Gordonbrock rebuild: Head dismisses BrocSoc plans

The headteacher and Chair of Governors of Gordonbrock school have dismissed an alternative set of designs for a rebuilt school, developed by campaigners against the Council's plans.

The Brockley Society and a number of parents of children at the school are opposed to the plans on the basis that that they will demolish some of the Edwardian buildings, reduce outdoor space and force the children to travel to Greenvale in Perry Rise (no, us neither - it's in Forst Hill). They have and commissioned their own designs for a new school, which would maintain the original buildings.

The Brockley Society and its campaign partners have launched a campaign website and developed an alternative proposal, which is not intended to be a detailed design, but to show what might be possible without resorting to demolition or decanting kids by coach.

In a letter home to parents yesterday, the Head and Chair of Governors at Gordonbrock said that BrocSoc's arguments were "unrealistic and misleading" and that its plans were "seriously flawed", failing to include key elements and displaying "wishful thinking" by suggesting that kids could remain on site during the construction. Concerned about the threat of legal action by BrocSoc, which has appointed a Planning Law solicitor to try to challenge the application and secure an injunction on demolition, they say:

"Our greatest fear is that if there is any significant delay in building the new school we will once again lose the funding, which is time limited. Having already been in this position once before, this would truly be a disaster for the school. The children would continue to use outside toilets, have small classrooms and have no access to a quality school library."

In response BrocSoc points out that there are many examples of school renovations taking place in a piecemeal fashion, to avoid closures. They say that the design issues raised by the letter are easily solvable and are the result of having their requests to speak to staff about their detailed requirements ignored.


Pete said...

Some quality emotional blackmail from the school there.

Anonymous said...

The local conservation nit wits are using emotional blackmail too

Many moons ago I was taught in an old school building which was 'modernised' according to the rules set down by the local do-gooders.

The result? A place thoroughly unsuitable for learning.

Ignore the moaners. Demolish the school, build a new one instead.

Lou Baker

Anonymous said...

They failed with Lewisham Bridge School,lets hope its the same result.

Robert said...

Funny. I've never really seen myself as a "conservation nit wit"!

I've spent the last ten years of my professional career working on communication campaigns promoting current architecture - some of which has been pretty cutting edge.

My interest, and I think I would be correct in saying, the interest of most of the individuals involved in the Brockley Society, is in maintaining, and promoting the quality of our built environment. We think that buildings are important. We spend most of our lives in them, and the rest of our time looking at them.

Lewisham's proposals are of poor quality. What they are removing is of relatively high quality, all-be-it a little dog-eared. This is an equation that should never be allowed to occur. At least not without a fight.

What we have attempted to do with the feasibility report is demonstrate a cost-effective, and contemporary approach to the redevelopment of the site that embraces what's already great about the existing Edwardian blocks.

What I find, often, is that some people just seem to have a prejudice towards old buildings. It's difficult to get over that hurdle when trying to argue a case.

Anonymous said...

True Robert,and then complain when they build a square box.

Anonymous said...

My son currently attends St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School, one of Brockley's Victorian schools that has been converted and extended to incorporate the old with the new.

It is an inspiring environment to learn in and his current class room (one of the old Victorian ones) is large with very, very high ceilings and great natural light from the huge windows.

It truly is a shame that, with Lewisham Bridge and Gordonbrook Schools, Lewisham Council has chosen the easy route of demolition rather than attempting to preserve our heritage.

Maybe St. Mary’s escaped this fate as it is a church school?

Here is a link to the various building phases of St Mary’s which goes to prove that it has happened successfully in the borough.


Anonymous said...

That is interesting about St Mary Magdalen's, I guess you didn't have to take extra pupils either. I just wonder how much say the head teacher has in all of this and if that is what makes a difference to what is done or not done.
I have to say I am not so upset about the loss of an Edwardian building (although I think it is a wasteful way of going about things) as I am at the concept that the school has to accept 105 more pupils. To cram this many pupils into a small site is to my mind quite ridiculous this is the reason we're all arguing about how to develop the buildings. There wouldn't be so much of a problem if we weren't trying to fit in so many people and so many requirements. I KNOW we need more school places, but why should our children suffer because Lewisham Council is so woeful in finding a satisfactory solution to this problem.

Anonymous said...

There are no plans to modernise according to rules set down by local do gooders. The plans show how to modernise by architects who know how to use design and recognise quality. The letter I got from the school had lots of wrong information on it. I think the head and governor need help reading plans.

I am amazed one school has been handed all the redevelopment money when less would modernise the existing building and reduce length of decant. I could consider the massive disruption of a decant if it wasn't going to be for so long and the end result was the best solution. Did the developers tell someone the buildings weren't suitable for refurbishment and everyone believed them. So wrong and so expensive.

Lou, many years ago? You just need a good architect and wonderous things happen.

Pete said...

I've just had a look at Brockley Society's proposals. They're really good and deserve far more consideration than they have evidently been given.

Have you even taken the time to look at them Lou?

Brockley Nick said...

@Pete - I don't see the emotional blackmail you're referring to. The loss of funding through delay must surely be a real possibility, given the current state of public finances. It's right that they raise it.

However, it would be interesting to know whether those opposed to the plans would rather no redevelopment took place, rather than the current scheme. Robert, if you read this, it would be good to get your view?

Pete said...

Well Nick I read it as;

"We could conceivably lose funding so if you could all quietly bugger off and leave us to get on with our plans..."

patrick1971 said...

Really pleased to see Broc Soc getting involved in this; it's awful that old buildings are being pulled down to be replaced with yet another soulless modern box.

But does this represent a (welcome) extension of Broc Soc's remit? I thought they were conservation area only.

Brockley Nick said...

@Pete, yes, so did I. That's not emotional blackmail, that's a very reasonable line of argument.

Now, you can say that it shouldn't have reached this point in the first place, they should have been more accommodating to objections, etc. But we are where we are and that means that delay could cost them their funding - perhaps for a very long time.

Is no development better than a (according to some) sub-standard one, bearing in mind that all developments are compromises?

That's my genuine question.

Pete said...

Well I'm not massively involved in all of this BUT if they knock the buildings down there's no going back. So perhaps in some ways it would be better to do nothing now on the grounds that you could maybe get funding again in the future.

But then you're having to weigh up which is the lesser of the two 'evils'; knocking the school down and replacing it with some tesco architecture or keeping a dilapidated building and making no improvements.

Is the school even able to look at these plans or is the funding attached to the plans that it submitted with no other form of plans being allowed? I've no idea.

Anonymous said...

Re St Mary's, I am not sure how much say the headteacher had, vs. the church, vs. the council as the building was completed when my son joined.

Looking at the Ofstead Reports in 2009 there were 202 pupils on the roll and 200 in 2003 so no change in pupil numbers.

Robert said...

Nick, in answer to your question, and I can only speak for myself here:

Having spent some time over the past few months considering the buildings at Gordonbrock - I can see that the site has the potential to provide really fantastic accommodation for pupils. I don't think the proposals on offer will provide this, and worse, could actually become inferior to the existing buildings within a comparatively short space of time.

If Lewisham did decide to revisit the design, we would look forward to actively working with them in a campaign to ensure that enough funding could remain in place to make a start. With a gentler, phased development - it should be possible to fund the construction piece by piece, if necessary.

What we all need though, is to get a really solid design proposal in place that has the backing of ALL stakeholders, then work hard to retain or gain further funding.

Their hands were tied when the proposals were attached to a PFI, Building Schools for the Future project - now that they have been given the money to spend - and could actually do something great with it - they have chosen a rush job to try and out-run the forthcoming elections.

What we have at the moment is Supermarket Sweep architecture. The school has been given a stash of cash - £11.7m from the Primary Capital Fund - have darted around in 30 seconds flat, and all they have in their trolley to show for it is 20 boxes of Pringles, a bottle of vodka, and half-a-dozen easter eggs.

Anonymous said...

Don't they care about the history of the building the work in? Maybe they could demolish half and keep half?

Brockley Nick said...

@Robert - thanks, you had me at Supermarket Sweep.

@Anon - that's kind of the plan. 'Only' two of the buildings will be demolished.

Anonymous said...

Yet another example of how government imposed housing targets are over-inflating the population comparative to the services available. Will we ever reach a point where the Council realizes that they cant keep promoting endless new housing and a higher population?

Transpontine said...

The Institute of Directors (Tory think tank) have already included the school capital programme on a list of things that an incoming Tory government should cut immediately. The Tories have also indicated that they may make cuts from May onwards, rather than honouring existing commitments for 2010-11. So it's certainly not 'emotional blackmail' for the school to suggest that unless the building work starts soon it is unlikely that any capital project will go ahead for many years to come. That would condemn children to unsuitable buildings for another generation (I mean outside toilets in the winter in the 21st century!).

People are entitled to their views on the design, no doubt it is not perfect. But I would certainly rather trust the views of the school on what's best for children over those whose main concern is with victoriana, or in this case edwardiana.

Brockley Nick said...

@Transpontine - the IoD isn't a Tory think tank, it's a business membership club, though I take the point.

For me, the preservation argument is one of the least compelling ones. It's the decanting of children to Forest Hill by daily coach trip for 14 months and the loss of play space which I would find most troubling as a parent.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know why BrocSoc have produced this only AFTER planning permission has been granted for the rebuild. Legally it's desperately difficult to reverse this now. If the BrocSoc plans had been put on the table earlier they would surely have stood a better chance. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation - what is it?

Robert said...

We only found out about the new planning proposals about ten days before the planning committee meeting.

We spent that time collecting objections - which turned out to be a fairly fruitless exercise as there was no way the council were not going to grant consent for their own scheme. Especially as they already had another consent for a similar, but inferior scheme under their belts from 2005 - which they threatened to build if the current scheme was not granted.

We then concentrated on trying to get the building listed, a process which eventually went to appeal, but was rejected by the DCMS. This took over a month, and required a fair bit of historical research. We think we made a good case, and the feedback we had from English Heritage was that it was a very close call.

The decision to put together our own proposals came out of a meeting with parents after this - and was borne out of frustration with the misinformation that had been put out about the existing school buildings and the consented scheme. We thought that the ideal way of demonstrating that an alternative proposal would be the best option for the school would be to show them one.

This process obvious took a little time - finding the right architect - briefing - getting the drawings through - ammendments - writing/designing the report etc. At the same time we were liaising with solicitors, and getting our case and funding in place.

That brings you up-to-date.

You might argue that we should try harder to keep our ear closer to the ground and get in earlier, and I would probably agree with you - must try harder next time - but Lewisham had no real intention to actively consult in this process this time around. No-one, other than the council and School Management knew that this was all going to come to a head again until last November - when the first meeting was held with parents.

rach said...

Even with a child in juniors at the school, I was pretty shell shocked when I first saw the plans for the new build. We had no idea when we started back in September that there would be a decant on the cards. Let alone one to some place on the wrong side of the south circular without a direct bus service. Every now and again there was a mention of the work in the newsletter, but never anything about massive demolition plans and turfing us all out for 14 months.

The school is already large, like anon at 20.23 I am alarmed at the prospect of an extra 105 children.

The parents I have spoken to last time the demolition fell through said they were all relieved.

There is an internal door to one of the outside loos, don't know about any others, so there has been a management decision to make at least that one accessed from outside! The loos wouldn't be half as bad if they improved the lighting and had soap small children could reach.

Not sure what the school or Lewisham really mean by this notion that Edwardian buildings are unfit for modern education, we are surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian Schools with outstanding education records.

The Brockley Society Plans do look as though they could get underway quite quickly as they have left the Foundation Years building the same.

If there is such a shortage of places, I don't understand why they don't build a new school on the decant site.

Yes the school does need money spending on it, but why waste money pulling down a sound building, when you can spend less refurbishing and doing new build in between.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a problem that no-one can see what renovated buildings can offer. They think exactly as it is or brand new. Something they don't seem to apply to their own homes.

Anonymous said...

I think it is very difficult. At Myatt Garden Primary they have had improvements done when the kids are there such as new music room and super sliding artifical turf on the bank but the building noise was quite bad.

Tressilliana said...

Not just noise, there would also be a big issue with dust, with inadequate space and with keeping the children safe if the refurb/reconstruction was done with the children on site. That was a big concern when the school was in the PFI scheme that it was subsequently removed from - the proposal then was for half the school to be decanted and half to stay on site. Worst of both worlds, in many ways.

Ashmead School was decanted during its rebuild, wasn't it? Does anyone know how that went?

Robert said...


What we are proposing is a phased building project. Each small piece of the jigsaw is added separately - and each element is relatively small. Children shuffle into different accommodation until the whole development is complete. This a longer, but much gentler process. Sites are protected, and any overtly noisy works are restricted to after school hours. My daughters first primary school in Camberwell built a major new hall building in the school playground during school time without a need for a decant. Everything went fairly smoothly - no-one inhaled any dust as far as I am aware.

This is the traditional way of managing a project such as this. And is very common practice. Think of all the schools in the area with significant extensions and new buildings - Stillness, Askes, Prendergast, Hither Green - did any of these require a decant?

The simple fact is, the reason a decant/demolition option has, until now, been preferred is because it was felt that children offsite and buildings in rubble would protect the funding. With a refurbishment scheme there is little reason for decant.

m said...

Ashmead was decanted to the Mornigton centre, so it was walking distance, but they bussed from Friendly Gardens, probably because of the main road. It wasn't over such a long period and I believe it went very well. As the nursery were on a separate site they stayed put. Worth noting it is a far smaller school.

Lewisham Bridge did have more getting stuck in traffic scenarios, but again they were not travelling so far.

Gordonbrock are being told it is a 15-20 minute journey. Which it probably is now. I suspect once there is the extra traffic on the road, things will slow down a little.

Some parents said they are planning on staggered playtimes because the site is so small and there isn't enough external space. Unless that is for when they come back, the school have approved smaller playgrounds on the new build.

Is it a bit of a choice you can get up early walk further and be on a tight site or you can put up with the inconvenience of a tight site at your local school?

I understood from a friend that the Brockley Society Feasibility Study showed a phased scheme but suggested that a shorter decant would speed the building process up. I presume that means no child would spend a whole academic year out of the school.

Jon Johnson said...

As a Gordonbrock parent i see the rebuild as very positive and straddles the need for a decent school in an awkward spot from both a financial and location point of view.
What worries me is the tacit support this is gettting from ladywell green party. In a recent Twitter post they state "@greenladywell I've also just received an interesting and well-produced doc' from Broc Soc about Gordonbrock School - may be a bit late in the day though." What the hell are they supporting such a non-starter?

Anonymous said...

As a Gordonbrock parent I am concerned that a small number of people who are more concerned about buildings that our children's education and welfare. Schools provide a public function which is to educate children, they are not architectural museums (hell why don't just seat them at wooden pews dressed in edwardian clothes and get them to recite their timetables). Even without expanding the school intake by extra 15 per year (which is what is suggested and by the way this will mean that children will no longer be taught in split year classes) the classrooms are NOT big enough. It's unreasonable to think that Children learn well when they're so crammed together that the teacher can't walk between the tables because there's not enough space. Some of the children are currently taught in prefab huts - are they listed? There is no space for a library - which Ofstead pick up on in every inspection. This school is not fit for purpose and never will be because the buildings are not big enough. The plan does retain half of the buildings - people are talking like the whole school is going to be razed to the ground. This is NOT the case

I agree that the Brockley society are out of their manor - It's not in the conservation area it doesn't have an SE4 postcode. The school is in LADYWELL - we have our society and don't need the conservationists from Brockley interfering.

This money comes from the government NOT from a PFI and as one of the previous post pointed out in the tories get in it is likely they will cut this and children will be condemned to use outside toilets that become unusable in winter because the pipes freeze. Some children would rather not go to the toilet at the school which means they don't drink enough during the day.

As a health professional i would rather that my child sat on a bus for 40 mins each day than run the risks associated with being on a building site, particularly one that only recently had asbestos removed from it.

Please can all this nonsense stop, let the school what is necessary to provide our children with an environment that will enhance their learning. I suggest if you want to play edwardian schools go to the V&A

Can I finally ask whether Robert, is defending the Brockley Society, was until recently the Chair of Gordonbrock School governing body? If so you know very well the limitations of the building and should know better - shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Is it that the buildings aren't big enough OR that there are too many people in the buildings? I know it's not an ideal world but I think the children will suffer from going to such a huge primary school whichever scheme is finally chosen.
By the way Gordonbrock school is in SE4.
No it isn't that Rob.

Anonymous said...

Reducing the number of children who go will not reduce the class size (ie 30) because that is dictated by government. Hence the classrooms will always be too small. My child has benefited from being a larger school as she has a large pool of children from which to draw her friends. Friends children who go to small schools have found that friendships can be an issue and there's alot of scope for feeling isolated and bullying. Small is not always best

Sorry Robert, ex-governor, just feeling furious at the way my child is being messed around for what seems to me like political shenanigans and overconcern about old buildings

Anonymous said...

OK concede SE4 postcode (But only just!) but not in the conservation area.

English heritage refused to list the building because it didn't have enough distinctive features and they recognised the public function a school serves.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone actually thought about the children? They have been preparing for this move for the last couple of months and even got to try out the new buses last week that were parked in the playground. The school is falling apart, the classrooms are apallingly small. They are being taught in temporary buildings that were temporary when they were put up in the 1950's! They have no library! Also thousands and thousands of pounds have been spent making the decant school fit for the children. How many people in the Brockley Society actually have children at the school. This is a disgusting campaign! If the school once again looses the funding then the Brockley Society will be responsible for failing the children of Brockley.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that people are very ready to express their opinions and yet they don't investigate all the facts. The feasibility report put forward by the BrocSoc (of which I am not a member I hasten to add, but I am a parent of a child at the school) does have new build in it, it also redevelops the old buildings whilst keeping them. The classrooms will be bigger. They are not talking about preserving the outside toilets! Indeed it is a constructive and positive attempt at solving all the problems. And it is not political.

I see nothing wrong with trying to get the best scheme possible, which ultimately, surely will benefit the children.

Anonymous said...

Of course we want a good scheme but this will be no use if there is then no money to implement it.

The current scheme is good enough and has money attached.

Time waits for no man as they say...

Robert said...

There is clearly a lot of misinformation and confusion regarding this whole issue at the moment. For this, I primarily blame Lewisham for negating their responsibility to encourage consultation and open debate at the correct stage.

What we could really do with now is an open forum/public meeting to calmly put both sides of the argument across in a way we can all understand.

What I can assure you of, it that everybody involved in the campaign to prevent the current scheme - including many parents, local residents and the various societies - have the best interests of the children, and the school at heart.

We sincerely want the best possible school for current and future pupils - and believe very strongly that the designs on the table represented a significant step backwards. We also realise that not everybody is going to agree with us but feel most people, when in possession of the all of the facts will sympathise with our case.

I do urge all parents to read the feasibility report we have put together, which is available for download at the campaign website:

Anonymous said...

To Robert

The school was due to move in 2 weeks time and it is really too late to be taking this sort of action.

You have not given any assurances of whether there will be money to fund it. This legal challenge will set thing the rebuild back by 6 months. We will have had an election by then.

Robert are you a parent of a child at the school?

Also out of interest who is funding the legal challenge? Who is paying for the new plans? The one's you've had drawn up that are on your website are a guide not the final version.

I have looked at the campaign website and it does not convince me that you have the children's interests at heart. it convinces me that you are interested in the building.


Tressilliana said...

Planning permission was first granted years ago. That was surely the time to fight the plans? The funding issue is not a trivial one - this school has already had one source of funding withdrawn at the last minute. After the election there has to be a serious risk that any scheme not already started will be cancelled. I've already said at length in previous threads on this subject that when I was a Gordonbrock governor (and parent) I was very rapidly converted to the view that radical work was needed to give the children and staff a decent working environment. I still think that. I also think that there is even more pressure on school places than there was ten years ago when I was involved, and if all the local schools are full then Lewisham has to look at where they can squeeze a few more children in. Not ideal, but better that than permanent bussing to outer suburbs. Finally, an end to mixed age classes is a big bonus. The other way to achieve that is to cut the school roll and at the moment that is just not feasible.

Anonymous said...

@Jon Johnson: my twitter read "I've also just received an interesting and well-produced doc' from Broc Soc about Gordonbrock School - may be a bit late in the day though." Please don't interpret that as support or otherwise for the Broc Soc report - regardless of whether or not you agree with the contents of Broc Soc's feasibility study, I think you can concede that it was 'interesting and well-produced' but also, given at that point the decant was just a few weeks off 'late in the day'.

To a non-expert like me, what they propose looks impressive on paper, but clearly there are likely to be lots of things I'm overlooking, not least the financial implications of ripping up plans and starting again at this late stage. For these reasons, I asked council officers working on the Gordonbrock project to give me their assessment of it and I hope to receive their response soon. I think when someone goes to the time and expense of producing such a report, the very least they can expect is a civil and detailed response.

For those who haven't heard, the decant has now been delayed by 6 months due to the legal challenge by Broc Soc. I'm awaiting further info from officers on what the financial implications of this might be and whether there is a risk of losing this funding entirely if we're not careful.

The stance Ute and I took on this planning application, given that there was already valid planning permission from 5 years ago, was to push for what (limited) improvements we could to it. I think what was eventually passed was an improvement on the application of 5 years ago, although it left a fair bit to be desired.

Anonymous said...

I have been copied in on mail from someone involved long term and it does rather seem that the reason we are having this demolition and rebuild rather than what seems a more sensible refurb and rebuild is because Lewisham would not want to manage a traditional contract. I assume they have little professional capacity to do this and just need to hand everything over to the BSF programme.

We are loosing character and heritage which can be modernised with money. My school library was in a smaller room than the 'empty' room in the infant block, and I suspect many heads would sort out that larger room in the infants where the photocopying is and put in a library. The new library will be in an old hall. So I think that issue isn't really about space.

The school definitely have some small classrooms but also lots of fine classrooms. Won't these new big ones we are getting also need to accommodate things like the cloakroom?

Had I been informed by anyone during the years my child has been at Gordonbrock that they were planning a 14month decant, to demolish the old buildings and agree a much smaller playground, I would have moved on. I feel very let down that we were not consulted so we could not make informed decisions.

Tressilliana said...

Anon 13:49 - all the classrooms except the old laundry are small. I went to three primary schools in all, all built after the second world war, and even in classes of 40+ we had more room to move around than the Gordonbrock children have.

The room you refer to housing the photocopier is not just a copying room, it is a resources room, assuming arrangements haven't changed since I was involved with the school. It was converted from a cloakroom, as was the main school office. That tells you how tight space is in the current building.

You say the existing buildings can be retained and improved 'with money'. That's the issue, isn't it? There isn't any more money available. If Sue is correct and the decant has now been postponed for six months, I do very much hope that that doesn't mean that the existing pot of money will be lost.

Anonymous said...

Lets set the record straight. When the rebuild did not go ahead 3 or so years ago, Lewisham came to a meeting at the school & said that if BSF was rolled out to primary schools they would apply for funding and Gordonbrock would be their first priority. They also said they would reuse the original plans. They also said they would keep Watergate School open for decant purposes and have reneged on that. A public consultation was held - just because you personally weren't there does not make it invalid.

Martin said...

I have to say I'm fairly hacked off that people from the Conservation Society have scuppered my child's school rebuild, particularly as I doubt any of them send their kids there.

The postcode might be SE4, but it's in Ladywell. No parent I've spoken to thinks that Lewisham's designs are perfect, but this is the 2nd time a rebuild has been put off at Gordonbrock in the time my daughter's been there.

If the Brockley Society has enough dosh to fund legal challenges and alternative plans perhaps it will stump up after the money's lost post election? No, thought not.

Any comments on the ability of the school to retain staff in cramped unsuitable classrooms?

We won't know till after the elections, but our likely scenarios now all look bleak. I'm not happy with my kids being taught in facilities you conservation area types wouldn't keep your servants in.

Telling you straight. said...

Your comment lost credibility when you set off on the 'Conservation area types' rant and servants. Get real pal.

Anonymous said...

Jo wrote
it's shame that telling it straight is only concerned with how he's viewed rather than addressing the serious issues that Martin raises...get real pal

Tressilliana said...

I agree with Martin, but would just make the point that Gordonbrock is a big school and a fair number of children from the conservation area go there and always have (mine, for example).

telling you straight. said...

It's a classic case of going too far with comments. If he had left that last sentence off, he'd have been a comment hero, instead it's just read like a rant, wild, not properly thought through tirade.

Anonymous said...

So? Who cares whether 'telling you straight' likes the way the comment's written. Got anything to say about the decision about the school?

Anonymous said...

Humm, perhaps there is more to retaining staff than just the facilities in which they teach.

More than 300 people have signed a petition. Some of them even live in Ladywell.

Martin said...

Telling you straight. said...
Your comment lost credibility when you set off on the 'Conservation area types' rant and servants. Get real pal.

What's wrong, touched a nerve? Guilty about your cleaner or au pair?

Gordonbrock is a mixed school with kids from all backgrounds. Its necessary rebuild has been scuppered by people from the better off end of Brockley, who can afford to get alternative plans done and take out an injunction. FWIW parents I've spoken to from all backgrounds are fuming about this.
I hope we still get something done, but suspect that this rebuild scheme will be seen as an easy cut whoever wins the election.

Anonymous said...

By all accounts the petition includes a substantial number of people who do not give their name - wonder why that is?

How many signed the petition have given their name? How many people have signed it because they used to go to the school and have a fond rosy memories?

Anonymous said...

see article in news shopper and comment


Jon Johnson said...

@Sue I think you can concede that it was 'interesting and well-produced'. At the moment I really dont care, it was a spoiler, and its pretty clear to everyone that unless there is close to a miracle its dead in the water.
Sue do you and the Greens support the Broc Soc challenge? I'm sure the parents at Brockley want to know

Anonymous said...

Jo said
Yes I for one would like to know whether Sue & the greens support the challenge.
Come on tell us - need to know as there's an election coming up.

Tressilliana said...

Martin, you're doing yourself no favours with your digs at the conservation area. You may not know that there is a lot of social housing in the C area, and that most of the big houses were long ago divided into flats. The 3- and 4-bed houses in the Heath Estate round Gordonbrock probably cost more than the average flat on my road.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to point out the deafening silence from Robert 'Save Gordonbrock School' about the funding of 1) the school rebuild using his plans and 2) how BrocSoc are funding the feasibility study, full plans and legal challenge

If the school is to be redesigned AGAIN surely it needs to go out to tender. Why does the architectural brief have to go the the firm that BrocSoc have selected? Isn't that for Lewisham to decide? Or perhaps there a conflict of interest here?

Robert said...

I am truly very sorry that our action has caused upset and concern amongst some parents. Sadly, this has been an issue that has split opinion drastically.

I can only hope that over the course of the next few months, it can be demonstrated that it has been a worthwhile excercise, and that the plans for Gordonbrock's future are dealt with by Lewisham, and central government in a fair and reasonable way.

As I have said, the Brockley Society will actively campaign for the retention of funding for an alternative refurbishment scheme.

We are unsure what Lewisham's action is going to be now. They may re-submit the existing scheme with the necessary Environmental Assessment attached, or re-tender the design to another firm of architects. They have admitted that their Planning Consent was unlawful, so the ball is in their court.

Our feasibility report was just that - an attempt to demonstrate the feasibility of an alternative option, and raise a debate that we thought had been sorely lacking in the last 6 months.

Not sure why I am telling you this - but you asked, and I see no harm in letting you know:

Our legal arrangements have been capped on a no-win-no-fee basis with our solicitors. As the case is not going to court, costs will be fairly minimal. Some of this will be covered by the Brockley Society's meagre reserves, and the rest by individual contributions from parents.

With regards to the architect we used, let's just say we owe them a big favour. The bulk of the document was put together by BrocSoc volunteers and parents.

Danja said...

Can't they just implement the old scheme instead, or is the funding dependent on the new scheme?

Anonymous said...

To Robert
you haven't answered my question about whetheryou are a parent at the school.

Nor my question about how the brocsoc with it's 'meagre' funds is going to campaign for funding for their plans.

What kind of a big favour is owed to the architects? Did you promise they would get the contract?

I'm really not interested in your sorrow - I want decent physical environment for my child to do their learning in.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the reason for the delay is not to do with the feasibility study, but a legal challenge from Brockley Society relating to the lack of an environmental impact assessment as part of the planning application and challenging the validity of the application as it stands. Given that the Council hasn't simply turned round and reverted to the original planning permission from 2005, I'm guessing that this may apply to both applications, but I would stress that I don't know this for sure. I believe Broc Soc reps and Council officers will be meeting next week and we should know more after that.

Like everyone else, at this stage I have more questions than answers, particularly in relation to what the funding implications of this delay may be. When I know more, I'll let people know via our blog, and I believe that a meeting is being organised at the school for parents soon too.

I would however like to clarify that I've not been involved in Broc Soc's study and legal challenge, and was only made aware of them last Friday.

As I've said in previous blog posts, I don't think the designs passed are ideal, but I would rather see them implemented than lose the funding and end up with no improvements to the school at all. What I don't know for certain yet however is if they are the only two options we have, or if there is any room for manoeuvre.

Anonymous said...

Thanks you for that sort of clarification Sue but you haven't answered my previous question about whether you and the greens support the action taken by the Brockley Society.

Do you and your fellow green councilors support the legal challenge posed by The Brockley Society? It's quite a simple question.

Look forward to hearing your answer at your earliest convenience

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the details of Broc Soc's legal challenge yet, so I don't have enough information to form a firm view either way, but I wouldn't support any action that risked Gordonbrock losing the funding again. The current plans aren't perfect, but they are a much better option than losing the funding and having no improvements to the school at all.

Presumably Broc Soc are only able to make the challenge because LBL may have made a mistake/overlooked something during the planning process, so there will certainly be lessons to be learnt.

Sorry I can't give you a straighter answer than that right now, and I can't speak for the rest of my group as we haven't had an opportunity to discuss this yet.

Anonymous said...

Just copied this below from the green's website - so much for the first thing I heard about it statement. Come clean the Greens and admit you have secretly supported BrocSocs legal challenge

M said...

Sue, it is time to be overly negative. We want sustainable schools and demolishing perfectly fine buildings with another 100 years of life in them is unsustainable.
11:56 PM
Sue said...

M - I sit on a planning committee. It's a quaisi-judicial role and I'm not allowed to be 'pre-determined' on an application before it comes to committee. If I have a closed mind on an application, I am not supposed to take part in the decision, hence I'm trying to keep an open mind on this, in case it comes to my committee.

I can opt to use my right as ward councillor to speak on an application, but then of course I can't vote or take part in the decision making process.
12:27 AM
M said...

Could you highlight on your blog that the information submitted to planners and told to parents at the school re the playground is incorrect.

The playground at Gordonbrock School will be significantly smaller. It is unlikely that people have realised this as they were specifically told the opposite by the design team.
1:43 PM
Sue said...

M - have you got any figures for this?

Ute and I have both submitted comments on this application now, and it is looking like it will go to planning ctte on 10th December, but again that is tbc.

There will be a public meeting in advance of the planning ctte mtg as there have been 16 objections so far. Either Ute or I will be chairing it, date tbc - possibly 24th or 26th Nov. Will post details on this blog when I have them.
8:25 PM
M said...

I haven't got actual figures, but it is pretty obvious when you look at the plans. I'll see if I can sort out calculations and get back to you.
12:26 AM
Sue said...

OK, the local meeting for the Gordonbrock School planning application is now confirmed for 7pm on Thursday 26th November at the school. I've been asked to chair the meeting so hopefully I will get to meet some of the people who have commented on this there!

Anonymous said...

presumably from the post above Sue, as chair of the planning committee is partially responsible as she approved an application that wasn't apparently correct? Any comments?

Anonymous said...

Both my children attend Gordonbrock School and I fully endorse Broc Soc's desire to engage in an open debate regarding the refurbishment of Gordonbrock School. Although I do appreciate parents' dismay and anger at Lewisham council's decision to put the decant on hold, I view the council's decision to finally meet up with Broc Soc as an optimistic move for everyone. After all, we all share the common aim of making the school a more pleasant, modern and inspiring environment for our children to learn in.

Anonymous said...

So where do you think the money is coming from ?

Anonymous said...

Jo, yes, I do have a comment - I realise you are angry at this week's developments, but please check your facts before throwing around accusations. I am a member (not a chair) of one of the Council's three general planning committees, but not the one this application went to. I attended the committee mtg for this application in my capacity as ward councillor and rather than speaking for or against, limited myself to commenting on specific aspects of the application, including asking for an extra condition for boundary treatment to mitigate against noise pollution for the residents living adjacent to the proposed sports court. I was clear that given the application was an improvement on the application already passed in 2005, it would have been difficult for the committee to turn it down, as the authority could have just reverted back to the 2005 application. And in defence of the councillors on that committee, I don't think they could possibly have been aware of every potential legal loophole that objectors might later choose to exploit - that is what the Council employs highly-paid planning lawyers for.

The Green Party HAS NOT supported the Broc Soc legal challenge, secretly or otherwise. @Anon 22:44: you are not quoting from the Green Party website, you are referring to comments by readers on my blog, which I linked to myself earlier. Hardly revelatory.

Anonymous said...

Without wanting to bang on about the old vs new building debate, I've just read this post from 03 March 2010 on another Brockley Central thread, about "newbuilds".
From a report before the Mayor tonight....relating to a school building project 5-6 years old.

"Ongoing problems with ventilation are a frustration for the school and the Authority and are being dealt with. The ventilation system for the school is predicated upon a mechanical system and it is acknowledged in retrospect that not being able to open the windows at all in some locations is a mistake, but now difficult and expensive to reverse."

Perhaps this is why some parents at Gordonbrock have serious reservations about the quality and durability of new build schools????!!!!!

Anonymous said...

From what is being written about the school by some, it is a wonder any of us take our children there. Even my one in the smaller classroom doesn't seem to mind.

If the council had the children in the forefront of their decision making, I don't think that the current scheme would have come close to getting approved.

I can see the appeal of the shiny new building and indoor facilities. I don't think a local park is quite a substitute for outdoor learning and playground but I get the point. Would we say the same of a local library? (I wouldn't but it is the same argument) If it was our own money would we be going with this plan or a more economical and less destructive one?

The Ladywell Society did oppose the rebuild at the planning meeting? On the argument you can alter the old to fit the new. Which we know is true.

It seems that ultimately we have been given what developers want to deliver. At a non too cheap price.

Anonymous said...

@anon 23.44: yep, that was the response to the BSF review by the Sustainable Development committee, which I do chair, and with reference to Prendergast Ladywell Fields, an earlier Bouyges project. At the Gordonbrock planning mtg we were assured that lessons had been learnt from that, and that extra ventilation was being added to the building proposed at Gordonbrock, via rooflights. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, so to speak, of course.

mat said...

Seems a worry that basic things like ventilation aren't sorted out. It isn't state of the art technology. I heard they had made mistakes with Ashmead too and were now having to sort it out. Including installing an air conditioning unit.

The reason they are saying they will make sure the ventilation works is thanks to a parent who did some homework and found time to put it into a letter to the planners. Good job someone is on the ball.

Anonymous said...

Whilst you might not be aware of every legal loophole, isn't an assessment of the environmental impact something that you would be particularly interested in seeing as a Green Councillor? No? Strange that.

Anonymous said...

Sue said...

Jo, yes, I do have a comment - I realise you are angry at this week's

Glad to hear The Green Party does not support BrocSoc's action.

What about you and the other green ladywell councillors? I note you omitted to tell us where you stand - why don't you tell us in plain words that even simple little me can understand.


Anonymous said...

I am reposting my earlier questions to Robert as he hasn't responded and this appears to be the only way to communicate with BrocSoc who have not replied to the emails I sent. Why the sudden silence?

To Robert
you haven't answered my question about whether you are a parent at the school.

Nor my question about how the brocsoc with it's 'meagre' funds is going to campaign for funding for their plans.

What kind of a big favour is owed to the architects? Did you promise they would get the contract?

I'm really not interested in your sorrow - I want decent physical environment for my child to do their learning in.

Anonymous said...


Or perhaps you're waiting the hear the outcome of your poll you've set up on Greenladywell before you decide what your stance is about BrocSoc's legal challenge?

Now that sounds like a principled approach to take.


Anonymous said...

as a child in a tichy class room i would like the school to be rebuilt.to add to my argument i would like to point out about the many complains for the toilets being cold because they are out side

to add to that two of the buildings will be staying.

and lots of organisation has happened for this rebuild that now has to be cancelled.

S year 5 pupil

m said...

I'm not sure it is fair to call it a loophole. Not doing an environmental impact assessment seems a pretty basic error. The outcome of which will have a bearing on the safety of the children in the school. So I think some of this anger should be focused on the people who failed to do this.

The decision to not look at a larger refurbishment option seems to be based on the lack of will from Lewisham to manage a contract of this nature. It is not because the buildings are old or not fit for purpose. ie it could have classrooms enlarged within the fabric.

The scheme got planning on the basis it was better than the last one,which the planner my neighbour spoke to planner didn't think would have been successful had it been submitted in 2009.

Anonymous said...

Sue Luxton described it as 'legal loophole' I think you'll find and I was quoting her. Suggest you take issue with her and her deathly silence on her personal stance as opposed to the green party's. After all the green councillors are also part of Lewisham Council, they play a part in the decisions that are made. Just who's interests are they representing as OUR councillors? He who shouts loudest? Just because the parents who support the decant and rebuild have not been vocal does not mean that we are apathetic and don't feel strongly. It means there is no reason to jump up and down because as far as we were concerned it was going ahead.

Danja said...

Given that the Council hasn't simply turned round and reverted to the original planning permission from 2005, I'm guessing that this may apply to both applications

But Broc Soc (or anyone else) would be out of time to try to JR the earlier permission.

Anonymous said...

The Broc Soc plans prove the old Edwardian buildings can be beautifully refurbished to merge with the new and also include excellent award-winning landscaping proposals which the children will love.

I honestly believe that the existing flawed plans proposed by Lewisham were a big fudge and compromise on many different levels and as a taxpayer and parent of children who attend the school I believe the Broc Soc plans offer a credible and thoughtful alternative.

If the council, Sue Blyth and the governors had consulted thoroughly and properly and engaged in a full, frank and open dialogue with parents right from the start then this current impasse would not have happened.

Danja said...

The earlier pp is way out of time for a judicial review (which has to be brought within 3 months), so it must either be the funding which is the problem, or simply having to wait for full construction drawings to be drawn up for the old scheme, re-tendering etc.

Danja said...

Sorry about double post, first one seemed to have gone into a void.

Anonymous said...

You are right in that JR proceedings must be brought within 3 months of a planning decision.

But I am interested in the "why not build the 2005 scheme" discussion; as far as I understand it, most planning applications are granted for 3 years - ie you have to start building within that time. So I would welcome clarification on whether the 2005 one is still valid, or a 5 year permisison wss granted? - something more common these days with the recession and all, but still relatively rare.

Danja said...

The default was reduced to three years in August 2005, so the old PP (applied for earlier in 2005) had 5 years as standard (there is no sign of any condition reducing that on Acolnet).

Danja said...

There are however, a whole heap of other conditions which have to be fulfilled before starting development, which presumably they have not gone through the hoops of satisfying yet, so it couldn't be immediate (I assume).

Anonymous said...

This is so irritating. Has the BrocSoc actually done anything any good for Brockley?

I utterly despair at this last minute intervention to delay the rebuild. My child will now have to endure an inferior learning environment because a minority of unrepresentative do-gooding, dog walkers have got over sentimental about Edwardian huts. The existing buildings don't add to the built environment and certainly don't help children learn or teachers teach. I thought BrocSoc confined itself to the conservation are?

I forgive Lewisham and the school authorities for not filling in the environmental assessment form properly and I implore you to get the school rebuild back on track, leaving the BrocSoc busy bodies to tidy up the shrubbery they have left to run wild around the station.

contributor said...

Its sad how BrocSoc are in the firing line for this situation, when the vast majority of the blame for this situation is down to Lewisham Planning, in my view.

If the possibility of the funding being lost wasn't an issue, then BrocSocs proposals and intervention wouldn't be seen as so unreasonable.

BrocSoc are trying to stop Lewisham planning from just going for the easy, lowest common denominator building. A cheap building is only going to short change tax payers, Lewisham heritage and I future generations of children that will use the school. Cultural roots are important.

If you look at the approach of 'posh' and often very successful schools, they cherish their heritage, and you'll find the buildings themselves help inspire the kids and teachers by the sense of history they are surrounded by. You're not simply a 'kid in a school' you are part of a tradition of learning and improvement.

I just wish the funding wasn't such a pressing issue, so that discussion about this situation wasn't so skewered.

Again I blame Lewisham planning for not properly consulting all stakeholders at the appropiate time and this is why things are so fraught.

TAmsin said...

Hardly "last minute" they've been fighting it tooth and nail for what seems like years.

The fault is with Lewisham schools whose modus operandi seems to be to bulldoze ahead, both literally and metaphorically, and present the appearance of being opposed in principle to the notion of listening to public opposition at the early stages of any debate.

They then get regularly wrong-footed and much needed developments are delayed for years. Ten years ago we were told that the new secondary school that would be needed for the north of the borough could not be built on the site proposed by LEAP (Lewisham Education Action by Parents) because the necessary compulsory purchase processes from the commercial entities who owned some of the land would take too long. The thing could have been built by now!

Anonymous said...

I just don't accept that Brockley Society have acted reasonably and in the interest of the parents, children and the wider community. Yes, Lewisham Council should have completed the environmental impact assessment properly (to which they have appologised) but it just isn't correct to say that there hasn't been adequate consultation.

Its also ridiculous to compare the preservation of expensive independent schools with state schools. As local taxpayers you have to accept that you have to strike a balance between preserving heritage (two buildings are being retained) and creating modern facilities for the 21st century. Would Brockley Society like us to have coal heated houses and travel around on horse and cart!

Brockley Society is entirely in the firing line for the delay and I hope it sees sense, withdraws its opposition to the scheme and issues an apology on its website.

Its a shame that Brockley Society seems to have become a cosy club out of touch with the Brockley community.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should all join the Brockley Society, vote the current Chair off and work from within to refocus what it does. About time we had a Starbucks on the High Street!

tys said...

Inadequate consultation of stakeholders is a classic project management error.

The fault of this situation - late intervention lies at the door of Lewisham Planning/Schools. They did not consult properly at the appropiate time...so it's having to be done now.

Anonymous said...

"Its a shame that Brockley Society seems to have become a cosy club out of touch with the Brockley community"

"Perhaps we should all join the Brockley Society, vote the current Chair off and work from within to refocus what it does"

It is os obvious that those who wrote the above comments have taken no interest in the Broc Soc before. If they had ever turned up to a meeting they would know it is far from a cosy club but a group of hardworking people taking time out of their lives to do soemthing for the community. Maybe it isn't something you like - but as the second comment suggests, join (you are actually members) come along and take the role of chair. I tell you that the current people who run it would welcome the help and the interest

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard any news about the meeting between the BrocSoc and the council?

Mmmmm said...

I looked at the drawings proposed and was a bit worried that the head and chair of governors don't seem to be up to speed on reading plans, as lots of the points they were concerned about were very clearly on the new plans. I also think that part of the purpose of drawing up new plans was to highlight the fact that is is not true that the existing buildings cannot be adapted.

There have been numerous reasons for why they are not being reused. The truth would seem to be there is no will from the council.

I am staggered that so many parents cannot see what they have in those buildings and think that the only way to get improved school buildings is to demolish the buildings and build new on the opposite side of the playground.

I get the concern about having no money spent on the school...just wondering why there wasn't an outcry earlier on. Especially if you go to Ashmead, it ain't pretty.

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