Designers set out building timetable for Harrogate High School

An artist's impression of what the proposed new Harrogate High School building could look like. (S)
An artist's impression of what the proposed new Harrogate High School building could look like. (S)

Before plans for the new build at Harrogate High School are submitted to planners this month, reporter James Metcalf looks in detail at the proposed development and speaks to the designers of the new school.

The new building set to replace Harrogate High School as it stands could be completed by summer 2016, according to contractors.

Before it was submitted to Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), the proposal for the school, set to hold 780 students at full capacity, was set out before councillors, school governors, and parents this month.

If all goes ahead, and representatives from the new build’s contractors Laing O’Rourke expect to hear back from HBC by March 2015, construction zones could be set up by June 2015, with actual building work to begin by October 2015.

Though students should be in the new building the following year, the whole project, which also includes the demolition of the existing building and landscaping works, is forecast to be completed by March 2017.

This information was presented at the school’s parents’ evening, along with artist’s impressions of what the proposed building could look like, and, according to Atkins Architects spokesman Mark Hargreaves, this was a unique opportunity to involve the whole community.

“The presentation allowed the entire community to understand what we are trying to produce and achieve,” he said.

“We have sent the plans to the council in advance of the application, so we have had some prior consultation and we are extremely positive about our plans.

“I lived in Harrogate for seven years and I am trying to buy a house here now, so this is quite a sensitive project for me. We want to get this one right.”

The new building will be prefabricated off-site with pieces brought onto the proposed location. Made to measure, this process reduces noise and dust, and all construction traffic, to avoid disturbance, will be directed from Claro Road and onto Ainsty Road to a temporary parking area within the construction compound.

Carefully planned, the building of the new school will also include secure fenced construction zones, planned delivery times around schools start and finish times, daily perimeter inspections, segregated traffic routes, logistic and safety coordination meetings, and secure access points with security-pass activated turnstiles. This precision matches the school’s design. Mr Hargreaves said: “At the moment it is quite a spread out site with a lot of different buildings. The landscape is quite hard and we have tried to take a softer approach putting the school in a rural setting, appreciating the context of the wider environment within Harrogate rather than a kind of industrial setting like it sits against on Claro Road.

“That is important, with the community aspect as well. We have celebrated the community entrance of the sports facility and the community that faces each side of the school will face the main entrance.

“This was all about bringing forward the school ethos and learning, with the library at the heart of the school. That is quite a strong symbol for the school and everything then is centred around learning.”

Paid for out of the government’s priority schools building programme, Harrogate High School is one of seven schools in Yorkshire undergoing building work.

It is, however, the only school in North Yorkshire in the programme and is among the first three schools in the Yorkshire batch to be built.

Though this could mean a less personalised approach, executive head Andrew Bayston is confident the builders will deliver. He said: “This is a 25-year project, and the advantage in my mind is that this is not a building that can just be built and walked away from. The builders have an obligation to maintain this building in the state it was in at the beginning. That is a good incentive for builders to use the right materials.

“We have got to come to the optimum solution and so this the safest way we can. These people are very experienced in building schools, that is why I am particularly pleased this company was awarded the contract.

“This is a very short build time and that is good because we are at the front of this programme. That is why we had the consultation.”

The school’s chair of governors Ian Curtis was equally optimistic.

“Anything that makes it better for students is just fantastic, and this is really exciting,” he said.

With a current capacity of 1,570, there are only 564 pupils studying at Harrogate High School.

To accommodate this number the new building will have a reduced capacity of 780, with the possibility of extending this to 950 if necessary.

The new site, when complete, will also include a sports centre and the planned tennis centre, which has now been approved by HBC, will not be far away and building work will start once the school has obtained permission to grant a lease.

Brian Joyce from contractors Laing O’Rourke explained that, though complex, the building work will take into consideration the school’s timetable.

He said: “It has got a lot of impact, more than other buildings because it affects the start of a school year.

“My remit as the contractor is to focus my attention on the educational facilities. The intention is to avoid the key time when children are arriving and leaving school.”

Mr Joyce’s colleague Rosalyn Hogg added: “In our programme we have allowed for the fact that exams are going on, so we are not going to be starting any really loud hammering during tests - we don’t want to be doing anything to disrupt that.”

Before the displays were opened to parents and students, a VIP presentation to councillors and school governors took place. Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate Coun Jim Clark (Con) was in attendance. He said: “I think it is an excellent facility for the school and I think it will also benefit the community.

“It is excellent they are consulting on the proposals so we can get a facility that suits everybody. The school is on the up and I think this will give it some encouragement.”

Starbeck division Coun Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley (Lib Dem) said she too was ‘absolutely delighted’.

“I have been struggling to get work done on the school for some time and the idea that we can now have a completely new school is fantastic,” she said.

“It was of its time with the design and materials and because it was two schools put together it was straggling all over the place, so to put them into one building is much better.”

Concern of the school next door

St Robert’s Catholic Primary School borders the current Harrogate High School building.

Chair of governors Nick Kelly attended the public consultation this month and, along with staff from the primary school, voiced his concerns about the proposed new build.

These included the disruption caused to St Robert’s pupils during the build.

After the meeting Mr Kelly told the Harrogate Advertiser: “We are really pleased to see that Harrogate High School will be rebuilt, the plans we have seen will improve the facilities for students enormously.

“We understand the intention is for all site access to be past our school.

“The access to the High School site is not conducive to the volumes of traffic envisaged and as a result careful planning will be necessary to avoid accident and injury.

“We have received assurance that the safety of pupils and families will be paramount.”

What do you think? Email james.metcalf@jpress.co.uk or call 01423 707526