Pressing forward with Hollymount school expansion

Merton’s cabinet members agreed to press forward with original plans to permanently expand Hollymount Primary School at its cabinet meeting earlier this week.

The cabinet was asked to decide whether to continue with the original expansion scheme proposed by the council or to postpone it and pursue alternative plans put forward by a group of local residents. Both sets of plans were put before the cabinet on Tuesday (13 July) when residents, officers and school representatives all took the opportunity to put forward their case.

Cabinet members heard from both sides and unanimously agreed that postponing current plans to pursue an alternative scheme would not be in the best interests of the school and its pupils.

The cabinet heard that while the current expansion plans had full support from the school and its governors with building scheduled to begin this summer, the alternative scheme could take six months or more (subject to further planning permission) before construction could begin and did not have backing from the school.

Additional costs involved with pursuing the alternative expansion scheme also swayed the cabinet’s decision, coming in at approximately £1.3million pounds – accounting for further temporary classroom provision, building and demolition costs and fees to abort the current expansion programme.

Further disruption to pupils was also a concern for the school and cabinet members who are eager to ensure that the necessary permanent provision is in place for pupils as soon as possible.

Councillor Peter Walker, cabinet member for education at Merton Council said:

“At the present time we are facing in Merton two pressures:

“One is the increase in the number of children wishing to attend primary schools in the borough. We are experiencing a 25% increase in the number of four year old children in the five years 2007-2012. It is our duty to provide these young children with good quality accommodation in which to be educated.

“The other pressure we face is the cuts in Government grant being imposed on our schools budget in the current year and the years ahead. About £950,000 has to be taken this year from our spend for children and young people as a result of Government direction.

“In the case of Hollymount children our priority is to ensure that children have access to quality education with as little disruption as possible throughout the expansion process. As part of our decision we had to factor in the duration of construction, on site disruption to pupils, costs and of course the end result for children at Hollymount.

“This group of residents put forward a very good case and I’d like to thank them for the time and effort they put into presenting a robust argument for their alternative scheme. We would always encourage residents to take a stand on issues that are important to them in their neighbourhood and communities and it really is great to see this enthusiasm is not lost in Merton.

“The cabinet also took into account the strong representations put forward by the head teacher and the Chair of Governors of Hollymount School favouring the councils scheme and opposing that of the Frontland group.

“As councillors we are elected by our residents to take some tough decisions on matters that have emotional and practical investment from many different sides. I hope that overall the majority of residents will be satisfied with our decision which will ensure additional permanent school places for pupils at Hollymount from September 2011.”

-Ends-

Notes to editors:

The decision to permanently expand Hollymount Primary School from September 2011 was made at Merton Council’s cabinet meeting in June 2010. The permanent expansion will take the capacity from 210 pupils, plus nursery, to 420 pupils by 2015.

Details of key factors influencing the cabinet’s decision as follows:

The school and its governors feel that the council’s scheme is the best way to create the environment for Hollymount School to provide an outstanding education for local children. The school staff also feel the council’s scheme would be much less disruptive as it involved less demolition.

The cabinet were reassured by officers advice that the new classrooms will provide excellent teaching spaces and appropriate detailed work had been carried out on the window design to demonstrate that very good levels of daylighting will be achieved for children.

While cabinet understood that the residents group had provided contrary advice, they were convinced that the council’s consultants had provided robust cost advice, that the council’s scheme would be less expensive. This is particularly the case as the alternative scheme requires much more demolition of existing buildings, therefore requiring over 25% more build, and more temporary classrooms during the construction period.

The council’s scheme is scheduled to begin this summer with full planning permissions approved, but the alternative scheme would take six months or more (subject to further planning permission) before construction could begin.

Press Contact:
Kim Parker
Communications Officer
London Borough of Merton
020 8545 3827