She and the other organisers were delighted so many residents attended who had the opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns directly to representatives from Ark. Council officers were present to provide information on the need for school places in the area.
Residents strongly felt that the proposal would cause serious traffic and parking problems as the school would have 2000 pupils aged from 3 to 18. Congestion on Mays Lane and the surrounding roads, which are already acutely congested at key times of day, would be exacerbated.
There are also concerns about the insufficiency of on-site parking in the plans. Ark are proposing 62 parking spaces. Totteridge Academy which is considerably smaller than the proposed Ark Academy has 80. If the school goes ahead residents believe a controlled parking zone will need to be introduced.
Everyone at the meeting agreed that school places in Barnet need to be increased and that it is very important to provide high quality education to children in the borough, but felt that the Ark Academy proposal was too large for the Barnet FC site. Furthermore, Jack Newton, head teacher of Underhill and Grasvenor schools, explained that both schools could expand to meet the local demand for primary school places.
Ark will be submitting their planning application by the end of the year and anticipating that building will start early next year. They aim for pupils to start being admitted in September 2018. The application is being made by the government’s Educational Funding Agency (as it is an academy and not under local authority control), but it will be for Barnet Council to decide whether planning is approved.
Jenny Duncan, Ark Schools’ head of projects conceded “We are listening. We know there is scepticism about the proposed new school. This is not a done deal. We now have to deal with the planning process, and we recognise it will be up to the planning committee to make a decision.”
The Barnet Society is also following this subject very closely and Robin Bishop, chair of their Planning and Environment Committee has written a detailed response to the proposal which you can read here.
The other sensitive issue is that Underhill site is located alongside Barnet Playing Fields, part of our precious Green Belt. Local residents need to be vigilant that new developments do not compromise it and risk setting precedents.