New school proposals

“I’ve supported Chapeltown Cohousing over the last eight years as they’ve worked against the odds on their innovative community housing project. I’m not going to stand by and let all their hard work be undermined by these ill-conceived plans for a school building that’s utterly disproportionate for this residential area. We need more schools here but, for goodness’ sake, let’s do it right!”
Fabian Hamilton MP, Leeds North East


When Leeds City Council gave us an exclusivity agreement in December 2016 to purchase the land for our new homes, we were told that our next door neighbour to the northwest would be a 2-form entry primary school for 420 children. Dixons Trinity Academy Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd have instead submitted a planning application for a MASSIVE 3-storey, 980-pupil through-school which would have a significant negative impact on ChaCo.

We recognise that Chapeltown needs more school places, and a secondary school is long overdue. But Dixons the ESFA have purchased enough land to be able to site these schools in a way that is more considerate to local residents and without adding to existing traffic and parking problems in the area.

We ask all our supporters and other local residents who are affected to join us in challenging the worst aspects of these proposals.

 

The images above show some of our ChaCo homes on Barrack Road and how the proposed school dominates our site.

Who’s responsible?

Before getting into the details of our objections, who should we point the finger at? The schools will be run by Dixons Trinity Chapeltown – but the two headteachers say it’s unfair to tarnish the good reputation of their schools by referring to “Dixons” when they have had no say on the location or design of the school.

Yes, but… they and their employers seem insistent on having both primary and secondary schools in one building – which is at the root of most of our objections. Also, from the Design and Access Statement:

4.6.1 Massing & Material Development
Initial proposals for the massing and elevations of the building were developed based on Dixon Trinity Academy’s desire that the building should ‘stand out’, that it should be a catalyst for regeneration and change.

Has anyone in the local community expressed a desire for a ‘stand-out’ building? And anyway, does a very, very big shoebox really qualify?

At present, it looks like the responsibility for the current proposals is shared between Dixons Trinity Academy, Willmott Dixon (the construction company who prepared the plans and will be wanting to minimise their costs and maximise their profits), and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (who don’t seem to want to allocate enough money to do the job properly).

Meanwhile, please understand that we’re not blaming the teaching staff, who appear to be doing a great job under difficult circumstances.

Issues affecting ChaCo

Overbearing appearance – a huge building, dwarfing and encroaching on the ChaCo houses and set on higher land so that it towers 9m above the eaves level of the nearest ChaCo home.

Loss of privacy – the height, proximity and elevated position of the building mean that our homes and gardens will be overlooked by the first and second floor windows of the school.

Loss of evening sunlight – the same set of factors mean that our shared garden will be largely in shadow on summer evenings. Our food-growing area will be the most affected.

Noise – this was always going to be an issue, even with the original 420-pupil primary school. This proposal is for a 980-pupil school. We feel it’s particularly inconsiderate to place the playground right next to the only residential properties where it will cause maximum impact.

Issues affecting local residents (including ChaCo)

Increased traffic – The Transport Statement indicates that there will be around 250 drivers picking up and dropping off children twice a day, and that there is insufficient parking capacity in local streets (below) to be able to cope with this. Despite the existing parking issues at the east end of Leopold Street and the drop-off/pick-up problems already experienced by Holy Rosary Primary School at the other end, the current proposals make no on-site provision to ease the situation. Read more about the traffic issues.

 

Loss of green space – before the temporary primary school for Dixons was built on the Leopold Street playing fields, this extensive green space was available free of charge to local schools and community groups – including ChaCo, who have used it on several occasions. Originally, Willmott Dixon promised that they would reinstate the playing field once the new primary school was built. Now, however, they are planning to use a third of it for their traffic loop. They are proposing to compensate for this by adding a new multi-use games area in a non-residential area the other side of the A58 Barrack Road. There is already a MUGA on that site, and this provision just does not address the real needs of families in Chapeltown (including ours). Young children like swings, slides, climbing frames etc and grass to run around on – preferably without having to cross a dangerous main road to get there. Furthermore, Dixons say they are planning to charge community groups for access to the much-reduced green space.

Even fenced off, the Leopold Street playing fields add so much to the feel of our neighbourhood. They need protecting and opening up so that all local residents can enjoy them.

Unpopular educational environment – many local parents of primary age children would much prefer the primary and secondary schools to be separate anyway. School can be scary enough for 4 yr olds without having to cope with nearly 1,000 other children up to age 16 in the same building. An attractive low structure with no more than 420 primary age children is likely to be far less daunting than a massive 3-storey block squeezed onto a site that’s far too small.

What’s the solution?

Leeds City Council has a statutory obligation to provide enough school places, so we’re not going to be able to stop these schools being built – and that’s never been our intention. Instead, we want them designed in a way that takes account of the needs of the local community rather than seeing us as collateral damage.

It’s not our job to design Dixons’ schools for them, but many of us in ChaCo think it’s ridiculous to try and cut costs by cramming both schools onto such a tight site when they’ve already bought a much bigger site on the other side of Barrack Road. We will be campaigning for Wilmott Dixon to revert to their original plan of putting the primary school in the residential area (alongside ChaCo) and the secondary school on the other site. This would remove most of our objections at a stroke, and avoid adding to the existing traffic, parking, pollution and road safety problems on residential streets.

You can comment on the planning application using the links in the sidebar. Or – if you’re a Chapeltown resident – you could email one of our local Councillors (below) – but don’t delay: we only have until 1 June to have our say.

Cllr Jane Dowson: Jane.Dowson@leeds.gov.uk
Cllr Mohammed Rafique: Cllr.Mohammed.Rafique@leeds.gov.uk
Cllr Eileen Taylor: Eileen.Taylor@leeds.gov.uk

Taking action

There’s a detailed step by step guide on how to take action on this page.

Read the full proposal

 

How to comment

You can find full details of the school’s planning application, including other people’s comments, here.

Anyone can comment on these proposals – especially if they live nearby – but you must do so by 1 June. There’s more info here on how to comment, but remember that you’ll need to give your name and address and quote the planning reference, which is 18/02283.