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Concern over plans to demolish two Edwardian schools in London

The Victorian Society has criticised plans to knock down and rebuild two historic primary schools in Kensal Town in west London.

The site near Ladbroke Grove is home to a number of well-preserved Edwardian school buildings and the Society believes that they should be retained and adapted as part of a more sustainable and less destructive scheme.

Under the plans both Middle Row Primary School on Middle Row and the neighbouring St Mary's Primary school on East Row will be demolished and replaced by a mixture of new school buildings and housing.

Unusually for a London school one of the reasons given for demolishing Middle Row School is that the main building is currently too big for the school's needs. It was built around 1914 and although the outside is plain, inside it is in good condition and contains parquet floors, glazed tiles, high ceilings and large sash windows.

The Victorian Society is particularly concerned by plans to knock down the 1904 Infants Block on Middle Row which is significant in terms of both its date and design.

'The planning application for this site includes a list of requirements for the new buildings, yet it reads like a description of the existing school' said Heloise Brown, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'The buildings are already made up of large classrooms and halls which were designed to be used as flexible spaces; the existing schools already have large circulation areas and do make use of natural light and ventilation.'

'The extensive demolition of these fine school buildings is unnecessary and wasteful' she added. ‘There is scope here for an imaginative scheme which modernises the schools and allows space for residential development, while still keeping the best of the past.'

In 2009 the former RIBA president, Sunand Prasad noted that the refurbishment of schools would improve existing buildings' carbon footprints and could make sense environmentally. He was quoted as saying 'refurbishment is not always the poor relation; there are exciting ways of revamping existing buildings.'

Yet Sunand Prasad is the co-founder of Penoyre & Prasad, the firm of architects behind the scheme for the Middle Row site, which involves the needless demolition of all the historic buildings there.

A more sustainable and sensitive scheme is needed for Middle Row School and St Mary's and the Society is calling on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to refuse permission for this application.

Thursday 24 February, 2011

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