February 2011 marked the beginning of construction of the Crouch Hill Park and Ashmount Primary School development, in the London Borough of Islington. Grontmij, the engineering firm formerly known as Whitelaw Turkington and architects Penoyre & Prasad won a design competition in 2006 run by Islington Council’s Children Services for a new £13m primary school. Willmott Dixon Construction appointed the multidisciplinary design team to see the project through to completion in September 2012.
The Crouch Hill development is a highly sensitive scheme and comprises Metropolitan Open Land, a Site of Metropolitan Significance for Nature Conservation and a local park. The site is adjacent to the Parkland Walk, a disused railway and a popular North London walking route between Finsbury Park and Highgate.
A derelict community centre and Bowlers Nursery which are currently on site will be sensitively demolished and replaced with a 420 student capacity school and new nursery. The old substation, a relic of the sites railway history, which currently houses the CAPE youth project will be refurbished and a new ecology centre incorporated within the building.
A new central green space will give the public access to out-of-hours community activities in the school including, a shared games court. New paths will link local housing and the Parkland Walk to attract visitors and improve safety. Site challenges included the large number of existing trees, important habitats for foraging bats and breeding birds, extremely steep slopes, and the need to treat large stands of invasive Japanese Knotweed.
The whole site will become more permeable and accessible, with easy-access routes for wheelchairs, young children and parents with pushchairs. Paths through existing trees are designed as raised boardwalks, to ‘tread lightly’ through the site and a sensitive lighting strategy will improve community safety in key areas, while respecting bat foraging corridors.