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TOWER HAMLETS STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE DECIDES FATE OF WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL

An officer’s report packed with misinformation about the historic school building, plus a petition from 236 local residents in support of the Council’s proposed four-storey school, and a large attendance of teachers, parents and pupils at last night’s meeting ensured that the committee reversed its previous decision and voted unanimously for the four-storey primary school.

 

The conservation officer’s decision not to add the historic school building to the local list meant that some members thought that I had misinformed them about the significance of Woolmore Primary School.

 

Everything I have said and written about the 1916 school building is true and based on extensive research.  Unfortunately, I am not a published architectural historian and that made it easy for the officer to dismiss my evidence.  The fact remains that there is no other school building like Woolmore in the whole of London; and although vent stacks are a feature of the LCC’s Neo-Georgian elementary schools opened between 1912 and 1918, Woolmore is the only one with a highly visible and distinctive row of seven massive vent stacks.

 

Woolmore is not only a beautiful and unique building it is also a good and useful school building.  With proper adaptation and refurbishment, all its alleged problems could have been solved; and would have been had the Birds Portchmouth Russum (BPR) scheme been given proper consideration by all concerned.

 

At least one member appeared not to be aware of this alternative scheme, which would have made the 1916 building “fit for purpose” and extended it with two new additions for a total of about 638 pupils.  Clearly, the BPR scheme was not a proposal to just maintain the façade of Woolmore Street.  Facadism is dishonest and not even mentioned in English Heritage’s recent report Refurbishing historic school buildings.

 

I have tried many times to draw attention to this report, which relates to all historic school building regardless of whether they are listed or not.  Nothing one says or does makes any difference in Tower Hamlets, where all decisions about school buildings are made by Tower Hamlets Schools Limited; and nothing is done by the Council to dispel the general belief that only brandnew school buildings can provide high-quality education.

 

Had the BPR scheme been given proper consideration by all concerned, the older pupils at Woolmore would have had the addition advantage of specialist rooms (not provided in the Council’s four-storey school) and all the pupils would have been able to get around easily and feel at home in two two-storey buildings.  Instead, they will have to cope with an intimidating and physically challenging four-storey primary school, with a teaching block served only by one very small lift, one safe wide staircase and one unsafe narrow staircase.  In the original plans, shown to and voted for by the parents, the teaching block was served by two safe wide staircases.

image SE
Click image to enlarge – see the BPR scheme here

The tragedy of Woolmore is not just that a fantastic opportunity has been lost (and Poplar will lose yet another good historic building), but also the clear message from the conservation officer that he is not going to locally list any building on an existing or future development site.  The Committee’s unanimous decision also gives the green light to all those other headteachers and parents who are demanding a brandnew school, rather than an adapted and refurbished school with new additions.

 

Many more unprotected historic buildings are now likely to be demolished and added to the growing list of demolished historic school buildings in Tower Hamlets.  This includes Bonner Primary School, Mowlem Nursery, Christian Street School, Buckland Street School, the original board school building at Morpeth Secondary School, Woolmore Infants’ School (in Bullivant Street), and now Woolmore Primary School.

 

Our petition for local listing and the BPR scheme was signed by a total of 186 supporters.  The paper version was signed by 3 non-residents and 116 LBTH residents, of whom 79 live at Robin Hood Gardens (not mentioned in the officer’s update report).  The online petition was signed by 67 supporters.

 

For Notes on Significance of Woolmore Primary School see here.  For misinformation, see April letter to Council Helal Abbas.  For the school and community benefits of the BPR scheme, see April message to Mayor and Councillors.

 

Tom Ridge

April 19th, 2013

Posted In: Conservation

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Sign the petition to support expansion of the school without demolition

Woolmoore Sch front elevation

See a new photo gallery of the school

Last month Tower Hamlets councillors voted to refuse plans for a new four-storey primary school and demolition of the current school. But now council officers are trying to make the councillors reverse their decision when the committee meets again on Thursday 18 April 2013.

The officer’s report for this meeting of the  Strategic Development Committee (item 6.1) is now available.

 

Officers say that the loss of the building would be “outweighed by the substantial public benefit of providing a high quality new three form entry school”. As predicted in the March email, the committee report contains a great deal of further justification for demolition.  Both this and the short reason for refusal are designed to change the committee’s March 6 decision to one in favour of the Council’s proposed four-storey primary school, which involves the total demolition of the existing historic school building.

The new school building proposed by the Council’s department for “Education Social Care and Wellbeing” 

 

 

Image removed

 

 

Section 4 of the report includes various representations from the school and others in support of the Council’s proposed four-storey primary school.  Including a petition with 236 signatures (with local postcodes). The wording of this petition is not known.

 

To continue the campaign, a letter to the Mayor and Councillors (with photographs) has been sent.  Please read it carefully, as the first part sets out the advantages of the alternative scheme drawn up by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects.  The last part explains what happened to the request to register Woolmore School as a Locally Listed building.

 

Ariel_view_woolmore_primary_w600

An alternative plan (click here to view large version)The school must expand from one to three forms of entry. This can be done without demolition. Blackwall Reach Regeneration Area needs at least one retained heritage asset, to maintain a sense of place and community pride. The alternative ideas above show that this heritage asset can be retained and the boroughs needs met.

 

It is also hoped to send an email about the officer’s report to the Chair, members and deputies of the Strategic Development Committee.  A copy will be sent to you in the next couple of days.

 

Please re-double your efforts to get many more signatures on our online and/or paper petitions, especially local postcode signatures.

 

Please also do your best to come along to the public gallery on the 18th to scrutinise the decision-making process and support the refurbishment of the school.

See details of the alternative ideas here that will allow school to be enlarged yet retain the original building

TO PARENTS, TEACHERS AND GOVERNORS AT WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL, LBTH EDUCATION, SOCIAL CARE & WELLBEING, CHAIR & MEMBERS OF THE STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, SUPPORT THE REQUEST TO ADD WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL TO THE LOCAL LIST OF HERITAGE ASSETS; AND SUPPORT THE PROPOSAL TO RETAIN AND ADAPT THE HISTORIC SCHOOL BUILDING FOR THREE FORMS IN YEARS 5 AND 6 AND BUILD A NEW LINKED SCHOOL BUILDING TO THE EAST FOR NURSERY, RECEPTION AND THREE FORMS IN YEARS 1, 2, 3 & 4 (as shown on the sketch plans by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects)


Petition is now closed

67 signatures sent to LBTH

 

Tom Ridge (SAVE WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL)

7 Shepton Houses
Welwyn Street
London E2 0JN (02008 981 7361)

April 15th, 2013

Posted In: Conservation

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The unique Woolmore Primary School is under threat of demolition as part of the extensive Blackwall Reach Regeneration scheme. The school must expand from one to three forms of entry. This can be done without demolition. Blackwall Reach Regeneration Area needs at least one retained heritage asset, to maintain a sense of place and community pride. The alternative ideas below show that this heritage asset can be retained and the boroughs needs met.

TO PARENTS, TEACHERS AND GOVERNORS AT WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL, LBTH EDUCATION, SOCIAL CARE & WELLBEING, CHAIR & MEMBERS OF THE STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, SUPPORT THE REQUEST TO ADD WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL TO THE LOCAL LIST OF HERITAGE ASSETS; AND SUPPORT THE PROPOSAL TO RETAIN AND ADAPT THE HISTORIC SCHOOL BUILDING FOR THREE FORMS IN YEARS 5 AND 6 AND BUILD A NEW LINKED SCHOOL BUILDING TO THE EAST FOR NURSERY, RECEPTION AND THREE FORMS IN YEARS 1, 2, 3 & 4 (as shown on the sketch plans by Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects)

Petition is now closed

67 signatures sent to LBTH

.

Ariel_view_woolmore_primary_w600

Click image to see larger version

 

Woolmore Primary School must expand from one to three forms of entry and LBTH (Education, Social Care and Wellbeing) has already secured outline planning permission for a four-storey replacement primary school on the extended site of the existing two-storey Woolmore Primary School (opened by the London County Council in 1916).

 

However, at its meeting on 6 March 2013, the LBTH Strategic Development Committee refused (by four votes to three) a reserved matters application which included a justification for the demolition of the existing two-storey school building (PA/12/03318).

 

Reasons for refusal and further justifications for demolition will be presented at the committee’s next meeting on 18 April 2013. The committee will therefore be obliged to reconsider demolition and may grant full planning permission for the proposed four-storey replacement primary school building (with only one internal staircase) next to the northern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel).

 

So that all concerned may give proper consideration to the refurbishment and extension of this beautiful historic school building (as recommended in English Heritage’s Refurbishing Historic School Buildings (2010):

  • Tom Ridge has asked for the historic school building to be added to the LBTH Local List of heritage assets
  • Award-winning Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects have drawn up sketch plans (PDF Doc) which demonstrate how the existing school building can be adapted for three forms in years 5 and 6, extended north to include a new multi-purpose hall and kitchen and linked to a new two-storey school building to the east for nursery, reception and three forms in years 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • The local listing request and the architects’ sketch plans are both fully supported by the Twentieth Century Society, which has been concerned for over a year about the loss of the historic school building and its embodied energy.

 

To encourage all concerned to give proper consideration to the refurbishment and extension of the historic school building please sign the online petition by 4 pm 17 April 2013 (and encourage others to sign) so that it can be reported to the Strategic Development Committee at its meeting on 18 April 2013. As there are no speaking rights at this meeting, a brief letter to Amy.Thompson@towerhamlets.gov.uk would also help.

 

NOTES ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL

 

Woolmore Primary School is described in The Buildings of England London 5: East as “Neo-Georgian with a severe row of tall chimneys and elegantly bracketed eaves.” (p. 648).

 

The “chimneys” are in fact upper-stage vent stacks for the removal of stale air from classrooms. Even so, as the building is good enough to be positively described in “Pevsner” it is surely good enough to be cherished by the local community and added to the LBTH Local List of heritage assets.

 Woolmore

  • the school is one of the finest and most distinguished of the LCC’s Neo-Georgian elementary schools
  • of the 33 surviving examples (opened between 1912 and 1918) it is the only one with a highly visible and very distinctive row of seven massive upper-stage vent stacks (on the south side of its classroom range)
  • only 13 of the surviving examples have pitched and hipped roofs with curved lower slopes over white boxed eaves
  • the school is one of a few with its original white boxed eaves, which are probably the only ones with particularly elegant wrought-iron eaves and gutter brackets
  • the convex brackets are complemented by the semi-circular relieving arches over the ground-floor classroom windows
  • the school also retains most of its original cast-iron rainwater goods
  • the school is in fact the least altered of the three surviving 1912-1918 LCC Neo-Georgian elementary school buildings in LB Tower Hamlets.

Apart from the post-WW2 rebuilt north-eastern part of the building and replacement roof cladding, the exterior and interiors of Woolmore Primary School are more or less as completed in 1916 as a two-storey school for boys and girls. The plastic replacement windows detract from the appearance of the building. They could and should be replaced by appropriate wooden window frames with double glazing, fully set back within the existing reveals.

 

The 1913 ‘heritage’ building at the Bow School of Maths and Computing in Paton Close is a very impressive locally-listed three-storey school building for boys, girls and infants with white rendered upper walls. However, the top floor of its main central part has been completely remodelled to form a sports hall under a (concealed) new roof.

 

Osmani Primary School is a long three-storey school building opened in 1915 for boys, girls and infants with the same planform and (similar) roofs as Woolmore Primary School but with red-brick instead of yellow-brick walls. It is the only surviving 1912-18 school with six side-wall, upper-stage vent stacks between seven gables (in the south wall of its classroom range). However, during its post-WW2 use as a boys’ secondary scshool, it was extended at both ends to include a three-storey science wing and a very large gymnasium.

 

Clearly, Woolmore Primary School must be added to the LBTH Local List of heritage assets and retained as a beautiful and useful part of an enlarged Woolmore Primary School. Especially, as its two associated buildings in Bullivant Street are to be demolished:

  • the derelict single-storey former LCC Woolmore Street Infants’s School of 1914
  • the derelict single-storey former LCC Woolmore Street Manual Training Centre of 1910, which provided woodwork lessons for boys at the Woolmore Street Boys & Girls School and other council schools in the vicinity.

This part of the very extensive Blackwall Reach Regeneration Area needs at least one retained heritage asset, to maintain a sense of place and community pride. Especially as it is right next to the All Saints’ Conservation Area, where the setting of the church and the conservation area is to be destroyed by a massive tower block on the site of the former infants’ school between Bullivant Street and Cotton Street.

 

Tom Ridge (SAVE WOOLMORE PRIMARY SCHOOL)
7 Shepton Houses
Welwyn Street
London E2 0JN (0208 981 7361)

April 3rd, 2013

Posted In: Conservation

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