Free school earmarks green belt land in Willesden for new site

Paul Phillips is the headteacher of a new free school opening next year.

Paul Phillips is the headteacher of a new free school opening next year. - Credit: Archant

A new free school opening in Brent next year is hoping to build premises on protected land in Willesden.

Gladstone School is eyeing up the former playing field of the William Gladstone Secondary School, demolished in 1998 for housing, as its preferred location.

In an email to prospective parents, Paul Phillips, the school’s recently appointed headteacher, said: “Following an exhaustive review of potential sites I can confirm that the former playing field of the old William Gladstone Secondary School, just off Gladstone Park, is emerging as a serious option for Gladstone School.”

But the Brent Council owned site is Metropolitan Open Land and has same level of protection as the Metropolitan Green Belt in terms of development.

In a bid to gather support for the proposals, Mr Phillips is urging prospective parents to write to their respective councillors before he writes to Cllr Muhammed Butt, the leader of Brent Council.

On the challenges of building on protected land, Jim Gatten, the school’s project coordinator, said: “If it did mean we can’t develop on it we would not be making the proposal.

“The majority of people I have spoken to find the proposition attractive.”

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Gladstone School hopes its intention to open the premises for community use during evenings and weekends will help the proposed building win the approval of the council’s planning officers.

Mr Gatten said: “We are deliberately proposing Gladstone School as a community school

“We can put a library back in the community, or provide a performance space for example.”

Mr Gatten added that the decision to submit a planning application sits with the Education Funding Agency.

A spokesman for Brent Council said: “We have been recently contacted by the government along with the proposed free school sponsor or provider and a meeting has been arranged to listen to their proposals.”

The school intends to open in September with up to 120 pupils in year seven.

But with no premises yet secured, it is likely the school will be housed in temporary accommodation.

Mr Gatten said: “Most free schools anticipate they will spend their first year in temporary accommodation.”

Mr Gatten has sought to assure parents that temporary premises will not mean a compromise in standards.