|Gunnersbury Small Mansion School Plans Cause Concern|
The Friends of Gunnersbury Park Museum question proposals
The Friends of Gunnersbury Park Museum have expressed concerns about proposals to turn the Small Mansion in Gunnersbury House into a Falcons School for Girls. The school would have 200 pupils and open in 2014.
Both Ealing and Hounslow Councils have declared the AlphaPlus Group to be their 'preferred bidder' for The Small Mansion, to relocate their Falcons School for Girls from its current premises near Ealing Common.
The Councils stressed the potential use of the school by the community on evenings, weekends and holidays, the track record of AlphaPlus in restoring heritage buildings and the injection of vitality into the Park from the school use, together with the investment in the restoration of the building.
In an article in their latest Newsletter, the Friends say that there appears to be confusion about the notion of community use'. While the school appeared to be offering rooms for hire when it was not using them, there was "no sense" that community use was going to be built into an entitlement, though they were told a lease could be drawn up which would guarantee such a feature.
The Friends' committee was also concerned that the school's ethos of exclusivity ran counter to the spirit behind the bids to the Lottery which was to make the Park and the Museum more open and accessible to all citizens.
The AlphaPlus Group have promised to invest £5m to £6m in the building, for a 200-year lease and an as yet unspecified ground rent. The Friends say that It is hard to get a clear figure about how much of this investment is the core restoration of the building and how much relates to the cost of fitting it out for school use.
Some local people have also expressed concern about the possible infringement of covenants on the Park. The Councils have promised to start a public consultation although no starting date has been given. If negotiations between the councils and AlphaPlus on issues such as design, safety, traffic and public benefit are resolved the scheme still has to get planning permission from Hounslow Council.
The current agreement is that if AlphaPlus can meet all the requirements, including planning permission, it would receive a 200 year lease. In return, Ealing and Hounslow councils would no longer have to pay for the restoration and maintenance of the building, and would receive an unspecified ground rent.
The article can be read in full on the Friends of Gunnersbury Park Museum website: