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.
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.
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.
Tom 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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