Pandemic delays work on new Leigh Academy Blackheath school buildings

Leigh Academy Blackheath render
The new school buildings had been due to open in September

Plans to open new school buildings in Blackheath have been hit by the coronavirus emergency, forcing an academy group to put up pupils in an old military building for a second time.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place at Leigh Academy Blackheath in Old Dover Road in July 2019, eight months after a new free school had been given planning permission. The Leigh Academies Trust had hoped to open the new buildings this September.

But delays caused by the pandemic mean that the trust now wants to host pupils at Victoria House, at the foot of Shooters Hill, once again while they wait for the buildings to be finished.

Victoria House, formerly accommodation for army medics, had been used to host the school’s first pupils in September 2018. When a second year joined, they moved to modular buildings on the Old Dover Road site. With a third year due to start soon, the Department for Education has applied for planning permission to use Victoria House once again for another year.

“The global coronavirus crisis has led to a cessation of the construction works at the site and as a result the new school will not be ready to receive pupils in September 2020,” a planning statement submitted with the application says.

Victoria House
The school will host new pupils at Victoria House

“Additional modular units could be erected but there is no guarantee this could be completed in time due to the uncertainty about the duration of the crisis.

“Consequently, the intention is to utilise Victoria House for a single year group for up to a further academic year to allow the building works to be completed. As soon as possible after the construction works are complete, the pupils will decant to the permanent site.

“Victoria House has been selected at this time because, having been used so recently as a school, it can simply and easily be recommissioned and ready to receive pupils.”

The site is next door to Ark Greenwich Free School, which opened in 2012 and had previously used Victoria House while it was waiting for its own accommodation to be built.

Set back from the junction of Shooters Hill Road and Academy Road and bordered by Woolwich Common, Victoria House was an officers’ mess for the Royal Army Medical Corps, and served as living quarters for staff at the old Royal Herbert Hospital opposite.

In the 2000s there were plans for the building to become a care home, however, it has been owned by the Department for Education since 2012.

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