The journey towards a permanent home for Abacus Belsize Primary School
Here you will find the latest news on our plans to move our outstanding school from our temporary home closer to the catchment we serve.
Planning Appeal decision means Abacus Belsize Primary cannot make a permanent home at the former Hampstead Police Station
We know we are not alone in our genuine shock and disappointment that after a thorough examination of all the evidence at a public inquiry the independent Planning Inspector has agreed with Camden council’s decision to refuse planning permission to refurbish and convert the long-vacant old Hampstead Police Station into a home for Abacus Belsize Primary School. This means we will be unable to proceed with creating a permanent home for the school at this site within safe walking distance for young families from the community we were established to serve.
We passionately wanted to see the outstanding educational opportunities Abacus offers brought closer to our Belsize community, breathing fresh life into the disused Hampstead Police Station. The continued search for an alternative site had left our school, the vast majority of the community, the Department for Education and all our professional planners more convinced than ever that the former Police Station would be the perfect home for us.
An uncommonly thorough investigation of 76 potential locations, more recently in collaboration with Hampstead residents, gave everyone a rare level of confidence that the former Hampstead Police Station on Rosslyn Hill was not only an ideal new home for the school, it’s also the only suitable site available. As we felt our plans would enhance and maintain the historic character and features of the buildings, while providing the modern fit-for-purpose school the community has long required, we were particularly disappointed that the Inspector felt differently.
“Instead of being able to proceed as we’d always hoped and planned, this decision means a whole community of Belsize families seeking an excellent education for their children within walking distance of home will be disappointed, and a noteworthy, listed building will be left unoccupied. Instead of confidently being able to focus on delivering the outstanding education that has come to characterise Abacus, we now need to dedicate even more time to securing the long-term future of our school while overcoming the challenges of being in temporary accommodation at some distance from the community we serve, while ensuring the physical and educational wellbeing of the whole school community through the Covid-19 pandemic. A good local education remains the right of every child. Our search continues and we remain determined to succeed.”
Abacus Belsize Head Teacher Vicki Briody:
“We will now take time to carefully consider the implications and will be talking to the school community, families, staff and stakeholders, about what happens next. At the heart of those discussions will be how to make sure that the children can still benefit from the kind of outstanding education that has come to characterise Abacus. In the meantime, our focus will be on ensuring the physical and educational wellbeing of the whole school community through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, overcoming the distinctive challenges of being in temporary accommodation at some distance from the community we serve.”
Andy Yarrow, Chief Executive of Anthem Schools Trust:
“This is a desperate blow for the school and the whole Anthem community. However, the fight for a permanent home for Abacus is not over and we will now take some time to consider our next steps.
“We are enormously proud of Vicki and her team for the courage and determination they have displayed throughout this difficult journey, and hugely grateful for the unwavering support of parents and members of the local community. Together, we will continue to work towards securing the future that this outstanding community school deserves.”
The public inquiry was held in virtual format, opened on 15 September 2020 and sat for four days before resuming on 19 October for two further days. Closing submissions were heard on 29 October. A pre-inquiry site visit including the interior of the police station took place on 11 September and a further site visit was carried out on 21 October which included alternative school sites and the temporary school premises off Camley Street.
The Inspector's decision was published on 17 December 2020 – you can read and download the detailed decision report here.
'Knowing our ABC C'
Abacus, Belsize, Caring for the Community
The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on schools across the country.
People from the local community were keen to share their experience of how Abacus Belsize Primary responded to the pandemic and the distinctive challenges we faced being in temporary accommodation some distance from the community we serve.
So they helped us make a film about it over the summer 2020, which you can watch here.