreciate how difficult it is to find an available building in the area, especially with the amount of listed buildings. The former police station was evaluated by experts and was found to be the best option for Abacus. There is no other alternative.

With regards to the arguments about other schools in Camden, I know that Mr Neal attended the planning meeting on November 14 and so he knows this is not a planning consideration. Moreover, Abacus is not a new school. It was established in 2013 with its own catchment area and now has students from reception to year 6. The problems other schools are facing need to be addressed but this should not be on the expense of Abacus' children.

With regards to the pollution problems - I couldn't agree more that this is an urgent issue. As a mother raising my children in Hampstead I am very much worried about the number of parents driving their children to school. This is why families in Abacus are committed to a "car free" policy that has always been a part of our school's ethos. So again, pollution is a problem that should be addressed, but Abacus' children are not the cause of this problem, nor will they be increasing traffic or pollution. If anything, the current school buses that drive our children every day to the temporary site (about six-seven buses a day) are a cause of pollution for Camden residents. Relocating the school to a closer location that is a walking distance for the families, should be welcomed.

As much as I appreciate Cllr Stark's concerns raised in his letter, they were all addressed in the planning application as well as during the planning meeting. He was there making a deputation against Abacus, so he should know this. Interestingly, Cllr Stark forgot to mention that he is a governor in New End Primary, a school that is openly objecting Abacus for reasons I can't comprehend. The conflict of interests is clear in this case.

The decision to reject Abacus' application was biased and this was clear to anyone who attended or viewed this meeting. The councillors in the planning committee were not "independent - minded". I still find it shocking that expert's advice was simply dismissed and that our children's needs were the last to be considered. The school is likely to appeal, and we will finally get an opportunity to have our application evaluated on planning grounds only.

To conclude, I would like to ask those objecting Abacus to stop suggesting the school finds a site in Belsize Park. There is no other site. The former police station is the only option and it is only 250m away from the catchment. We are all part of the same community, and the way I see it, shouldn't neighbors be more considerate and welcoming?

Make informed vote for education

P Healy, Fincley, full address supplied, writes:

The funding crisis in our schools is a scandal.

I am the parent of a young child at Moss Hall Nursery, whose wonderful teachers and nursery nurses are heroic in their efforts to give every child a good start to learning. But they - like schools and nurseries around the country - have been abysmally supported. I am deeply concerned that the current level of cuts to school funding will have a terrible impact on our young people's education and their future prospects.

Britain is one of the richest countries on earth and yet in Barnet and all around the country schools are facing cuts to teaching staff, cutbacks to subjects like arts, sport and music, schools are struggling with leaky ceilings, crumbling walls and damp conditions.

At Moss Hall, parents are continuously fundraising to try to give the schools the basic resources they need but education shouldn't be dependent on charitable giving. We should be able to fund our children's schools properly. The only way we can win adequate funding for our schools is to make an informed vote for education, based on the facts.

Readers should visit the website: schoolcuts.org.uk to find out the impact on their school and see which candidates have pledged to stop school cuts.

- What do you think? Email letters@hamhigh.co.uk


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