Ark Blake Academy

Proposed Ark Blake Secondary School, Morland Road

For more information see the following links:



ECCO members in receipt of posts were sent a post on 17 August setting out concerns expressed by some members about the road safety implications of the application.   It might assist members to have some context for the Ark Blake application,  and the writer of this article endeavours to set out that context.

I have pasted in at the end of these comments the Minute of the Planning Committee discussion of the Ark Blake application which took place on 6 July 2017.   This discussion was held on a pre-application basis.   No decision was made.   Ark Blake have now submitted their application for determination by the Committee,  and the issue is open for public consultation.

Why is a large secondary school (Ark Blake) being proposed at the junction of Morland Road and Lower Addiscombe Road?

This might reasonably be judged to be a sub-optimal location for a new school.    So what is the rationale behind it?

Simply,  there is a need for the provision of additional school places because of the rise in pupil numbers going through Croydon primary schools.   The Local Education Authority (LEA) state that there is a particular need for more school places in our area of Central/North East Croydon.

Pupils start at secondary school in the school year when they are rising 12 (Year 7).   Between 2017/18 and 2023/24 the number of Year 7 pupils on roll in Croydon is expected to rise by 11%.

Every LEA has a duty under the 2006 Education Act to ensure that there are sufficient school places for the pupil population which they serve.   Under the 2011 Education Act,  there is a presumption that LEAs must – when they seek to set up a new school – invite proposals from individuals or bodies who wish to establish a free school.   The setting up of a Free School has to be sanctioned by central government.    The LEA has to provide the site.   Free Schools operate in law as academies.

Ark Blake was approved as a Free School by the Department for Education in 2015.   It will be a six form entry school,  which means that there will be a maximum entry of 180 pupils into each year group from Year 7 to Year 11.  There will be 300 sixth from places.   The school roll will rise,  therefore,  rise to 1,200 over a number of years.

Not everyone agrees that the school is necessary to meet demand,  and that it would be even viable.   Inside Croydon published a blog by “Walter Cronxite” on 3 February 2015 under the strap “Council presses on with £22m academy that no one wants”.    The link is Council presses on with £22m academy that no one wants   Of course,  ECCO holds no brief either for or against “Walter Cronxite”.

What is the “Ark” of “Ark Blake”?

Ark is an educational charity founded in 2002 by a group of hedge fund financiers.   The objective is to improve the life chances of children through education.   Ark Schools runs 34 academies in the UK,  including Ark Oval in Cherry Orchard Road.

Is the planning application submitted for Ark Blake a fait accompli?

Croydon’s Planning Committee must have regard to relevant planning considerations.    Refusal of the application might make it more difficult for the LEA to provide enough secondary school places in the borough,  a fact which will obviously not escape members of the Planning Committee.   However,  it should not be assumed that the application will be nodded through.   There are significant issues of transport,  parking and road safety which make the establishment of a school on the proposed site extremely problematic.

Transport for London have responded to the Ark Blake application.    The proximity of the A222 as part of the Strategic Road Network means that TfL has a particular locus in respect of Ark’s application.   TfL question the absence from the application of an adequate travel plan,  including the need for a designated travel plan coordinator to be appointed and be funded by the school.  Ark Blake would also need to have a clear scheme for monitoring such a travel plan.

The TfL response also raises the possibility that Ark may have been considerably optimistic in estimating how many of their prospective pupils would be walking to school – Ark have suggested that only 10% would be taking the bus.   If significantly more pupils than forecast by Ark travel by car and bus,  the impact on the local transport infrastructure would be great.    It is noteworthy that the 197 bus is already crowded on its rush hour journeys through Central Croydon.

TfL also stipulate that Ark should submit a “Delivery and Service Plan”.   It is essential that Ark complies with this stipulation.   Delivery and servicing must be carried out safely and efficiently and in a way that minimises impact on the local environment.

What should members of ECCO do if they have a view on the Ark Blake application,  whether it be for or against?

Write to referencing Planning Application 17/03709/FUL (Rees House/Morland Lodge and 6 Morland Road,  CR0 6NA)

Do not delay if you wish to make representations about the application.   Although the closing date has passed,  Council officers typically continue to receive and process comments until an application  is determined.

Jerry Fitzpatrick


Minute of Item 6.3 of the meeting of the Planning Committee meeting held on 6 July 2017

6.3 17/00535/PRE Rees House, 2 Morland Lodge and 6 Morland Road, Croydon CR0 6NA
Demolition of existing buildings and the erection of a part four/part five storey building for use as a 1200 place secondary school (with Sixth Form) with associated rooftop MUGA and provision of car/cycle parking areas and landscaping
Ward: Addiscombe

Alan Gunne Jones (Planning Consultant), James Tatham (Architect), Charlie Fagan (ARK School) and Paul Freeman (applicant) attended to give a presentation and to respond to Members’ questions and issues raised for further consideration prior to submission of a planning application.
The main issues raised at this meeting were as follows:

  • Supportive of approach
  • Some concerns regarding design, particularly front elevation, rather dull and uninspiring – it should not be too flashy but to be a bit more considered, bringing positive parts of the architecture to the front. Double height entrance works well, could the broken corner be continued?
  • Consideration of public art
  • Sports facilities – how will they work?
  • Building relationships with local environment
  • Effective travel plan – low level of parking provided
  • Road safety – pavement widths, can they be widened? Road is very fast and busy
  • Consideration for cyclists – promoting in this area would be very positive with parking
  • Good travel plan summary to be submitted with application
  • Good travel plan summary to be submitted with application
  • Bus capacity to be considered. 197 is already too overcrowded

Cllr Fitzsimons, ward Member for Addiscombe, made the following comments:

  • It is a difficult site for a school but recognise difficulties in finding good sites now.
  • The purpose is to educate children. The look is only a secondary issue.
  • We don’t want a flashy building – one in keeping with the area.  Victorian terraced properties on the other side of the street.
  • I do not think it overbearing and am supportive of the scheme.
  • Local residents are concerned about parking issues.
  • We need to get road safety issues covered.
  • There is an issue about play space – South Norwood Recreation Ground is the closest open space, which could work well.
  • Morland Road – could the pavements be widened?
  • There is concern about the speed of traffic on the road.
  • We need a secondary school in this area.