An “outrageously tall” private residential tower is set to be built on top of a school, in an attempt to raise funds to rebuild a school for children with special educational needs.
Following a public consultation, Hackney Council plans to rebuild New Regent’s College, the borough’s alternative education school and pupil referral unit, on Nile Street, the former site of the college’s upper school.
The development will provide “high quality” facilities for up to 250 pupils who are excluded, unwell or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school.
But the plans also include a 28-storey tower overlooking the school that will house 175 apartments. None of the flats in the block will be classed as affordable housing but, according to Hackney Council, the market-rate housing above the college will help fund the development of the school and affordable housing elsewhere.
The council said that, with space and funding “extremely limited” there was a need to “think creatively” about how to accommodate the new school. However, some have questioned whether it is appropriate to build residential units on top of a school for vulnerable pupils.
Nick Perry, Chair of the Hackney Society, called the tower “outrageously tall” and said it would “loom large and overshadow the otherwise well-conceived school for vulnerable students with special education needs.”
He added: “Selling off school grounds for private development is a trick the council can only pull off once.
“The council needs to be sure it is worth it, and so far it has failed to demonstrate that.”
A spokesperson for Hackney Council said: “Our plans to rebuild New Regent’s College is in addition to our wider aim to provide more than 1,800 new secondary places and the 1,260 new primary places we need across Hackney by 2021.”
The spokesperson added: “This is an innovative approach and not one without a degree of calculated risk. However, we strongly believe that it is our best option for ensuring profits from the site are used to directly benefit local people and not private investors.
“It is also preferable to the council handing the site over to a developer on the agreement that they, for example, build us a new school. Instead, our plans will mean we retain more control of the quality and potential of the build.”
The spokesperson confirmed the council was retaining the freehold to the land.
Richard Brown, Executive Head of New Regent’s College, was approached for comment but had not responded at time of publication.