The French School comes to Holmes Road.

The French community in London has had its own schools for many years. The most famous is The French Lycée in Kensington and it has a very good reputation. For some time there has also been a primary school in Vicar’s Road just to the north of our area.

[This is now history…. see later postings..]

The site in Holmes Road was in recent years Westminster Kingsway College. Before that it was The Camden Institute but originally it was built as The Holmes Road Board School opened in 1874. The History Group has a print- out of an article on the history of the school.

The college closed some time ago and the site has been empty and the building presumably deteriorating. It is Listed Grade II so it is protected to some degree – the exterior cannot be much altered. At a recent meeting of IARA there was a strong feeling that it should avoid the obvious fate of being converted into flats and it should be kept in educational use. It was always highly unlikely that it would be used by Camden for another school.

In some senses therefore we may be fortunate that the French school has identified it as suitable premises and it has been bought by the French Embassy for passing on later to a trust to run the school.

The use of it as a functioning school again may have certain dangers. In the short term there are clearly major issues about the environmental impact of the conversion and construction work. In the longer term the main one being a possibly high level of traffic in delivering and collecting children.

We therefore contacted the French school and asked for a meeting where these things can be discussed in public and people’s views and concerns can be raised and possibly answered.

They are promising full information and consultation. To gain early information we sought a preliminary meeting with a representative acting on behalf of the school and the project. He is Roger Hayes and below is a minute of our meeting. It was attended by Don Hibbs and Adam Lees who have both been very active in environmental issues and who both live in Willes Road, close to the main entrance to the school.

Roger Hayes confirmed that there will be public consultation in the form of newsletters and a public meeting. An exhibition will be held in the school over two days, the 11th and 12th of February.

You will see from the minutes below that we raised concerns and in particular the very ambitious timetable for the construction work which is intended to be completed within one year so the school can open in September 2011. If this is very compressed, we fear there is a danger of weekend working or extended hours working.

We were assured that these concerns have been anticipated by a number of measures: there will be four entrances and exits to spread the impact of pedestrian traffic. There will be no on-site car parking and staff will not be driving to the school. There is a specialist traffic consultant who has been recruited to consider the impact of traffic flow. Parents will be strongly encouraged not to bring children to school by car. There will be three playgrounds, two of which do not abut any residential property although the main one will, inevitably, be in the present car park area which is opposite and beside residential property.

We would welcome input from members. We will post those on the website, http://www.http://ramjet.3v0.net/~inkerman along with more news. We encourage people to attend the meeting(s) and the exhibition and report.

Inkerman Area Residents Association.

Minutes of meeting about the French School project with Roger Hayes on Monday, 25 January 2009

Present: Adam Leys, Don Hibbs, David and Debby.

Roger explained that he was from “The Green Brain” a communications consultancy specialising in sustainability for the future and community engagement. And political liaison. http:www.thegreenbain.co.uk

He was instructed on behalf of the project and would soon be meeting other interested parties, preparing a newsletter for the local area and a public exhibition to take place on site on the 11th and 12th of February.

He would be involved throughout the project and beyond. There would be a hotline for complaints or problems.

The French Embassy is acting as a facilitator. He said he was commissioned by the French Embassy who had bought the land and in due course would pass it to an independent trust. The trust would be approximately the same as a school governor’s board. He did not know how it would be appointed.

He said they wished to be a permanent part of the community.

The site would effectively contain three schools with about 200 pupils in each: The Nursery and Infant School for ages four onwards. The Junior School. The Secondary School up to 16 at which point children would transfer to the main French Lycée in Kensington.

The maximum was anticipated to be 700 pupils and that number would be reached after some years.

He informed us that they estimated there were currently 230 families living in the area of “wider Camden” who currently either attend the Vicar’s Road School http://www.ileauxenfants.co.uk/ or go over to Kensington. http://www.lyceefrancais.org.uk/

He emphasised that the catchment target was French families who are not just here on short-term contracts but who have homes here. Approximately 50 to 60% work for the three main French banks in the city.

People coming to England to work or settle would be encouraged to live in an area with easy access to the school.

There are other French schools in London at Clapham and Fulham.

School fees obviously are payable. The school will be a charitable entity and fees will be means tested. The curriculum will be directed towards the International baccalaureate.

Term lengths are almost exactly the same as state school terms in London.

The main managing organisation is called Church Street Investment (Devonshire House 33 Church Street, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8DP p: 01372224700 f: 01372224748 No website it seems) and they were the agents who had created the professional team which consisted of:

Planning agents: DP9. http://www.dp9.co.uk/

Architects: Sidell Gibson who specialised in restoration of listed buildings including Windsor Castle following the fire. http://www.sidellgibson.co.uk/

Traffic and transport: Savill, Bird and Axon who would be responsible for traffic planning during the course of construction and subsequently once the school was in operation. http://www.sbax.co.uk/

We expressed concern about traffic both during construction and once the school is in operation. He has met Ralph Scott and Nick Russell who also emphasised the importance of the transport issue.

As regards ongoing transport issues he said that the French Government and Camden Council have policies against driving children to school.

There will be no car parking on site. Teachers will have to comply with a no driving policy.

For parents there will be encouragement to use public transport. There will be advice on walking and cycling to school. There will be a school minibus. Any parents who do drive will be encouraged to car share. The starts and finishes of different age groups will be staggered to spread out arrival and departure times.

There will be a traffic survey of current traffic movements in the area and a survey of current traffic generated by the Vicars Road School and that will be overlaid on current use to predict the impact.

There will be a breakfast club in operation from eight o’clock and there will be after-school activities, some of which will be open to community involvement.

Ongoing delivery network is to be designed to source supplies as locally as possible. School lunches will be prepared on site.

The site will contain four entrances: on Holmes road there will be the main visitors entrance. On Willes Road there will be the main entrance for junior and secondary pupils and on Cathcart Street there will be one entrance for infants and another for the administration and later arrivals.

We looked at the plans. The current unlisted temporary, low quality buildings will be demolished and a new building created in their place, single storey where it abuts Cathcart Street rising to 2 storey in the middle of the site. The sight line from the street should therefore be the same as it is at the present moment.

The building is listed grade 2 but the interior has been messed about with over the years and is in a very poor state.

Don was concerned about the electricity station in the corner of the site. Roger did not know if there were plans for that but it seems from the plan that it will not be affected.

The present hall will be used for assembly, gym and dining but it’s not large enough for the school and will be extended out into the yard.

The planned opening date is September 2011. The planning application will be submitted in the spring and hopefully approved by the summer of 2010 and work will take 12 months. They expect to start internal work soon as it does not need planning permission.

All of us, especially Adam Leys commented that this was a very very tight schedule and there was concern that pressure would mean early starts and weekend working. We explained that Wates had done a good job with their project management of the Baths and we expected a similar standard from this project.

Roger said that there is it would be conducted according to the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme. http://www.ccscheme.org.uk/

The council’s planning department is keen to co-operate and there is a meeting soon with the planning department where Ed Watson is a senior officer together with the conservation area offices.

There will be an on-site caretaker probably near the entrance to Cathcart Street.

They are involved in discussions with English Heritage and with the Victorian Society.

We expressed a desire for Veolia to stop using the area as a main traffic route to balance the increased traffic generated by the school during construction and longer-term. We also suggested they might be interested in the Magnet site.