Free School's Move to Palingswick House Set for Approval

Planning Committee expected to give go ahead at meeting next Tuesday

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The West London Free School

Planning Application Committee report

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The West London Free School is expected to be given the go ahead to redevelop Palingswick House in Hammersmith's King Street at a meeting of Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s planning applications committee next Tuesday, October 16.

A report produced for the committee by case officer Neil Egerton is recommending that approval should be granted for the application, which will pave the way for the school to move into the historic building, which previously houses community and voluntary groups, in autumn 2013.

West London Free School, which is currently based in Cambridge Grove in Hammersmith, is looking to turn Palingswick House in King Street into a new 4,300 square metre school for 600 pupils aged 11-16.

The application calls for the refurbishment of two Victorian ‘buildings of merit’ – Palingswick House and the superintendent's house, known as ‘The Lodge’. A new four storey building with a glass atrium, housing an assembly hall, kitchen and dining room and classrooms would also be built.

The plans show 20 standard classrooms, six science laboratories, two art studios, two music rooms, a main hall, a library, rooms for central support staff and administration facilities at the scheme.

Proposals for the scheme have been presented at two council Design Review Panels this year and changes suggested at those meetings appear in this revised plan.

The Planning Application Committee report states that outside games areas would only be used from 8am to 6pm on weekdays and between 9am and 1pm on Saturdays. No school coaches or mini-buses would be able to park, wait, load or unload passengers from or to Weltje Road.

The council says if the scheme is approved, no works would begin until the current buildings were photographed and a historical record has been made of the site, for logging in the borough’s archives. A commemorative plaque with information about the property’s history would also be made and put up at the new school.

Palingswick House was originally built around 1849 as a family home, but over the years has been used as an orphanage and workhouse, the orphanage's superintendent’s house, a school, children’s home, hostel for diabetic children and a community resource centre.

West London Free School, which opened in September 2011, hopes to open at the King Street address next September with an initial pupil role of 360. The number of pupils would then increase by 120 a year until the full capacity of 600 students was reached in 2015.

You can read the Planning Application Committee report here.

The Cambridge Grove site, meanwhile remain part of the school. In January this year, it was announced that West London Free School was hoping to open a primary school in 2013 on the site offering the same classical liberal education as the secondary school.

West London Free School says the plan is to join the two schools together, so any child at the primary will automatically go on to the secondary without having to submit a separate application.

The sibling policy will also apply, so siblings of children at the primary will be eligible for places in Year 7 at the secondary when they're old enough.

The plan is for the primary to open with a Reception class in 2013 and then fill up, year group by year group, until it has a full complement of children in 2020.

Author Toby Young, who led the group of local parents behind the new school, also foresees a whole chain of similar schools, pointing out that a chain could reap economies of scale, share best practice and pool resources such as playing fields.

"It makes a great deal of sense," he said. "The idea of providing a classical, liberal education regardless of background and ability has proved extremely popular."

This is in line with Mayor Boris Johnson's stated ambition to see dozens of free schools opening in London, using sites such as former police and fire stations.

Parents who are interested in applying for a place at either the primary or secondary school are invited to fill out the form on the school's website.