A group of local residents have been left feeling upset and disappointed, after the council did not consult them over the sale of Newland Avenue Primary School. The group, calling themselves Newland Avenue Community Action Group, firmly believe that Newland Avenue does not need any more shops or accommodation, but instead, needs vital space for community activities.
They strongly support keeping the youth club that is currently housed within the school building, as well as the green area, sports facilities and the other groups that regularly use the building. The residents wish to fight this decision to sell and want to be given time to prepare an alternative bid, to run the site as a social enterprise or charitable trust, for the benefit of the local community. The group have said they would be willing to raise funds to match the price of £425K so the council would not lose the funds it has earmarked for capital projects.
I spoke with Newland Avenue Community Action Group campaign leader Patrick Naughton-Doe and asked him to explain his concerns over the sale, and to outline his proposal for the future of Newland Avenue Primary School.
What is the current status of the building?
The building is sold subject to planning consent being granted to convert the buildings into a mixture of retail units (not specified) and accommodation (apartments). The council are currently seeking to rehouse the various groups that use the school, but have been forced to ask the property developers if they will allow the youth club and football pitch, to be used for a further 6 months, as they have nowhere for those groups to relocate to at the moment. Such is the lack of space for such groups they are contemplating looking to Orchard Park or Calvert Lane to house some of the services. They are drawing up plans to use the offices above the library on Chanterlands Avenue, for the Wyke Area team but that will cost upwards of 15K and crucially there will not be disabled access.
How many people/groups currently use the school?
Wyke Area Council
Newland Youth Club [Provide young people aged 10 to 24 with a wide range of fun, educational and challenging things to do and places to go, in the local community.]
Psypher – an early onset Psychosis service for young adults from 14 – 35.
Hull Playgoers – a long established Amateur Dramatic Society
Football /Basketball Groups
You believe you may have found a way that would allow the building to remain open in order for consultation to take place? Can you explain more about registering the site as an ‘asset of community value’.
The Localisation Act 2012 enabled a number of schemes to be implemented to help preserve land and buildings which prior to the sale had benefitted the community. The Asset of Community Value component of the act simply enables land or buildings which fit certain criteria to be registered as community assets. Applications can be made via the Hull City Council web site and once a site is registered should the owner wish to sell there is temporary delay to the sale for 6 weeks for other groups to register an interest. If any notifications of interest are received then a further period up to 6 months in total for other bids to be submitted. The owner is under no obligation to sell to the original body so there are some limitations. Assets that have been registered in Hull are listed by the council as well as those applications that have been made but have not been successful.
The council have suggested that registering the site as an asset of community value would not prevent the sale going through as that decision had already been taken. The only hope left is for the plans for the building to be refused consent which would then mean the sale would not go through. This would then allow alternative bids to be made for the space. Given the lack of any consultation with local residents and the severe shortage of community space in the area I would hope a strong argument could be mounted to refuse to grant planning consent.
What communication have you had with the council regarding the future of the building?
I have been copied into an email from the council explaining the current situation which I have summarised on my website http://www.naughton-doe.com. The council also forwarded me the briefing note prepared for the last Wyke Ward council meeting which contains relevant information as to the status of the school.
My local councillor has been in touch with Mike Ross who has in the past been involved in trying to prevent the school from being sold. I will shortly be having a meeting with Councillor Mike Ross and Councillor David McCobb. I have spoken with Councillor Brabazon, the chair of the Wyke area committee and she has referred me to Councillor Gwen Lunn with whom I am due to meet shortly.
What communication have you had from businesses and residents in the immediate area?
I have undertaken a survey. Approx. 50 survey forms were delivered by hand to local residents. I have received 35 responses which I have summarised on the website. Essentially very few people favour the proposed development. There is a particularly strong objection to the idea of any more shops, especially any bars or café bars etc. There was also a general consensus that there was no need for more accommodation. There are already many houses which have been converted to multiple occupancy and this is causing problems with car parking in the area. In contrast nearly everyone wanted to retain the Youth Club, Gardens and Sports facilities. The next most popular idea was a community hub. The full results are available on the website together with a large number of comments which are very relevant given that the council has not undertaken any form of consultation about selling of this asset.
What for you, would be a positive outcome for this campaign and is there any room, for compromise?
The feeling against shops and accommodation is so strong that anything less than a complete turnaround is not going to address the wishes of local residents. They want very much to retain all elements of the site for community use. There is a dearth of such facilities in the area. Even the council are struggling to rehouse the various groups and have had to ask the developers if they would allow them to stay whilst the building work was completed. There must be consultation with local people before obvious assets of community value are sold. Other assets in the city need to be registered. I’m happy to advice anyone who would like to try and register sites in their community.
Why is saving this building so close to your heart?
The site was purchased by the Hull City School Board to build a school to cope with the rising demand as the city developed. The first building opened in 1896 and the second in 1900. Many people opposed the closure of the school in 2006 – it was much loved and parents helped landscape the grounds to form an outdoor amphitheatre. Disabled access was added for the millennium and commerative railings were designed by the children. The school forms an important part of the heritage of the area but more importantly it provides essential spaces for community activities as described already. In truth though the available space is hardly utilised and it is feasible for many more community activities to be housed within them. The Newland area lacks all the facilities needed by communities and the site has the potential to become a Community Hub for the whole area along and around Newland Avenue. Some parents have suggested it is returned to being used as a school. The local schools are all full and the building obviously lends itself to such use. I would wish to ensure that should this prove popular then the community would still be enabled to have use of the green spaces and sports facilities when not needed by the school.
Look out for an online petition circulating soon which will ask the council to look again at this decision.
Read More: http://www.naughton-doe.com
Join Facebook group for campaign updates including details on the issue being picked up on by local Councillors by searching ‘Newland Avenue Community Action Group’