CoL School for Girls drops Barbican expansion plans


A top City of London school has scrapped a £15m expansion plan to build a new school block the length of a football pitch in the Barbican estate which pitted it against residents.

City of London School for Girls has dropped its plans which included a kitchen and dining hall under 64 homes in Mountjoy House, which sits on huge concrete columns in the Grade II* listed Barbican estate.

It wanted to build  more classrooms to increase the Prep school from 730 to 826 pupils, relocate the sixth form block, build a new gym and a purpose built hall for residents. The school was rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and also receives donations from companies in the Square Mile.

It held a consultation for residents and had said it would treat kitchen fumes which would be directed away from flats and the dining hall would be made of glass to reduce the impact on light.

The decision means the school, which gets funding from the City of London Corporation, may have to look elsewhere as a home for extra facilities.

Some residents staged a campaign opposing its plans saying they would affect them, with worries about cooking smells and noise and the impact on the historic central London estate which is renowned for its Brutalist landscape styles.

Now the board of governors has announced it is dropping the plan, but will still need to expand the school where fees are £18,300 a year.

It is reviewing its needs for the next five to 10 years and “in order to meet those needs, and mindful of advice from the City Corporation planners, the Board of Governors has decided not to take the expansion plan further in its current form.”

However the governors said it still needs to expand, “especially to provide much needed new STEM facilities, to maximise the educational experiences of the Prep pupils and to provide additional pastoral space”.

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This summer the Corporation agreed to loan the school up to £15.3m for the expansion.

A report to the July meeting of the Court of Common Council said:  “The school has built its latest business plan assuming the funding would be forthcoming and, during the intervening period since the loan request was first submitted, has been progressing the design at risk to maintain pace.

Should the scheme be deferred for a year or halted potential abortive costs of up to £600k would need to be justified to parents.”

Residents said they welcomed the decision to scrap the expansion plans and said they thought the school has “outgrown” its home in the Barbican where space is tight and may have to look elsewhere to expand. The Barbican Association said it thought the school could expand close to the historic estate, whilst keeping the existing school where it is.

The residents’ association said: “The proposed development, the length of a football pitch, would have represented an extraordinarily large intrusion into the unique, Grade II* listed landscape of the Barbican Estate and the governors appear to have recognised that it was unlikely to be granted planning permission or listed building consent in the face of determined opposition by residents and others who care about the estate and its architecture.”

It added: “The school has already expanded several times on its present site and we do not believe it can expand any further within the Barbican Estate without doing irreparable damage to its environment.

And warned: “The school has clearly outgrown its present location and while we would be very happy to see the existing school remaining as part of the Barbican community, we believe that any further expansion must necessarily take place in an alternative location.​”