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Saturday, 07 August 2021 12:24

New Park Crescent Academy, Margate. Planning Application Seriously Flawed

Index

Site and Surroundings
The description of the site does its best to impress, but cannot disguise the limitations brought about by its being ‘constricted or constrained where space is at a premium’, a phrase tucked away as a footnote on a plan of the site. The grounds are on two distinct ground levels, with the buildings on a plateau. Even so, these back on to a two-metre high retaining wall separating the school from houses backing onto it from the much higher Byron Road and which, from the mocked-up photo of the school above appear to look over the wall into the school. The quotation ‘Following planning pre-application consultations with planning officers, the western teaching wing (being closer to the southern site boundary), was lowered to two storeys to help reduce the impact on existing dwellings to the south of the site’ gives the game away about this particular pressure on the design.

The main building is confined to the plateau and so planners have had to extend to three storeys in order to accommodate all the pupils. 

Plan of Park Crescent   Park Crescent Students 1

 

The plan of the site shows the small amount of playground area fitted in around the buildings. The photos all show older pupils standing around or sitting and engaged in discussion, which is not what eleven-year-olds (the first intake) at school do in their free time. They also bring out the barrier of the bank separating this from the minimal formal sports facilities.

Park Crescent Plateau 1

 

The separate sports hall is ‘an 18m x 33m, 4 badminton court hall, and can be operated independently from the school to benefit community use’. However, this is below the minimum size recommended by Sport England.  

The site is contained within four intersecting roads, but much of the land of the previous  Royal School for the Deaf it includes is unavailable for the new school.  The plan shows previous residential accommodation in houses dotted around the exterior which are excluded, as is a Hydrotherapy Pool and Gym Complex run independently although it is in KCC’s ownership. There is also a wooded area, part of the site which is part of the Margate Conservation Area and so unusable for the project, all of which eat away the space available. 

The northern or lower part of the site comprises a single U16 size football pitch and a Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).

Picture 3

This is grandly spelled out as:

The overall sports provision within the site will provide (as a minimum) the following: · 1 Full Size Under 16s Grass Football Pitch · 1 Mini Rugby / Practice Pitch (on football pitch) · 1 Mini Soccer Asphalt Pitch (within MUGA) · 2 Full Netball Courts (within MUGA) · 2 Five a Side Football Pitches (within MUGA) · 2 Full Basketball Pitches (within MUGA) · 3. Full Tennis Courts (within MUGA) - There is also be further capacity within the playing field /pitch to provide summer sports pitch layouts such as rounders, softball and athletic field sports.

Although this sounds quite expansive,  the MUGA can only offer a small selection of activities at one time. The exciting further capacity to provide summer sports pitch layouts such as rounders, softball and athletic field sports simply refers to the two pitches being reconfigured. 

The solution to easing this very cramped outdoor provision is also contained in a footnote on the Plan: ‘Local Public Dane Park Playing Fields directly adjacent to school could provide additional Off-Site formal sports pitches, subject to agreements and liaison’, 'could' being the operative word, with all the constraints that brings, although the demand is likely to be extensive. 

Conclusion
The arguments for this unnecessary school, which flies in the face of population projections, and is proposed for an unsuitable site of limited space forcing severe constraints on the design of the building and grounds, and which will potentially force the closure of another Thanet school, are difficult to find. The project as originally conceived by KCC officers was rightly vetoed by the then Leader of KCC, Paul Carter, but he was then overruled by Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, who reinstated the project, reportedly with the support of the Officers who produced the original wrong population projections. They have much to answer for. The educational argument appears to rest on a completely false claim that without it pupils in Sandwich and Deal will be denied access to their local schools, together with vague unsubstantiated and false claims about population growth.
 
One can only wonder what the Howard Academy Trust, based in Medway, makes of the mess they now find themselves in. Is there anyone out there with the courage to challenge this foolishness? 

Footnote: I have been trying through FOI to obtain correspondence held by KCC about this matter since February, when I was falsely told that KCC  did not hold any information on the matter. I tried again on 24th June, but have been unable to extract a positive response at the time of writing this article.  


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Last modified on Tuesday, 07 September 2021 11:25

5 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 13 August 2021 00:34 posted by Lekun S

    As an experienced Teacher who has lived in Thanet for a decade, I continue to be perplexed by so many local people's attitudes towards certain schools in the area. This is not based on fair evidence, it's just hearsay that seems to get around. Children who are willing to work hard will do well at any school in Thanet. Children who are lazy will fail to achieve their potential.A child's attitude and parental support are major factor's in achieving success. Furthermore, success is not guaranteed just because you are prepared to put your child through a lengthly journey every day to get to school in another town. PETER: So what is your solution to changing the reputation of the two schools concerned? Responsible parents will take what ever action they deem necessary to maximise their children's potential. Secondary allocations data for entry in September (above) suggest the situation is worsening.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 10 August 2021 10:23 posted by Elizabeth T

    Someone on the Kent Online article quoted above has sneered at the concerns of local residents. I can assure you they are very real and we are starting to campaign against this terrible idea which will soon see our local roads even more jammed. PETER: I have not considered these issues as I have been addressing the educational ones, but I am sure you are right.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 10 August 2021 10:19 posted by Emily R

    I drive three children including my own son to Sandwich Technology College every day from Margate. There is no way they or many others who can make other arrangements will accept places at Hartsdown. You eloquently and I believe accurately, describe many of the problems facing the new school,

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 August 2021 21:57 posted by Thanet Primary Headteacher

    So in your opinion was Paul Carter right or wrong when he vetoed the Park Crescent Academy proposal back in October 2019? PETER: I believe he was right to do so, but wrong in assuming that the answer was to allow Hartsdown Academy to improve of its own accord. I know it has a very difficult situation but it needs a strong, possibly exceptional, headteacher and governance to take the decisive action needed. I don't believe either of these are currently in evidence..

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