Hackney New School design gets thumbs up despite eco worries

Hackney New School viewed from the north east.

Hackney New School viewed from the north east. - Credit: Archant

Opponents have criticized the design of the new 700-pupil free school on the Kingsland Basin for not doing more to protect the nature thriving there.

Wildlife lovers are worried noise generated by pupils of Hackney New School – which opened its doors to its first 100 pupils last week – will have a negative impact on the water’s ecosystem.

The stretch of water off the Regent’s Canal just behind Kingsland Road in Haggerston is home to arctic terns, goldfinches, grey and pied wagtails, swans and bats and herons have been spotted there too.

Objectors at a planning meeting on Monday also pointed out that the five storey block would block morning sunlight reaching the water and its “ecozone”, and would overshadow their homes.

While the building will have a “green” roof – a target in the Hackney Biodiversity Action Plan - there are no plans to plant trees on the border with the canal.

But the L-shaped development, which will comprise a six-storey block bordering Kingsland Road as well as the refurbishment of a block in Downham Road, was passed with four votes in favour and four abstentions.

Concerns were raised about the lack of outdoor space on site and where its 700 pupils would exercise and go during their lunch break.

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Director of CMA Planning, Charles Moran, said his team had worked carefully to ensure spaces had multiple uses.

“We do have a shortage of outdoor space, it was a constraint we had to acknowledge and work very hard to address right from the outset, and the reason it works in this instance is because the school has an extended school day,” he said.

“This isn’t a normal school in terms of hours, but the timetable can be carefully written and devised so that play space can be used in a staggered way.”

Chair of the planning committee, Cllr Vincent Stops, pointed out that in planning terms this was not a consideration.

“It’s the impact on the amenity of the residents rather than how they mange a large amount of children,” he said.

Mr Moran pointed out the development is smaller than the eight-storey development for which planning permission already exists on site.

“Planning policy at all levels offers very strong support for all state funded schools,” he added.

Concerns were also raised over the school’s location near a busy road, but headteacher Lesley Falconer said staff patrol the area in the morning to ensure pupils’ safety of pupils at the main crossing points.

“Hackney New School is more than just a school, it’s a means of supporting every aspect of a child’s development, intellectual, social emotional and physical, the first cohort of local children are already benefiting and this can only benefit the wider community of Hackney,” she said.