Highgate school expansion plan ‘will destroy the fabric of village’, say critics

Highgate School  (Daniel Lynch)
Highgate School (Daniel Lynch)

A row has broken out between residents of a leafy north London village and the £25,000-a-year school on their doorstep which wants to expand.

Highgate school, where alumni include Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell and actor Freddie Highmore, star of US TV series The Good Doctor, wants to carry out building work to enlarge and update its facilities.

But the plans are threatening to “shipwreck” relations with locals in Highgate Village.

The school, which is based on a number of sites around Highgate, has submitted six planning applications to Haringey council.

It wants to create a sixth form campus, expand its drama facilities, create more practice rooms and performance space for pupils studying music and improve its sports facilities.

The proposals have met fierce resistance from residents who say they would “destroy the fabric of the village” and cause a decade of disruption, noise and building work within Highgate’s historic conservation area.

Former Highgate councillor Liz Morris said: “The school and village have always co-existed on a reasonably peaceful keel but development on this scale would totally shipwreck relations with the locals.”

She added: “It is a disgrace that Highgate School are even trying to push through these plans. The impact on the local community and historic surroundings of such development would be long-lasting and devastating.”

The Highgate Society, which works to protect the area, said approval of the plans would mean a near doubling in size of the school buildings. It said the proposed replacement music centre “resembles nothing so much as a car showroom on an industrial estate or a main road.”

The society, which is urging residents to object to the plans, said: “The school is a valued neighbour and important employer, but expansion will change Highgate as a place to live and work, probably increasing traffic and impacting the Conservation Area.”

Delva Patman, Chair of Southwood Lane Residents Association, said: “Residents, pedestrians and businesses can expect thousands of construction lorries thundering through the narrow, historic streets.”

Highgate School was founded in 1565 and educated the late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, as well as barrister Michael Mansfield KC and cricketer Phil Tufnell.

A spokeswoman for the school said it had been consulting with the community since 2015. She added: “Since that time, there has been extensive consultation to incorporate feedback and invaluable community input into the proposals.”

She added: “The focus of our strategy is on creating modern buildings, replacing ageing facilities which have not been renovated for some time and which have issues including limited accessibility and energy inefficiency. 

“We are enormously grateful for those neighbours who have taken the time to help shape these plans, and we will continue to liaise with them to ensure minimum disruption during the works.”   

A public meeting has been arranged for residents to discuss the plans, chaired by MP Catherine West next month, and a decision is expected later in June.