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Basement Development Causes Concerns for School Playground Wall

Parents of students who attend All Saint Primary School in Blackheath are concerned about the plan to demolish and restore nearby Sergison Cottage, which is behind a quarry wall adjacent to the playground.

Last April Lewisham council granted planning permission for the property, which will include a basement for a swimming pool, cinema, gym, and room for games. The primary condition was that the basement digging could only take place during the school holidays.

The construction plan that Sketch London Architects recently submitted to the council are now the subject of a consultation. A request has been made for excavation work to be done during the school term outside of a three-metre area from the wall.

Parents are concerned that the wall, formerly part of a quarry behind the school in Blackheath Vale, has structural issues. The school’s closest point to the wall is a mere four feet away, causing many parents to petition the council to restrict all building activities to the holidays.

One mother said that the construction plan was inappropriate for the site in question. She pointed out that in London, basement digging was already causing problems for people, and insisted that no work should be done while the children were in school.

Another woman said that the quarry wall surrounding the school had serious structural issues in the past: two years ago it had to be evacuated for important underpinning work to be completed. She argued that children should not be subjected to the large quantities of noise, dust and vibration that the work will create.

Structural Defects Insurance

Sketch London representative Neil Gaskin said that an intensive design process has and will continue to be in effect for the duration of the project. The design team is focused on the safety of the site, the people in nearby homes, and the school and its students.

Mr Gaiman said that the structural team had carried out detailed assessments on the potential effect of the new structure on the retaining wall and concluded that the building would have not present a safety risk.

He explained that building a new basement behind the retaining wall has a de-loading effect on the wall. The weight of the earth that is currently located behind the retaining wall will be cleared away and replaced with a new structure which will support the load of the new building. The resulting effect is that the wall will cease to be under load and improve the safety of the situation. He assured the community that experienced build professionals were reviewing the project and committed to proceeding with safety in mind.

Mr Gaiman said that the request for digging to take place during the school term beyond a specified three-metre zone was made because it would be a safer prospect than leaving a build site for extended periods of time between brief periods of activity.

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