So its FINAL then: The latest in the continuing series regarding Whitehall Park School

David Barry's picture
 15
INTRODUCTION

This follows on from the recent posting (see sidebar) about an application for planning permission to Islington Council, to provide temporary accomodation for one academic year (2014 -2015) for Whitehall Park School on part of the old Ashmount School site in Islington, here:

A fortnight before the announced, legal, deadline for comments or objections to the application for planning permission expired Whitehall park School issued this press release.

(But note, even though the deadline has passed, Islington planning, as is their usual practice are still accepting comments, though obviously the sooner, the better, if they are to be taken into consideration)

What I thought I would do is post the complete, concise, text of the press release, and then once I am notified that it has passed moderation go ahead and post my comments on it....

PRESS RELEASE

Release date:Immediate release: 3rd June 2014

Media enquiries: Becci Roach on 07785 583836
or email info@whitehallparkschool.co.uk

Project plan finalised

The project plan for the construction of Whitehall Park School’s permanent building on the former Ashmount School site on Hornsey Lane has now been finalised.

A planning application will be submitted this autumn. The project plan, which has been produced by building professionals with a wealth of experience, predicts that the contractor will start on site in January 2015. As Whitehall Park School will only require space for a maximum of 116 pupils in September 2015, an achievable two-phase construction handover is planned.

Phase One of the new building, which will accommodate Reception and Key Stage 1 classes (Years 1 and 2), is scheduled for completion for September 2015. Phase Two is due to be handed over just two months later, although this area of the building will not be required until the school’s first pupils reach Year 3 (Key Stage 2) in September 2017.

A building contractor will be appointed following a strict procurement process. The construction works will be funded by the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency will be involved every step of the way to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to budget.

The proposals for the construction of high-quality temporary buildings which will accommodate the Reception pupils joining Whitehall Park School this September have been submitted to Islington council and the tenders requested from companies to supply these have now been received. Further details will be announced shortly.

Those considering a Reception place for their child at Whitehall Park School for this September are invited to contact the Headteacher, Laura Birkett, at head@whitehallparkschool.org.uk or by leaving a message on 0845 459 0113.

ENDS
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David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:41

"Project plan finalised

The project plan for the construction of Whitehall Park School’s permanent building on the former Ashmount School site on Hornsey Lane has now been finalised."

[Comment. "Finalised" despite the Minister's decision regarding the site not yet announced. Why such a delay? The Minister has already said that he is "Minded" to take the site but is considering dividing it, using only part of the site for the school, so while it does seem reasonable for Bellevue to go ahead on the basis the decision will be made. It still has not. Why?

Islington have responded by saying that they would wish, in the event of the site being divided, to have the Minister allow half the site to be used for housing and the other half for the Free School. The "Ashmount Site Action Group" which consists of people whose back garden fences border the old school site, and which was set up to oppose the use of the site for housing insist that the whole site be given to Bellevue Ltd; they have threatened judicial review if it is not. ASAG claim to have the funds set aside for the legal costs. Representatives of Bellevue Ltd have attended meetings of the ASAG steering group.

On the other hand should the Minister decide to appropriate the whole site for Bellevue the newly elected Islington Council could hardly be expected to take that quietly.

So whatever the Minister decides there will be some adverse response and a risk of legal challenge of his decision. but at any rate the "project plan has been "finalised"]

David Barry's picture
Thu, 19/06/2014 - 18:16

The following announcement has appeared on a Government web site:

"EFA has agreed with Islington Council to use part of the old site as the location for Whitehall Park free school – set up in response to significant local demand, and the council will use part of the site to provide badly needed affordable housing in the borough."

So I asked Islington Council about it. The relevant officers at Islington, the ones that have been meeting with the EFA and DfE, have not been told of this final decision. They were in no way surprised by it, save it seems that the EFA were due to confirm their final position in the next few days and until then the matter confidential and they cannot discuss it or make any announcement regarding a matter which is, however, now in the public domain!

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:42

"A planning application will be submitted this autumn."

[Comment:This implies that an Architect needs to be appointed to do the plans. As this press release does not include an announcement about who the Architect is it seems likely that the appointment has not happened yet, in which case the timetable for getting the plans to planning by the Autumn (September? October?) is tight enough.]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 07/12/2014 - 19:24

I thought I should update this to mention that, as of last Friday no planning application has been submitted to Islington Council. So it was not even November.


David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:43

"The project plan, which has been produced by building professionals with a wealth of experience,"

[Comment: Why so coy about saying who the project planners are? Normally in major building projects there is a series of announcements, in the trade press if not elsewhere as the various contractors are announced. Contractors are usually very keen to be identified in public when they win a piece of work as it helps them win further business. If we knew who they were it would be easy to verify the statement as to their expertise. One would almost think that details might be missing because the press statement may be more anticipatory than at first appears]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:44

".... independently predicts that the contractor will start on site in January 2015."

[ Comment: Frankly anyone can write a project plan with a very tight timescale, its achieving it that is the trick. In this case the starting assumption is being made that planning permission goes through smoothly and without incident, yet we know from the history of the old Ashmount building, which has locally listed status, that objections will be lodged by the 20th Century Society, and more locally, The Islington Society and the Highgate Society. All these bodies will be making responses based on significant, in house, pro bono, architectural expertise. English heritage also regards itself as having a stakeholder role and has notified the Council of this. Islington sets a target of dealing with at least 65 per cent of "major Planning applications" which this clearly is, within 13 Weeks. So in the best circumstances the interval between the planning application being approved and the contractor starting is really very tight. Unrealistically so if the usual practice is followed of not signing a contract UNTIL planning permission is obtained. I asked someone more knowledgeable than me on Government procurement about this. They said:

"It would be extremely dubious for a publicly funded department to procure a project by deposit of funds before it had the benefit of planning permission. They might form an agreement with a third party subject to planning, but anyone in their right mind would require bailout clauses in the event of no permission being granted and any such agreement would not be a building contract, but a separate agreement."

And given that a contract could hardly be signed and a start date agreed BEFORE permission granted, what is a realistic interval between planning permission and the contractor starting?:

"I don't know any contractors who can either start straight away (mobilising can take 2-4 weeks as standard) and even fewer who will start any works or mobilisation without either a contract or letter of intent.
So, planning permission, contract, start on site. But the missing part here is you can't go from planning permission straight to site, as you need a design! This takes time and more appointments and whilst it can be run in tandem with the wait for planning, again this would be money spent at risk for a govt department."

No, there is something not right about this plan, as reported..]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 07/12/2014 - 19:26

As no planning application has yet been submitted I think we can take it that the contractor will not start in January 2015.


David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:45

"As Whitehall Park School will only require space for a maximum of 116 pupils in September 2015, an achievable two-phase construction handover is planned.

[Comment: which tells us the assurance given to prospective parents that the building would be ready by September 2015 no longer applies. In fact this assurance at time of writing is still on the Whitehall Park school website:

"The new school will be built/remodelled while both of our Reception classes are in the temporary accommodation. We will move into the new/remodelled building in September 2015."

[Comment: The trend for over optimistic or even premature announcements by Bellevue well set]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:46

"Phase One of the new building, which will accommodate Reception and Key Stage 1 classes (Years 1 and 2), is scheduled for completion for September 2015. Phase Two is due to be handed over just two months later, although this area of the building will not be required until the school’s first pupils reach Year 3 (Key Stage 2) in September 2017."

[Comment this is exactly the sort of phased demolition and rebuild that was considered by Ashmount Governors years ago. And rejected. The welfare issues involved in children sharing the site with such major building works for, on Bellevue's latest account, a year MINIMUM. The timetable while announcing a finish date is actually, you will note, modified by an assurance that it will at any rate be ready by September 2017. As the old building is known to contain significant amounts of asbestos, safe until disturbed, the demolition work will be slow. It is essential that the actual asbestos stripping, which must be done before the main demolition be carried out WITHOUT children on site, that is only during school holiday periods which has an obvious impact on project planning. Even if you start in January you have to wait for half term, and then the Easter break to do the work.]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:47

"A building contractor will be appointed following a strict procurement process. The construction works will be funded by the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency will be involved every step of the way to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to budget."

[Comment: so thats all right then.]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:51

"The proposals for the construction of high-quality temporary buildings which will accommodate the Reception pupils joining Whitehall Park School this September have been submitted to Islington council and the tenders requested from companies to supply these have now been received. Further details will be announced shortly."

[Comment: I have posted about the planning application here:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/06/objection-or-how-a-lot-of-... ]

David Barry's picture
Sun, 15/06/2014 - 09:51

"Those considering a Reception place for their child at Whitehall Park School for this September are invited to contact the Headteacher, Laura Birkett, at head@whitehallparkschool.org.uk or by leaving a message on 0845 459 0113."

[So a school which keeps announcing that it is "oversubscribed", as recently as the week before this press release, continues to advertise for pupils...]

David Barry's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 14:42

Here is a copy of an email sent earlier today. Obviously if I get a response I will let the readers of this site know!

TEXT STARTS


From: David Barry
Subject: Attn: Becci Roach
Date: 16 June 2014 10:47:47 BDT
To: info@whitehallparkschool.co.uk

Dear Ms Roach,

I am writing to draw your attention to a posting on the Local Schools network website, to enable you, if you wish, to respond to comments made.

It concerns your recent ( 3rd June) press release entitled:

"Project plan finalised. The project plan for the construction of Whitehall Park School’s permanent building on the former Ashmount School site on Hornsey Lane has now been finalised."

Here is the link: (Hyper link inserted)


As a matter of courtesy I should mention that a copy of this email will be posted up shortly.

David Barry

TEXT ENDS

David Barry's picture
Wed, 04/02/2015 - 18:57

I should for completeness mention here that it has been confirmed that no planning application will now go in until after the General Election.

I have blogged about that announcement here:-

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/12/it-aint-so-the-whitehall-p...

David Barry's picture
Wed, 04/02/2015 - 19:01

And also blogged here about the planning application delay for Whitehall park School

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/01/whitehall-park-school-a-la...

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