Top London school plans new wing in underground car park

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Guardian

City of London school for girls’ plan to extend facility at its Barbican site sparks disbelief, The Guardian reports.

One of the country’s leading private girls’ schools has come under fire over ‘bizarre’ plans to build a preparatory school for children as young as four in an underground car park beneath London’s Barbican estate.

Residents say they are horrified by the prospect of the new school, which has been proposed by the fee-paying City of London school for girls (CLSG) as an extension to its existing site at the heart of the Barbican, a now celebrated example of brutalist architecture.

Critics of the scheme say that children will be ‘entombed in a sealed, underground chamber’, entirely dependent on artificial light and ventilation. They say it will be situated on a ‘traffic island’, with delivery vehicles serving the estate circulating around it.

There are also concerns that the change will increase traffic and congestion in the area – as well as forcing residents who currently park there to relocate.

CLSG, which is one of the highest-performing schools in the country and charges fees of £5,727 per term, was established by the Corporation of the City of London in 1894 and moved to its current site in the Barbican in 1969. It is still owned and supported by the corporation and has been looking for some time at ways to expand on its limited site.

Plans drawn up by Nicholas Hare Architects show the new school development in what is currently the car park for Thomas More House on the Barbican estate, beneath the existing school’s all-weather pitch.

The proposals include new classrooms, a hall, dining area and play spaces, which would allow the school to begin taking in pupils at reception and upwards, increasing pupil numbers by 150 by 2024.

The car park where the school will be built currently has 150 parking bays and serves three blocks. Cars, cycle and baggage stores in the car park will be found alternative sites across other car parks on the estate if the plans are approved.

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Locals are also worried about increased traffic and congestion in the area caused by the school run – or “Chelsea tractor pageants”, in the words of one resident – with parents dropping off and picking up children who are too young to use public transport on their own.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said plans were still at a very early stage, adding: ““Any plans for the classrooms and facilities will of course meet the relevant standards for lighting and ventilation for an educational environment. If the decision is made to go ahead, the school will consult with all interested parties as the plans evolve.”

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