149 homes to be built on unused land on Dabbs Hill
The Dabbs Hill site after fire damage in 2019
A school 'crying out for redevelopment' since it was earmarked for works eight years ago is one step closer to making its plans become a reality.
Northolt High School is the 'only school in the borough' that has not had its 'overdue' revamp, after cancelled government funding schemes left improvements uncertain.
But now the ambition to build a whole new school building to replace the 1950s-era sites could begin as early as next year following approval for its plan to sell off a 'wasteland' playing field for developer Howarth Homes to build 149 affordable homes.
Members of Ealing Council’s planning committee gave the green light for the 1.7 hectare greenfield at Dabbs Hill, after the green space had been out of use for 15 years.
The sale of the site, which will host 18 London Affordable Rent homes and 131 shared ownership properties, is expected to bring in around £17.5 million to go towards the school’s works.
Northolt High School has been earmarked for works by Ealing Council since 2012, and a cabinet report estimated the total cost could be £29 million to carry out in 2017.
Headteacher Marion Budd told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the school’s appearance has acted as a 'barrier' when Year 6 students are choosing their secondary places, and pupils compare themselves to the modern purpose-built facilities of other schools in the borough.
The current buildings at Northolt High School
Students often ask when the new school building will be built, and parents have quizzed whether the site is at threat of closure due to the lack of funding, despite this not being the case.
'It is terrible not having children in school at the moment but it is so good to have this to tell them to say we have got some good news,' she said
'The children will want it built tomorrow.'
The school was formed as a merger between Vincent Secondary Modern School and Eliots Green Grammar School in 1974, and the two separate buildings at opposite ends of the Eastcote Lane site are what stands today.
Ms Budd added: 'Our students consequently spend a lot of time walking between classrooms, time we would obviously rather was dedicated to learning. The school has needed investment in its 1950s buildings for a long time as we currently have high maintenance and utility costs due to the age of the buildings and lack of sufficient insulation.'
And the head also hopes a new building could boost its purpose further, as it will mean improved sports and community facilities.
'We really want to make sure we open up to the community, a brand new building gives us the opportunity to look at what we can do to deliver community facilities,' she explained.
However, of 27 public comments submitted to the affordable homes plan for Dabbs Hill, 23 were objections over concerns such as the loss of green space, increased traffic and pollution.
While the current land is not open to the public, the development aims to allow public access to an 'enhanced' green space on the site, and provide a direct walk and cycling route to Northolt Park.
Out of more than £1 million that would be contributed from the developer to the area, £170,000 would also be used to boost Northolt Park’s facilities, including a neutral grass meadow the same size as the development site. A near- £55,000 sum may also be earmarked for new or improved children’s play equipment and activities at the park.
In a report for councillors, it was also noted that the grassland at the site had suffered 75 per cent damage from a fire last year.
Councillor Deidre Costigan, representing Northolt Mandeville ward, spoke in support of the plan, urging committee members to vote in favour.
She said: 'It is important that the committee understands there are areas of Northolt that have high levels of deprivation and there is a feeling locally that over-development may be an issue.
'Residents understand that there is a need for more affordable housing, they want their kids and their grandkids to be able to afford to live locally but they also think it’s important there are sufficient local facilities and infrastructure for everyone.
'Northolt School is part of that local infrastructure but it has suffered in recent years through lack of investment from the Government, it’s crying out for redevelopment and this scheme represents a way to do this.
She added: 'I think local people are very much in support of the redevelopment of the school so it becomes a great community resource and is again a top choice for local parents.'
Nearly all committee members backed the plan, with Cllr Miriam Rice adding the 'serious fire damage' did convince her the area needed to be managed properly instead of being left as a 'wasteland'.
'I think it’s the best way forward really for the area considering the huge demand for affordable housing, and the affordable housing really needs to be built there. I think the school deserves the investment so I am backing this,' she added.
Hobbayne councillor, Ray Wall, however abstained on the development after he hit out at the design of obscure glazing being installed on some of the bedroom windows.
'It’s like sleeping in toilets,' he said. 'I’m totally against it in these circumstances, it’s a new-build they [the developer] should have thought this out a little better.'
While the land sale will secure the majority of funding needed by the school for its new-build, talks are continuing with governors and Ealing Council over how to plug the near-£12 million gap.
Ms Budd said subject to the shortfall being met and works starting next year, it is hoped the redevelopment will be completed in 2023.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
June 23, 2020