The future of Avonmore Primary School

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Image caption: Image 1: Architect impression illustration of the entrance for Avonmore Primary School
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Image caption: Image 2: Photos showing the current condition of the buildings at Avonmore Primary School
  • A message from Avonmore Primary School

    I’m so thrilled that Avonmore was chosen to be part of this project and for us I really feel that it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    We’ve got a very old building, it’s very difficult to upkeep and it truly is no longer fit for purpose. And that’s not just in terms of the site but also in the way that education has moved on. It is more important now than ever, that the space we work in can deliver a modern curriculum that all our children and families deserve.

    Avonmore Primary School is a vibrant, diverse and very special place at the heart of our community. We try and create a nurturing, inspiring environment in which children feel valued, motivated and happy. Our values were written by the whole school community - our staff members, our children, our families - and they underpin everything we do. That’s why we are very pleased to have been able to work so closely with the Council and the independent design team to develop new plans that really bring those values to life.

    I think what the work so far has led to is the creation of a new school that can inspire creative thinking; one that reflects a calm and purposeful environment; and also gives us a light and spacious feel with all the flexible spaces that we need to provide a cutting edge and exciting curriculum that brings the outside in and the inside out.

    I am also pleased that it gives us more space for community use, including affordable homes, again reflecting our part in the community. On top of all of that it also has a sustainable design element which is extremely important to us as a school and for our children.

    The Governors, our Executive Head Paul Cotter, and myself fully support all the different design elements that have been brought in that we believe will create an excellent environment for all our pupils going forward. The entire school is really excited to be part of this.

    Maya Wittleton - Head of School

Video of the Avonmore new designs

Avonmore virtual tour

The future of Avonmore Primary School - picture gallery

Frequently asked questions about Avonmore redevelopment

Why is Avonmore Primary School being redeveloped?

Avonmore Primary School is not fit for purpose. Our children and staff deserve better and we are determined to provide that.

The current Avonmore school facilities are outdated and do not offer the best learning environment for pupils or staff. Re-providing a modern, fit for purpose school would support the borough’s ambition to give children the best start in life.

Traditional routes to redevelop schools are not available to us so we need to be flexible and innovative in our approach.

Since the Building School for the Future programme was halted in 2010, financial investment in school upkeep across the country has been minimal. This means children in Hammersmith & Fulham Community Schools are being taught in buildings that are in poor condition and are no longer fit for purpose.

As there is no national programme to renew existing Community Schools, Hammersmith & Fulham Council, in collaboration with Head teachers and governing bodies across the borough, have identified schools that would benefit from a new local Community Schools Programme.

Avonmore Primary School has been identified as one of the first schools which will benefit from the Community Schools Programme.

What is the Community Schools Programme?

It is a new initiative by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, to improve school facilities and educational attainment by providing new high-quality, well-designed schools in the borough.

The Community Schools Programme will fund the building of new schools by building and selling much needed new homes for local people on the site. These homes would be at least 50% truly affordable and 50% private leasehold with the Council always remaining as the freeholder of the entire site.

The sale proceeds of new homes fund the delivery of the school redevelopment.

It is an innovative cross-subsidy, investment model where the building of much needed new housing can also deliver a new school on each site which is fit for the 21st century.

What are the objectives of the Community Schools Programme?

We want to improve educational outcomes for the borough’s children.

We want to support thriving communities by supporting schools and creating more affordable homes for local families so they no longer have to move away from the area.

We will use this innovative approach to meet the funding challenges facing the school community.

Are there no other funding resources available which could pay for a new school without housing having to be built?

There is no current appropriate funding available from the government to rebuild existing schools. This is why Hammersmith & Fulham Council have introduced an innovative new funding model through the establishment of the Community Schools Programme.

In some instances the council can get funds through what is called a Section 106 Agreement from developments. But while the council do get some S106 money none of these contributions are able to be used for Avonmore.

Why can’t the neighbouring Olympia development Section 106 funds pay for the new school?

There are very strict rules around using S106 funds and the Olympia money cannot be used for education.

Why is the council selling off school land?

We are not selling off the land and we will remain the owner.The council would act as the developer for this project and remain the freeholder of the entire site. Whilst half of the new homes to be built will be sold on the open market, these will be private leasehold properties

Is it not possible for the existing school to be refurbished instead?

No.  Given the age of the existing main school building (it was constructed in the 1950’s), there would be significant cost associated with refurbishment and there is no funding available for this. Refurbishing the building would also restrict the potential for enhanced educational facilities to be provided. It would be like putting a plaster on a wound – it is not a long term sustainable solution. As well as the main school building there are also modular buildings on the site. These cannot be brought up to an appropriate standard and can also not be accommodated within the main school building due to space constraints. 

Why is it not being rebuilt as a 2-Form Entry school?

This is not needed.The council’s Education Department have undertaken a thorough analysis of both the current and predicted future demand for school places in the borough. Currently there is a surplus of spaces at both Avonmore and other good or outstanding schools in the area and there is not demand for Avonmore Primary School to be enlarged to provide a 2 Form-Entry school. Should demand increase, then the requirement to create new school places will be met through Section 106 contributions.

Will the Department of Education be consulted?

Yes, the scheme can only go ahead and the school rebuilt if the permission is given by the Department of Education. This is a separate application process to the one needed to gain planning permission and the council are also currently progressing this.

Have the school been involved in the design process and do they support the redevelopment?

Yes. Following the Cabinet decision in March 2019 to proceed with the Community Schools Programme, the council appointed an Independent Design Adviser to work with Avonmore’s senior leadership team, the governors, parents and pupils to prepare a detailed design brief for what they would want from the new school.

A full project design team were then appointed by the Council towards the end of 2019. This included Walters & Cohen, an architectural practice which specialises in designing new schools.

Walters & Cohen have since worked with the Independent Design Advisor to hold regular design workshops with the senior leadership team so they can have a say in how their new school is designed.

The school are very supportive of the current proposals, including the principle of locating new housing on the site.

At the core of the school brief is that the development is to be led by the needs of the school.

Maya Wittleton, the Head of School, spoke in support of the proposals and the level of engagement the school have had to date, at the most recent virtual consultation event. See message from Maya Wittleton above.

Has the decision already been made to redevelop the site?

No. The proposals are still at the design development stage and will need to go through the formal planning application process and secure planning permission before any works can start on the site.

The council’s Planning Department will be the Local Planning Authority in this instance and they will have a duty to ensure the proposals are properly assessed in relation to planning policy. They will remain impartial and will consider any application based on its own merits.

Whilst the council’s Planning Officers will recommend the planning application for either approval or refusal, the final decision will be made by the council’s Planning Committee, which is made up of local councillors.

How can I have a say on these proposals?

We are grateful to everyone who has shared their views on these proposals with us so far. We have taken these into account as we finalise our thinking. But also want to make sure we create plans that have a high level of support among the schools and local communities. So, we want to listen to what you have say about our latest ideas.

Over the coming weeks, we will have a team of researchers talking to schools, local residents and community groups to help us in this process. In the meantime, if you want someone to listen to what you have to say, contact and we will arrange a conversation.

We know we will not be able to please everyone. But we also know the entire community will support the idea that its children should have a safe and inspiring facility which gives them the best start in life. And that we must address the ever-increasing cost of living in London and offer options for the next generation of local homeowners and renters.

What happens to the children while the new school is being built?

After discussions with the school it was decided that to minimise disruption and to support educational continuity for the pupils, the best arrangement would be for the pupils to move ‘off-site’ during the construction period.

A number of different options were discussed and the former Queensmill School site on Mund Street has been identified as suitable.

It is approximately 13 minutes walk away from Avonmore Primary school and the pupils will move there for the duration of the build. View Google map showing Avonmore and Queensmill

It is a purpose built secondary school that was decommissioned years ago due to falling pupil roll. Most recently it has temporarily been used by Fulham Boys School while their new school was being constructed.

Both the council and the school consider there are many positives for the school moving to a different site during the construction. It should minimise disruption and guarantees all children and staff remain on the same site. It also means there is no need for the use of porta-cabins as classrooms or offices.

Is it practical for a school and new housing to be located together on the same site?

Yes, there are successful examples of this elsewhere in London and also within the borough (Ark Academy).

The scheme will be of the highest quality and by having a design team of different specialities we believe we are able to create a vibrant new mixed development where both the school and residential buildings work in harmony with each other.

Would there be a loss of playground space?

There will be more school friendly outdoor spaces. Areas of the existing playground space are not currently well used or accessible to the children, and the new proposals make maximum use of the site and provide a better outdoor play area. The proposed playground space will be of a much higher quality with many new and enhanced features.

In addition, as part of the new school design there is also the introduction of a new 2-court court sports hall which will ensure the school can successfully deliver their sports focused curriculum. This space will also be opened up outside of school hours for use by the wider community.

How would the school be kept secure?

This is a priority and the current state of the buildings are not as secure as we would all like. The security of the school and its pupils is a key consideration and one of the fundamental design principles which has been considered from the outset. The strategy to keep the residential and school buildings entirely separate will ensure this, with the school having its own secure and controlled entrance and exit points.

What would be done to protect adjacent residents during the construction period?

We will do everything we can to minimise disruption during the demolition and construction phases.

It is inevitable that there will be some disruption during a project of this scale and we apologise in advance for that.

A detailed plan will be developed to minimise disruption during the construction period. This will include a Traffic Management Plan to ensure that construction vehicle traffic to and from the site is managed appropriately.

Standard hours of working will be implemented to minimise disruption.

Would any of the existing car parking spaces surrounding the site be lost as a result of the proposals?

The development is proposed to be car-free. This is in line with policy contained within the council’s Local Plan and the Mayor’s London Plan.

The only car parking spaces to be provided on the site will be for dedicated Blue Badge holders only. Otherwise all of the new homes (genuinely affordable and private sale), like with many recent schemes in the borough, will not be provided with a car parking space and will not be granted a parking permit for the surrounding area.

Where would the new residents park? I am concerned about added congestion.

Due to the proximity of existing public transport links, the development is proposed to be car-free. This is in line with policy contained within the Council’s Local Plan and the Mayor’s London Plan. 

The only car parking spaces to be provided on the site will be for dedicated Blue Badge holders only. Otherwise all of the new homes (genuinely affordable and private sale), like with many recent schemes in the borough, will not be provided with a car parking space and will not be granted a parking permit for the surrounding area. 

How would the wider community benefit from the proposal?

Improving schools and education benefits everybody. More affordable homes for local people also benefits the whole community. As well as providing a high-quality new school and genuinely affordable housing to help meet the borough’s housing need, the intention is for the enhanced school facilities, such as the new sports hall, to be made available to the local community and community groups for use outside of school hours.

There will be public realm enhancements around the perimeter of the site.

Why is Gordon Cottage proposed for removal?

Gordon Cottage is a two storey house located on the site which was built in the 19th century. It has been identified as a locally listed ‘Building of Merit’. It was previously part of a terraced row of houses which over time have been demolished and Gordon Cottage now stands alone. It is currently used by the school, but it does not suit their needs and there remains no original features internally.

The council and the project team have carefully considered and reviewed the impact of both retaining and removing the Cottage. Unfortunately, it is not possible keep Gordon Cottage and meet the financial requirements needed to deliver a new school on the site. On balance, the design team also consider there is an opportunity to create a new residential building here which will better respond to the surrounding character of the area and the more prevalent mansion block typology.

How would the design respond to the site and the surrounding areas historic character?

The site is located within the Olympia and Avonmore Conservation Area.

As well as Gordon Cottage, adjacent to the site are a number of other locally listed mansion blocks and St James Preparatory School.

The proposed design seeks to respond to the historic character and appearance of the neighbouring mansion blocks so that it is in-keeping with the surrounding area. The design and scale of the new buildings has evolved so that it complements the neighbouring buildings and responds to the Conservation Area. The proposed materials palette also uses materials such as red brick which are prevalent within the surrounding area.

Why can’t more than 50% affordable housing be provided on the site?

The funding mechanism for the programme is dependent on raising enough money from the sale of housing on the site to pay for the new school. No revenue is raised from the new genuinely affordable housing, but the council recognise the pressing need for genuinely affordable housing across the borough. So the programme will balance delivering a new school, and affordable housing. However, half of the new homes need to be provided for market sale to fund the new school.

What is the definition of affordable housing?

Of the 50% affordable housing units, 60% of these will be provided for London Affordable Rent and 40% will be for London Living Rent.

London Affordable Rent is a type of social rented housing which is subject to rent controls that require a rent of no more than 80% of the local market rent to be applied.

London Living Rent is a type of intermediate product that will help, through low rents on time-limited tenancies, households with average earnings save for a deposit. Eligibility is restricted to households renting privately or socially with a maximum household income of £60,000 and without current sufficient savings to purchase a home in the local area.

Why are some of the existing trees on the site proposed for removal?

The council recognise that the existing trees on the site are part of what makes Avonmore so special. So we are working with our design team to ensure that as many of the existing of trees on site can be retained as possible.

Input from a specialist tree consultant has been sought and they have undertaken an assessment of the quality of all the trees on site. Special care has been taken to keep all of those trees which have been deemed to be of the highest quality.

It is inevitable there will be some loss of lower quality trees but these will be replaced by new planting and landscaping on site and additional enhancements to the public areas outside the school site such as Marcus Garvey Park where we will look to re-provide 2 new trees for each tree lost at a minimum.

What is the energy and sustainability strategy?

The new schools will almost have carbon emissions. The council is committed to a greener and sustainable future and is seeking an on-site carbon reduction of at least 45%.

This ambitious carbon reduction target be achieved by using a combination of more sustainable energy sources, including PV panels and air source heat pumps rather than traditional gas boilers.

The proposals will also incorporate biodiverse roofs.

A best practice, sustainable energy approach to is proposed to achieve a carbon reduction on site and ensure energy efficiency.

The development will also make a financial contribution to offset the remaining carbon so it becomes a carbon-neutral development.

Computer generated images