The old police station site is not the answer for this school
30 July, 2020
Former Hampstead Police Station
• I HAVE already expressed publicly my reservation about the proposal of Abacus to relocate the school to premises previously occupied by the police.
Darla Hocking (Give Abacus Belsize Primary School a permanent home, July 16) impresses with her commitment to the future wellbeing of children and staff of the school.
However I remain unconvinced that the old Hampstead police station is suitable for this purpose, even following extensive and costly conversion works which would take many months into the future.
– First of all location: situated as it is at the junction of two busy streets in central Hampstead, the site would provide only dangerous and difficult access to/from the school. Many children would attend by car or bus and the location provides no pull-in area for such vehicles.
– Secondly facilities: the police station site has little or no outside space; what little there is suffers from a high level of air pollution making any outdoor activity for young children potentially damaging to their health.
– Thirdly shared space: Ms Hocking suggests that the site could be shared between school and a police presence saying “one small corner” is all that would be required to provide for a local police unit within the shared building.
Modern policing requires technical equipment, accommodation for male and female officers together with support staff.
There would need to be a charging area, with desk and security equipment, together with cells and a waiting area for members of the public.
The notion of detained persons (some violent) passing through a shared area with school children and staff is frankly absurd and dangerous.
The public would require access at all times, which would be incompatible with security for staff and pupils.
Then there’s the time scale: the adaptation of the building versus upgrading existing site.
A surveyor would be needed to give a comparative estimate but, as a lay person, my guess would be that a revamp of the old station would be a less costly task.
Anecdotally local opinion (and Ms. Hocking seems to agree) is in favour of reinstatement of community policing in the area.
The old police station retains its internal configuration and would require only upgrading and restoration to return it to its original purpose.
Adaptation for suitability as school premises would be costly and would take many months until its use as a school could be permitted.
I would be keen to see the youngsters of Abacus school installed in good, suitable, premises at the earliest opportunity. The children deserve nothing less.
I believe that Camden Council should be asked to assist in finding and funding a good place for this excellent school to be reinstalled.