Saturday, 13 June 2015 11:05

Underhill stadium: site for new six-form-entry academy school

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Pitches of the former Barnet Cricket and Hockey Club would become playing fields for the new Ark Pioneer Academy that is planned for the site of the former Underhill stadium Pitches of the former Barnet Cricket and Hockey Club would become playing fields for the new Ark Pioneer Academy that is planned for the site of the former Underhill stadium
Barnet Football Club’s vacant stadium at Underhill is to be demolished to make way for a proposed new free school – Ark Pioneer Academy – that would eventually accommodate more than 1,800 pupils.

The site of the empty stadium has been purchased by the government’s Education Funding Agency, which is responsible for purchasing land and premises for new free schools and academies.

Barnet’s new free school is one of ten new academies due to be established by Ark Schools, one of the UK’s largest academy operators, which already runs schools in several London boroughs.

If planning permission is obtained Ark Pioneer Academy would open in September 2017, and when at full capacity would offer three-form entry at primary and six-form entry at secondary. Eventually the school would have approximately 1,890 pupils, including 60 nursery places, 630 primary, 900 secondary, and 300 sixth-form pupils. The first year’s intake would be 90 pupils in reception and 180 in year seven.

The main buildings would be situated in the centre of the Underhill stadium and the adjoining former cricket and hockey ground would become playing fields for the new school. Access would be via two separate one-way entrances located on Barnet Lane and Westcombe Drive; 40 car-parking spaces would be provided for staff.

An application for planning permission is due to be submitted shortly to Barnet Council by the EFA and the preliminary proposals suggest that the new buildings would be ‘carefully designed’ so as to minimise impact on both neighbouring houses and the Green Belt.

The tallest part of the new school would be at the centre of the stadium, at the furthest point from the surrounding properties; and the school playing fields, on the site of the former Barnet Cricket and Hockey Club, would be replacing existing recreation ground.

Robin Bishop, chair of the Barnet Society’s planning and environment committee, comments, “A new all-age school could be a suitable use for the redundant football stadium, particularly in view of the rising shortage of primary – and before long, secondary – places in Barnet. But a lot will depend on its design.

The Ark proposal seems big for the proposed site, which is in the Green Belt and could involve fencing off more of the Underhill recreation ground. There may also be a temptation to add some housing to offset the cost. There must be proper consultation with the local community – not just parents – before the designs are frozen.

Ark Schools currently operate 31 academies, including Ark John Keats Academy, Enfield; Ark Academy and Ark Franklin Primary Academy, Brent; and Ark Priory Primary Academy, Ealing. Another ten new academies planned to open in the future include Ark Pioneer Academy, Barnet, and Ark North Enfield Academy, Enfield.

Two additional applications to open new free schools for the Barnet area were submitted to the Department for Education at the end of May – the deadline for new academies and free schools that plan to open for the September 2017 intake.

The more ambitious of these two projects was launched in 2013 by a group of teachers and parents who want to establish the Ara School for both primary and secondary pupils. Their aim is to open a school that would seek to align the UK national curriculum to the International Baccalaureate.

An application to establish a new Church of England free school has been submitted by the four churches in the Parish of Chipping Barnet. Their aim is to offer 60 places each year from 2017 onwards, with a two-form entry for four- to five-year olds.

Both bids are now being considered by the Department for Education. On its website (, the team behind the Ara School project say they “have their fingers crossed” and hope to hear the government’s response later in the year.

Judy Burstow, a leading member of the group behind the application for the new free school in the Parish of Chipping Barnet (, said they were waiting for a formal interview by the Department.

The sale of Underhill signals the chapter in what became a tortuous saga surrounding the final years of professional football at Underhill.
Barnet FC moved to the Hive Football Centre in Camrose Avenue, Edgware, in April 2013, and there has been speculation for some months that Underhill could be redeveloped as the site for a school.

Anthony Kleanthous, the Barnet FC chairman, confirmed the sale in a statement on the club’s website ( The announcement had been delayed for legal reasons and because the club had been anxious to avoid clashing with the general election campaign.

Mr Kleanthous thinks there is little if any chance of Barnet FC returning to the town in the foreseeable future, and says the Back to Barnet campaign should realise it is “probably time to move on”.

He was disappointed that the club’s 106-year association with Underhill was over, but he had tried without success for 20 “long years” to persuade Barnet Council to allow the club either to expand at Underhill or to move to a new site in the borough.

He blamed the decision to move out of Barnet on the knife-edge political control of the council and the “continual changing politics” of those in control.

“It is disappointing that local councillors were unable or unwilling to fight to keep the greatest sporting community asset this borough could have hoped for, but that is history now and we have moved on to pastures new, starting a new chapter at the Hive.

“Although I have always supported the Back to Barnet campaign, after two years of fund-raising and campaigning, I think it would be fair to say that it is probably time to move on.

“There can be no doubt that Barnet FC currently find themselves in a much better place than when we left Underhill in April 2013. I hope one day that we will return but cannot see this in either the short or medium term.

“It is best that we all now focus on making our new home here at the Hive as comfortable as possible. We need to build on the positive momentum and focus on the future, not the past.”


  • Comment Link Sunday, 14 June 2015 14:51 posted by Sue Matthews

    I feel very sorry for the residence in this area once the school has reached its full capacity as the traffic congestion in the morning and afternoon will be horrendous. Also parents parking when dropping off and picking up will be a nightmare as they will block the roads and driveways with their inconsiderate parking.

  • Comment Link Monday, 15 June 2015 11:25 posted by Neil Ruckman

    There is no shortage of primary and secondary school places in this part of Barnet. I say this as the chair of governors at two local schools. This aggressive business, Ark Academy, has a history of imposing new schools on communities and decimating the existing schools. It will take pupils out of local schools and to fill the remaining places will have to bring pupils in from other parts of North London. The traffic problems will be appalling as a result and the local community will be made to suffer as a result.

    I am very surprised that the Barnet Society seem to be so positive about this proposal. It is a wholly inappropriate use of this London which will destroy the character and history of the Underhill Ward.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 16 June 2015 15:56 posted by Simon

    As a local resident, I entirely agree with the above comment.
    The traffic congestion is going to be horrendous.
    Already in close proximity we have Grasvenor Avenue School, Totteridge Academy, Underhill and Saint Catherine's RC school.
    On top of all that, Barnet Hill is an extremely busy road and you have to worry about the safety aspects.

  • Comment Link Friday, 19 June 2015 11:44 posted by Simon

    The best possible use of this land in my view, and in some ways a lasting legacy of Barnet FC, would be a leisure centre with swimming pool.

    The area is crying out for sporting facilities and would also help the health and well being of the local community, combat the obesity problem and provide a good physical outlet for people of all ages.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 24 June 2015 20:10 posted by Jennie Woods

    There probably wouldn't be a need for such a school, in the short term at least, if QE Boys' School admitted local boys and operated much as QE Girls' does.
    This announcement has come as great relief to many of those who were thinking that they would have to move out of High Barnet once their sons reached secondary school age.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 30 June 2015 19:18 posted by Allan

    As another local resident my main concern would be with regards to traffic flow and congestion. That particular area around Underhill and Fairfield way appears to be poorly managed at the moment with tight roads and heavy congestion most mornings. A school with up to 1800 pupils would bring so much more vehicular traffic to the vicinity there would have to be some drastic improvements made for the area to be able to cope. The thought of an event at the school or parents evenings could effect nearby residents ability to park near to their homes. I wonder about what kind of consultation might be carried out. I mean I cannot recall being canvassed on how sectioning a large part of King GEORGE Vi playing fields for the private use of a football club might effect me as a close resident and user if the park.

  • Comment Link Friday, 03 July 2015 13:51 posted by Helen

    First, let's make sure that the current local schools: underhill, grasvenor are "good school" before opening another school.
    Another academy? really? Is it working for underhill?
    It should be a priority for the government’s Education Funding Agency to provide us with at least "good school".

    A leisure center sounds like the best thing to do to serve the community.
    A swimming pool and all range of activities for children, families, young and old adults can only benefit everyone.

  • Comment Link Monday, 06 July 2015 15:49 posted by john smith

    suddenly 2000 people once every 2 weeks for a Barnet FC game doesn't seem such a bad idea :P

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 15 July 2015 19:17 posted by Iffy

    Bet you wish BRASS weren't so Nimbyistic now, eh.

  • Comment Link Monday, 20 July 2015 09:35 posted by Simon

    BRASS were very active in the area at the time of the Barnet FC debate-and when they conducted house to house discussions, I recall telling them that I actually supported the presence of our local team being on my doorstep.

    A bit of extra traffic every 2 weeks, big deal. I'd love them to move back, if not then a sports centre-but yet another school-bad idea.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 21 July 2015 18:28 posted by Penny Montagu-Turner

    A decent co-ed secondary school is just what Chipping Barnet needs! I do hope Ark Pioneer Academy gets the go ahead as secondary age boys are currently poorly served in this community. When a £30 million school is being built of course traffic will be taken into account and the relevant improvements made so I am sure very local residents needn't worry.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 April 2016 12:47 posted by precious

    I have lived on Vale Drive for over 30 years and the traffic is a nightmare in the morning and afternoon.. My driveway is always parked over so trying to leave my house during peak traffic is a joke. Really not impressed by another school opening so close. Bring back Barnet FC I miss hearing them on match days!

  • Comment Link Monday, 27 June 2016 17:54 posted by Alex

    It has been a year with nothing has been done/announced
    Whats going on there?>

  • Comment Link Monday, 23 January 2017 18:24 posted by Rhodie

    It is being put forward at planning meeting on Wednesday night at Hendon town hall....


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