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'Stand up and fight': RIBA president joins Elliott School protest

RIBA president Angela Brady has joined the chorus of objectors to Wandsworth Council’s plans to partially demolish Elliott School and sell its playing fields

Commenting ahead of a major protest scheduled to take place outside Wandsworth Town Hall tonight, Brady called on architects and the public to ‘stand up and fight’ to save the Grade II-listed, John Bancroft-designed school.   

The outspoken institute leader said the ‘era of Olympics in London’ meant sport facilities needed to be at the ‘heart of all schools’ adding ‘the very fact that this building is a fine piece of architecture and has a direct positive appreciation and influence on its pupils needs to be recognised’.

She said: ‘I wish this campaign every success and it could be the start of Localism where local people have a say on what gets saved or built in their local area.’

Under plans to transform the school into an Ark Schools academy around 40 per cent of the site could be sold for housing to help fund the refurbishment of what remains. Hawkins\Brown is working for Ark Schools on the overhaul of the existing structure.

Objectors to plans already include the Former British ambassador to Iraq Terence Clark, English Heritage, The Twentieth Century Society, Docomomo and Bancroft’s widow, Janet.

Martin O’Rourke, a conservation expert and former member of English Heritage’s Post War Steering Group, described the project as ‘cultural vandalism’ and ‘outrageous’.

He said: ‘Not only is it a quality, eloquent piece of architecture but it is an early example of the London County Council’s (LCC) pioneering commitment to comprehensive schools.

‘The school must be seen as part of the Alton Estate, which it serves. This estate by the LCC is one of the finest post war social housing complexes in Europe. The school and the estate demonstrate how architecture can give expression to progressive social, environmental and educational ideas -not thoughts that much detain our present government.’

Avanti Architects consultant John Allan added: ‘Cynically timed to coincide with the holiday season this squalid shenanigan to dispose of Elliott School’s sports grounds flouts national policies for respecting a listed building and its setting, flies in the face of progressive thinking on the vital benefits of preserving school playing fields and falls so far short of “due process” in terms of adequate consultation and option appraisal, as to raise serious doubts as to its basic legality.

‘If moral disgrace is insufficient to deter councillors minded to pursue this folly, they should pause to consider whether their actions are ultra vires.’

A Wandsworth Council committee will tonight vote on whether to proceed with the plans with the council’s leader, Ravi Govindia, set to receive a 55,000-signature petition against the proposal prior to the meeting.

The school’s headteacher Mark Phillips told the Press Association: ‘I’m delighted that this process is now moving forward. Pupils and parents have been waiting a long time for this decision.

‘I’m pleased that this will enable us to replace our old concrete tennis courts with a new multi-use games area.

‘Our old gyms, that are in very poor condition and not suitable for a number of sports at competitive level, will be replaced with a new modern sports hall.

‘This will significantly enhance the facilities available both to our students and the local community.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • English Heritage won't be using the sports hall facilities for competitive games. Surely it's more important the users of the school get what they need.

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  • What a sad affair, with LB Wandsworth once again demonstrating its wanton lack of understanding of, or respect for, the qualities that contribute to an excellent built environment - particularly for those without the means to escape the Borough's repulsive and squalid town centres.

    On another note, one almost begins to wonder whether there is something more sinister at play in terms of targeting the work of the late John Bancroft, and in particular the wonderful schools he bequeathed to London.

    What a sorry affair.

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  • If that was one of John Bancroft's good works, I'd hate to see what he designed on an off day. Absolutely hideous.

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