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Ire over Hackney Council's 'school in park' bid

PUBLISHED: 09:26 11 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:45 11 June 2016

The community orchard in Haggerston Park

The community orchard in Haggerston Park

Archant

Hackney Council's plans to use the site of a "precious" community orchard and BMX training yard in Haggerston Park as a temporary school for five years have been met with uproar.

Gardeners at the community orchard in Haggerston ParkGardeners at the community orchard in Haggerston Park

The council says it needs to house 540 pupils on the site off Audrey Street while two secondary schools are being built by the City of London to meet demand for places.

The first overspill would open there next September while a school is being built on the site of Britannia Leisure Centre in Hyde Road, Hoxton, alongside a new sports centre.

The second would open in Audrey Street in 2019 before being moved to the site of the current Benthal Primary School site, near Hackney Downs, in 2022.

Hackney’s Mayor Jules Pipe has said the school plans would “not reduce parkland” and described the site an “asphalt-covered depot site”.

The photo of the site used on the council's consultation leaflet, which park users say is misleading and makes the space look The photo of the site used on the council's consultation leaflet, which park users say is misleading and makes the space look "derelict"

But members of the Hackney BMX Club who train in Audrey Street, and gardeners from the community orchard who have built boxed beds to plant vegetables, herbs and trees there, are up in arms about the loss of parkland.

The Haggerston Park Users Group claims it had to fight for four years to get the keys returned last time the park was used as a temporary school, to house 180 Bridge Academy pupils from 2007 to 2008.

Simon Chambers said: “They promised local residents that they would return the land to parkland afterwards. If they are going to put 540 children there for five years, they are not keeping that promise. Haggerston Park is a public amenity which the council manage on our behalf – they need to remember that it belongs to everybody.

“With the increasing density of population in this area and rising pollution levels in London, it is important for us to defend land which is designated for use as parkland.”

BMX riders in the site off Audrey Street, Haggerston ParkBMX riders in the site off Audrey Street, Haggerston Park

Park user Bradley Hotson added: “Despite the contention that the part of the park under proposal is not parkland, it quite clearly is,” he said.

“The community orchard and BMX training yard are precious to Haggerston residents, and the temporary school idea strikes me and other residents as poorly thought out.”

The group is holding an open day today from 11am to 4pm to show what members do on the site.

Meanwhile the council’s own drop-in consultation session takes place on Tuesday from 4pm to 8pm at Whiston and Goldsmiths Community Hall in Goldsmiths Row.

A spokesman said: “Arrangements have been discussed with existing interim users of the depot site to relocate them elsewhere within the park.

“Using the former depot means we can ensure high quality school places.”

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