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Controversial Plans for Rooftop Playground School in Polluted Zone

Plans for a new primary school with rooftop playground have been given the go ahead in Croydon. With a variation on a popular theme, the Krishna Avanti Primary School will open its doors in September 2018. The Croydon Advertiser says that the new school is currently being run from the nearby Minster Nursery and Infant School until the building work is finished. The school will boast an innovative ‘Forest School’ style rooftop playground which will provide extra space for children to run around in.

The school, close to the Croydon flyover, has prompted some concerns of being built on a difficult site, a term that in this case is used to refer to sites that have alleged environmental problems. Southbridge Place, where the new school will be situated, has had serious pollution problems. Planning permission for the new rooftop playground has been granted despite the town’s planning officer suggesting that in the summer months pollution levels could be so high that children will not be able to play outside at all.

Defenders of the site say that the school is a major part of regeneration efforts, able to accommodate 420 pupils in an area that by 2022 will be well within the recommended limits for safety with regards to pollutants. This isn’t the first case of its type, as in 2016 the Harris Academy chain was given permission to a build a primary school to accommodate 540 pupils close to the A23, a four lane highway that has already been hit by heavy pollution.

Extra money was allocated to that school to make it hermetically sealed against traffic pollution, but what of the rooftop playground here? Can it solve the problems of noxious air created by heavy traffic passing close by the Krishna Avanti Primary School? At a council meeting to discuss the plans for the new Primary school, the head of development management told Croydon Council that even though the rooftop playground was innovative, it may not solve the problem.

Whilst some commentators have argued that the school is in a specific area that is actually below recommended limits for pollution, Friends of the Earth conducted a study to test the quality of the air and found that within a radius of a quarter of a mile of the Krishna Avanti School, pollutions levels were twice the recommend limited and were in fact higher than the legal limit. Whilst plans for the new primary school with rooftop playground are being contested, it is not the only school to use its roof area as a playground.

Plans are underway for a similar new school design in Southport. Birkdale Primary School, which has nowhere they can currently extend to use as playgrounds, have decided to create a roof garden as the ideal solution to their space issues. Parents, teachers and children are delighted with the new plans. The school has a long tradition of innovation, with the rooftop playground the latest in a series of expansions. With nowhere else left after new classrooms and kitchen had been added, the only way to go was up.

Time will tell whether the rooftop playground in Croydon will withstand the concerns over air pollution and inclement weather conditions to offer a healthy open-air space to run around in, but it’s certainly worth watching this trend for rooftop playgrounds that offer green play areas in locations with limited space.

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