Film school is a ‘David vs. Goliath’ victory for council

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Digital impressions of what the Working Title School, a thousand-place sixth form with a specialism in film, will look like. Source: Architecture initiative
Digital impressions of what the Working Title School, a thousand-place sixth form with a specialism in film, will look like. Source: Architecture initiative

A councillor has defended a controversial decision to approve planning permission for a film school in Highbury, despite criticism from secondary schools in the area.

A battle

Councillor Osh Gantly described the planning approval as a victory, saying that Islington Council was ‘the David vs. the Goliath of the government’ in a battle to prevent the building of a new secondary school, which was supported by the government.

Islington Council argued that another secondary school was unnecessary as the area already has two schools nearby, Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields School. Instead, the council gave approval to a specialist film school that would not compete directly with other secondary schools.

Industry leader to train

Working Title, the British film production company behind Love Actually and Les Misérables, will sponsor the new school to offer film industry training for 16-19 year olds in Highbury. It will be located on the site of Ladbroke House, a former London Metropolitan University building.

Central government supported previous plans to turn the site into a secondary free school, after the Department of Education paid £33.5 million to property developers for the building. However, the original plans for a school were blocked by Islington Council.

Compromise

Cllr Gantly said that the new plans for the Working Title School were a good compromise for residents. “We do need further education space in Islington and a lot of residents that I speak to want to see that building brought back into life because it’s lying derelict at the minute,” she told Islington Now: “It’s absolutely right that a free secondary school was not required and we absolutely opposed it.”

Council restrictions

She also said that the council was restricted by central government over what it could do with the building.“They owned the building, they had planning permission for it to be a school, and they had a free school political ideology which they wanted to progress,” she said. “In many respects, the council was the minnow in this fight; we were the David vs. the Goliath of the government, and I think what we were able to do is a good result in the circumstances.” 

School not needed

However, some were critical of the decision. Rachel Archer, an Islington National Education Union representative, said that the plans were still unnecessary. “The community, teachers at the local schools and local council have been clear on this. There is no need for a new school in this location,” she said, speaking to the Islington GazetteWith the Council’s approval, plans can now go ahead for renovating Ladbroke House to include a film studio based on those at the world-renowned Pinewood Studios.

Working Title, the British film production company behind Love Actually and Les Misérables, will sponsor the new school to offer film industry training for 16-19 year olds in Highbury. It will be located on the site of Ladbroke House, a former London Metropolitan University building.

Central government had previous plans to turn the site into a secondary free school, after the Department of Education paid £33.5 million to property developers for the building. However, the original plans for a school were blocked by Islington Council.

Compromise

Cllr Gantly said that the new plans for the Working Title School were a good compromise for residents.“We do need further education space in Islington and a lot of residents that I speak to want to see that building brought back into life because it’s lying derelict at the minute,” she told Islington Now.“It’s absolutely right that a free secondary school was not required and we absolutely opposed it.”

Council restrictions

She also said that the council was restricted by central government over what it could do with the building.“They owned the building, they had planning permission for it to be a school, and they had a free school political ideology which they wanted to progress,” she said.“In many respects, the council was the minnow in this fight; we were the David vs. the Goliath of the government, and I think what we were able to do is a good result in the circumstances.”

School not needed

However, some were critical of the decision. Rachel Archer, an Islington National Education Union representative, criticised the plans for still being unnecessary.“The community, teachers at the local schools and local council have been clear on this. There is no need for a new school in this location,” she said, speaking to the Islington Gazette.

With the Council’s approval, plans can now go ahead for renovating Ladbroke House to include a film studio based on those at the world-renowned Pinewood Studios.