Leigh Academy gets go-ahead to build new school on Blackheath Bluecoat site

Leigh Academy Blackheath
Leigh Academy Blackheath will open on the old Blackheath Bluecoat site

A new academy has been given the green light to move to a permanent home on the old Blackheath Bluecoat School site despite safety concerns.

Councillors pushed back deciding on the proposed Leigh Academy Blackheath in Old Dover Road at a meeting in October.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency plans to demolish buildings, formerly used by Blackheath Bluecoat before its closure in 2014, and build a new school with a capacity of 1,150 pupils.

Officers said the school needed to be built so there was enough future school places, and that rejecting plans would place the council in a tough position.

Playing field worries

Concerns were raised, however, over the academy’s plan to use the Hervey Road playing field, a five-minute walk away from the site – meaning groups of schoolchildren would be forced to cross Shooters Hill Road to get to PE classes.

Charlton ward Labour councillor Gary Dillon said: “I want to know if there are any road crossings that can be put in on the junction of Old Dover Road and Shooters Hill Road. It’s quite a busy road if the kids are going to be crossing over.”

Officers said a crossing already existed across Shooters Hill Road, meaning it wasn’t necessary to have another “in close proximity”.

“Surely it would be quicker and better for child safety to have another crossing,” Cllr Dillon said. “If my kids were there I would want it.”

Councillors were told it was common for schools to use nearby open spaces for exercise, and that pupils would be supervised along the route.

Neighbours also protested, saying the school would be bigger than Blackheath Bluecoat, and that roads and buses would not cope with extra traffic and more students.

Victoria House
The school is currently based in old army quarters at the foot of Shooters Hill

Several neighbours complained a bigger school would bring pressure on the single-decker 386 which, according to them, is already packed with pupils from the John Roan.

According to officers, the school will not be bigger than Blackheath Bluecoat – the latter was just unpopular.

‘Safety is our priority’

Emma Smith, the school’s principal, said it is policy to have staff at school gates and bus stops to ensure students behaved well.

She said: “The feedback we’ve had is that whatever we are doing is very positive. We are very active at the gates and the safety of our children is priority.

“That’s how we plan to manage our children going forward. We will need more staff as we grow – but we will uphold our standards.”

The Leigh Academy opened in September 2018, starting at Victoria House, a former army building at the foot of Shooters Hill, while plans for the Old Dover Road site were finalised.

The site is currently home to St Mary Magdalene School, which is now moving to a permanent home on Greenwich Peninsula.

The new school will be split across two adjoining buildings, a main teaching block and a sports and drama studio.

Councillors approved the proposals, aside from Cllr Norman Adams (Labour, Kidbrooke with Hornfair) who voted to reject the plan.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content to supplement its own coverage.


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Woolwich Road roundabout ‘not fit for humans’, council deputy leader says

Woolwich Road roundabout
Edgaras Cepura died at the roundabout in May this year

East Greenwich’s infamous Woolwich Road roundabout, where a cyclist was killed earlier this year, is “not fit for humans”, according to a top councillor.

The junction of the A206 and A102, just west of Charlton, has been the centre of campaigns for cycle safety this year and the leader of Greenwich Council was quizzed on it last night.

Three cyclists died in the space of three weeks in south-east London earlier this year, with the third being Edgaras Cepura at the roundabout on 18 May.

Campaigners and councillors have criticised the junction for being notoriously dangerous for cyclists.

Council leader Danny Thorpe told a Q&A meeting at Woolwich Town Hall: “In relation to the tragic deaths of a number of cyclists over the last year particularly at the roundabout we held a visit with TfL and officers because its a very hard thing to resolve on your own.

“We don’t control all the infrastructure around there but we have to make sure there are changes because it is one of the most horrendous places to be if you’re on foot or bike.”

The council has carried out some safety improvements such as road markings but the road is under the control of Transport for London.

‘Awful roundabout’

It comes as London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed designs for the roundabout are being brought forward.

He told City Hall last month that TfL was working with the council on designs and funding to improve the roundabout “as soon as possible” ahead of a larger scheme of the cycle superhighway.

Cllr Thorpe added: “We have been lobbying hard to make sure a cycle superhighway is extended from Greenwich down to Woolwich too. In this area there is such enormous potential and demand we need to tap into.”

It comes as a wider plan for safety schemes was passed at a cabinet meeting last week.

Deputy leader Cllr David Gardner said: “That is an awful roundabout, it is not built on a human scale. It’s not built for human beings, it needs drastic surgery to make it safe.”


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content to supplement its own coverage.