Gordonbrock School - Nightmares of Futures Past

Prologue

When Brockley Central worked at The Football Association, many years ago, the organisation was involved with trying to rebuild Wembley Stadium. After years of work by architects, planners, bankers and lawyers, work looked set to begin.

Then, the Sports Minister Kate Hoey decided that she didn't like it because it wasn't optimised for athletics - all designs are compromise, and since athletics doesn't generally attract big crowds, sticking an athletics track around the pitch didn't make a lot of sense. She demanded a review, which delayed the project by about a year, during which time, groups came forward with "alternative designs" none of which was more than a drawing of a stadium and a dot on a map. These hypothetical alternatives attracted a great deal of public support because the people proposing them could promise anything. Half the cost! Ten thousand more seats! Loads more parking! A futuristic design!

The review concluded that the original plans were the right ones all along. Tens of millions of pounds were added to the cost of the project as a result of the lengthy delay.

-----

Ute Michel has written a very comprehensive account of the meeting she attended about the future of Gordonbrock School yesterday.

Crucial passages include:

The Council is committed to the Gordonbrock project as planned and officers continue to work on it in light of the new circumstances and new timeframe... the whole planning process has to be completed again and the decant would be more likely to take place in December/January. If the legal challenge were to be withdrawn the decant could probably happen in time for September...

The delay also adds pressure on the Council's provision of primary places as Gordonbrock won't be able to go up to 3 form entry from September as would have been possible with the planned decant to Greenvale. This shortage is substantial in the whole borough and the Council has to take this into account when planning future provision of primary school places.

49 comments:

Selective quotes said...

Funding: As notified earlier, the funding for this scheme is less at risk than initially feared as it does not consist of government grants that have to be spent by a certain time.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, not new news (previously discussed on this site), so that's why I didn't highlight those passages, although of course I did link to the whole article. I highlighted the most relevant new information.

Further selective quotes said...

Access to documents: Some parents have written to Council officers requesting access to documents related to the legal challenge. Please note that the Council is not prepared to disclose the documents as they are currently the subject of legal professional privilege as litigation is now in progress (Section 42 FOIA 2000).

Brockley Nick said...

Erm, yes - it's not really on to cut and paste the whole article - that's why you *select* some quotes and provide a *link*.

I don't think the wrangling over access to legal documents is the most relevant part, do you?

Blue sky said...

Nick, I like the analogy with your previous experience at the FA but, of course, just because it turned out in that case that the original plans were the best ones, presumably it's fair to say that this is not always the case. You seem to be making your stance fairly clear on this, or am I misinterpreting?!

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Really subjective piece.

I think Broc Soc - and any member of the tax paying public - have a right to challenge the plans of a public body like Lewisham Council. Especailly as there are flaws in the council's consultation and planning process.

A councillor's report (even the Green Party's, Nick) is hardly an impartial view on the affair.

I know Brockley Central is not a neutral blog but usually Nick comes out on the side of our rights as residents and the community, to have EVERYONE's view heard and due process followed.

It can be said that many of the recent comments on this subject have been aggressive against those who are only following, at the best their civic duty, and at the worst their rights as a local resident.

If what Broc Soc has done (which they have the right to do, as does any citizen) acts as a check and balance to the council, then this is good.

I'd rather the right decision is made, whatever that is, than a rushed decision.

Going for gold said...

I would rather the right decision is made too. Have they considered building a new school on Greenvale site?

Three cheers for those brave souls who do their civic duty.

(yes, I am a parent, but I think you can care about these things even if you aren't)

m said...

I get the feeling they aren't going to be enlightened.

This is from the letter sent by Victorian Society to planners during last planning application. Yes, we know there are hoards of you out there who don't care. But our Victorian heroes were made of the stuff which did and it is good to see that this characteristic can still be found in some local Brockley residents.

"In summary, the Society believes that the demolition of these building is unnecessary and would be contrary to local and national planning policy as well as government guidance on sustainability and good conservation practice. We would like to see an application that retains the historic buildings on site. Conversion, renovation and extension are all very viable alternatives to demolition. In fact, recent research has proved that refurbishing existing buildings is much more energy efficient than the construction of new ones. We therefore urge your Council to refuse permission for this application".

Anonymous said...

Any citizen has the right to express a view and challenge where they see fit - but does the Brockley Society have the right to claim to speak on behalf of local people? Did they call a public meeting where local people decided whether they wished to devote time, money and energy challenging Gordonbrook? Or did a self-appointed clique decide they knew best, regardless of the consequences for children at the school?

Pete said...

Well even if the Brockley Society doesn't represent the will of "the people" it would still have every right to put in a legal challenge if that challenge is on legitimate grounds.

The society is after all only made up of members of the general public. I should imagine that if there was a single busy body with the know how and time on his or her hands then they could have put in the same legal challenge.

How representative the Brockley Society is or isn't is neither here nor there when assessing the rights and wrongs of this.

Anonymous said...

Can i ask a technical question of brocsoc? what RIBA stage was their scheme at? I doubt it is a fully worked up design ready to go and fully costed. I suspect it was loaded with caveats so comparing it with the completed proposal may be problematic.

http://www.ribafind.org/plan.asp

And the environmental assesment? Bats, badgers, newts, is there asbestos etc... yes the council slipped up but it's a technicality - have the broxcsos done one, no because their scheme is a feasability created tailored to their requirements. It would be easier and cheaper to do it now than go to court, it would not take a long time and there could be a special review held before kicking off the work. The BrocSoc 'little guys' are using a cynical spoiling tactic so lets not pretend that they are in it for the kids.

Anonymous said...

I hope it doesn't turn out like Wembley,That's a National disgrace £800M and It hasn't even got a roof,and the pitch is no better than a lot of parks.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, it would have been a lot less than £800m. That's the point of the story... (by the way, the Stadium construction was funded privately, rather than publicly).

As for wanting a roof and a better pitch - you can't have both, as the Millennium Stadium has shown. Compromise again...

I agree that the pitch has so-far been very disappointing. Don't see the need for a roof over it at all.

drakefell debaser said...

The pitch @ Wembley is usually rubbish because they keep digging it up to host alternative events – concerts, motor car racing to name a few. The trouble, as I understand it, is that these non football events are needed to help pay for it.

Pitch aside, it is a beautiful stadium and I think labelling it a national disgrace is a tad harsh.

Brockley Nick said...

@DD - it's partly that and partly the challenge that every very large stadium has growing a natural pitch (egh: Stade de France, Cardiff) - high terraces and large span roofs cut the amount of sunlight, wind and rain that reaches the grass.

But yes, the challenge for Wembley is that - unlike any other national stadium in the world, it was built without public money (the only public money was used to buy the land from Wembley PLC in the first place).

So no public money and of course no one would countenance the idea of the national stadium having a home team, which cuts off another major source of funding.

But everyone thinks England should have an amazing national stadium, and that costs money, so you pay for it by a) having lots of non-football events and b) having lots of coroporate hospitality.

Both of these things have their downsides, but without them, the stadium doesn't get built.

It's unarguably one of - if not the - finest stadiums in the world. Despite its problems, I'd say it was a national triumph.

which track said...

The decision to demolish these buildings is a bad one. The point of the Broc Soc alternative seems to be to show that the oft said comment "not adaptable to modern education" is wrong.

The council haven't been honest about why they have gone down this road of demolishing their quality buildings to put up the less so. They just say what is not great about current buildings for modern education, as though the £11.7million couldn't change them.

Technical or not, they have a duty to carry out their planning procedures to the law.

There seems to be a consensus that the new proposals aren't great, will do the job of squeezing numbers in and will have big classrooms, but it isn't a lovely scheme.

Michael said...

If this were really about addressing a borough wide shortage of primary school places why is there an empty school in Greenvale that they will temporarily bus the pupils to? A better solution for the borough would be to open a new inclusive primary school in Greenvale and use portacabins for Gordonbrook.

For about a year in the 1980s I was bussed to Rushey Green while my school was having building work done. It was a horrible experience in a school built for the 19th century (with awful outdoor toilets). Fortunately the building has now become a drive-thru-McDonalds, which is far better for the health of young people than Plassy Road School.

Danja said...

Broc Soc have every right to challenge a decision that was procedurally flawed.

But, they have no right to expect that the response should be the adoption of their different scheme (or even consultation on it) as the JR had nothing to do with the merits or otherwise of their proposed scheme.

Lewisham are quite entitled to go about rectifying the procedural error in order to get valid PP for the decision. The JR was a stalling one, not a wrecking one, unless funding is affected which thankfully it seems is less likely than could reasonably have been feared.

Did Broc Soc check whether the funding would be lost before launching the action?

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Michael - Broc Soc do not need to check if the funding should be lost - quite honestly, it should be irrelevant to them. It seems as though funding isn't lost anyway

For Anon - Broc Soc don't need to call a public meeting either - they have published meetings and anyone can join. Their remit is conservation. They are not a self-appointed clique - they are very vocal about asking for new members from accross Brockley to come and take an active role. There is an AGM every year to appoint those to run it; not many stand up to take on the workload.

The fact that Broc Soc has challenged this is a red herring. The council has failed in the planning application, in coming up with a decent proposal, and in proper consultation of the wider community. They are, I suspect, only too keen to deflect parnetal anger onto those who made the leagl challenge - rather than having it directed at themselves.

I also think the Green Councillors wish to see the building go to create a more environmentally friendly building; however if they are listening to their constituents, Sue Luxton's poll on her website (admitedly not the best way of consulting opinion) showed almost 2 to 1 in favour for keeping the building.

Headhunter said...

I haven't really followed the facts and figures of this Gordonbrock debate but I would tend to fall on the side of Broc Soc. If there is any way to preserve the existing buildings the great.

However when I have dipped into this I have to say I resent this constant emotional blackmail that seems to be pumped out the whole time - the kids won't be able to decant to the new school on time, the funding will be lost, valuable kids' education will be irrevocably affect and Broc Soc should feel guilty affecting the kids education and should quietly please go away and let Lewisham BC get on with knocking down the old school etc etc blah blah blah.

This line quite frankly aligns me even further with Broc Soc. I hope they win their case.

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - jesus wept.

Disruption to kids' educations and loss of funding aren't "emotional blackmail" they are absolutely key issues.

What the hell are schools for if not for kids' education?

There is a rational argument being had - no side should accuse the other of emotional blackmail.

Welcome to 2010 said...

I've noticed that whenever Headhunter gets stuck in to a controversial issue, he begins by saying "I haven't really bothered finding out any of the facts or read the arguments, but here's my strong opinion anyay."

Impressive!

Headhunter said...

I don't always start comments that way. What a load of old cr@p....

Of course the kids' education is important I just resent the way it gets wheeled out to try to brow beat the opposition into submission. If the planning process had been caried out properly by Lewisham BC, then we wouldn't be in this mess.

Anonymous said...

So apart from the environmental impact assesment that has no bearing on whether the scheme actually does what it is supposed to, you support the scheme? And stop with the poor old brocsocs shtick. They spent their money on an archetectural study and solicitors, it's not a little hardpressed group of pensioners, it's a group lobbying for the narrow interests of it's own. Nothing wrong with that but they are comfortable playing the legal game as well as the council 'bullies'

maxink said...

Lewisham children are going to suffer a lot in the next few years anyway, news is that we are in fact short of over 500 reception places for next year.

Pete said...

"What the hell are schools for if not for kids' education?"

Schools are to educate children but not just the current generation of children. This point has been laboured already so I don't know if I need to expand on it again?

Brockley Nick said...

Yes pete, we agree on that.

I was taking issue with HH's laughable suggestion that to talk about children in the context of a future of the school was to engage in some sort of emotional blackmail.

Brockley Nick said...

And Pete, the risk is that it is not only this generation of school children that suffers, but that the project is delayed indefinitely, to the detriment of many future generations' education.

I don't think that point needs to be laboured again either.

The moral of the Wembley story is that it's easy to say that you know better than the experts who have spent years working on the project, but often, the alternative that's being suggested is unworkable.

I think BrocSoc were entirely within their rights to take the action they did. The important question is whether they should have.

My fear is that the action will result in nothing but a costly delay at best or the complete cancellation of the project at worst.

Either way will put a strain on local education.

Danja said...

Broc Soc do not need to check if the funding should be lost - quite honestly, it should be irrelevant to them. It seems as though funding isn't lost anyway

It would say a lot to me about their priorities if they hadn't asked what the position was.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Nick - Headhunter is right and not laughable - kids have been used in the other thread as emotional blackmail. He never said that it wasn't right to talk about the children in the context of the school, he said they were being used as emotional blackmail. And he is right.

We've heard tales of kids in tears, kids confused, and accusations that Brocsoc are destroying the kids futures. This from the same parents who, arguably, were ok about their kids futures at the school before the whole scheme was put forward.

The feelings of the kids around the move should be a secondary issue. The main point is: does the school provide a satisfactory environment for learning (no), and which of the plans is better placed for the kids' education and the community. And that doesn't mean which plan is the fastest or most expedient to please a current group of parents. As many others have said the school will be there for future generations; better to build the right school now, then go with any plans to avoid children's (read parents') dissapointment.

Oh - and also I don't think we can say the kid's education has been disrupted as you say - surely the decant would cause that.

i know kung fu said...

No sorry Kung Fu, it's all about the kids and not about the poxy bricks (it's time to admit that the school's nothing special). It's quite right that people talk about what impact this will have on kids and guess what, both sides have been doing that. The only ones using emotional blackmail are people like you, telling us what arguments we can and cant use.

contributor said...

Do not let Lewisham Planning off the hook on this. They let the ball drop as that dept often does. Look at Max's quote. Regardless of what happened(s) with Gordonbrock the borough is short of HUNDREDS of reception class spaces for the forthcoming year.

Factor in the amount of buildings been thrown up around Lewisham at the moment. We will have significant intake of people and families who will have children that need to be catered for.

A school like GordonBrock with one foot in the Victorian/Edwardian era just does not fit in with the vision of what 21st century Lewisham is going be made into.

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Emotional blackmail...where?

andy g said...

Kung fu

If the feelings of the kids is secondary. Why have you asked them to sign them up to your Savegordonbrock facebook campaign. A large proportion of your 250 online facebook petitioners are gordonbrock children....
These kids shouldn't even have accounts as their underage. You could not have even explained you case to them. Most have signed up out of love of the school not its building.

Ok to exploit the children for your cause?

Kung Fu Hustle said...

Hang on Andy G - I haven't asked any kids to do anything. Perhaps it's bad grammar on your part, but I'm not part of any campaign.

Babs said...

Andy - kids sign up for any old thing on facebook, don't get your knickers in a twist.

James said...

Good point Andy G.

The nameless professionals working for Broc Soc are unprofessionally using children's names to promote their case.

This is not the Pelican Brief.. said...

"namless professionals" lol. You make it sound like a conspiracy not a planning argument. Have you guys ever seen "Burn After Reading"?

tired of save GB school campaigners still being Anon said...

Fair enough then.

Who is behind the feasability study and save gordonbrock website?

Just be honest. Instead of using online petitions.( note lack of Brock soc members)

Apart from this site, Broc Soc do not appear to be communicating with parents in the school.

Also please stop peddling nonsense about being scared of agressive pro build petitioners propaganda that some anonymous contributor keeps claiming.

Anonymous said...

I think the real question all of us are asking here is "is the food the canteen serve the kids organic?"

dinnerlady said...

Hah hah, I doubt the school food is organic. Except more outraged debate to ensue! You have imaginatively placed the debaters into two camps, though: those who prefer to stick with existing plans probably enjoy the odd big Mac (well, if you want the school to look like a doctor's waiting room, mediocrity is part of the deal...)whereas those who err more on the Broc Soc side would probably far rather eat cake/lettuce/whateva [sic]

Tressilliana said...

Just to buck the stereotype, dinnerlady, I was in favour of the plans and my children have never had a Big Mac. More concerned that the food we eat is local than organic, but my teenagers (ex-Gordonbrock) are not strangers to fruit and vegetables.

Danja said...

I guess that goes to show that there will always be expections [sic] to idiotic generalisations.

Anonymous said...

Big Macs make me [sic].

Jamie Oliver said...

Go on - give the kids a Big Mac (bet they saved their pocket money and secretly scoffed them at the weekend)

ee said...

I don't think the current (or previous if the broc soc's plans are taken up), plans do call for demolishing the whole school. They retain two of the old buildings and use the London stock from the demolished buildings in the new buildings.

Tressilliana said...

Sorry to disappoint, Jamie, but they are really not interested in Big Macs. We're not vegetarians, we don't bother much about organic food, my son grew up on Tesco chicken nuggets and peanut butter sandwiches, etc etc. He just doesn't like burger and chips that much and seems to have decided for himself that Macdonald's isn't a business he wants any truck with. Daughter likewise.

in despair said...

If there is a requirement for so many new school places then Lewisham should have better strategic planning. Was there room for a new school on the Watergate site? Is there room on the Green Vale site? We know they had room at Loampit Vale for a school, but they were too busy doing deals with Barratts. Who have now been given over £20million of government money to start building works.

The issue isn't just what happens now. Children can grow up too and look with despair at the destruction of what was their heritage in the name of "modern" education.

Going back to Sue Luxton's comments, it does rather seem as though the scheme was not viewed with much regard and fell short of what we should be expecting.

Anonymous said...

Are there any news about the Gordonbrock School rebuild. The latest information posted mentioned a meeting between the Council and Brockley Society. Nothing was communicated about the developments since.

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