Dulwich Hamlet Educational Trust Company no. 7531811 13

13 February 2015
Old Bellenden School topiary: a message from our Executive Head Teacher
I would like to clarify the issues surrounding the proposed removal of the yew topiary from the frontage of
Old Bellenden School, as part of the plans to bring the building back to life as a primary school for Peckham
Outdoor space on the school site is extremely limited and every effort has been made by the architects and
landscape designers to maximise the opportunities for children to learn and play outdoors. A core part of
our educational vision is that children experience outdoor life as much as is possible in an urban school
environment, and have the opportunity to grow and nurture plants including the foods they will be
learning to cook in school lessons.
The area where the topiary is currently located will a) provide access for early years children to the main
playground and b) become an important learning and growing zone. Whilst not a huge area, on such a
challenging site every metre of space that we can use becomes so important. Narrow hedging and a new
vertical bar metal fence will separate the space from the street, safeguarding pupils.
There is also the issue of yew being highly poisonous if ingested and therefore not suitable planting for a
primary school site. Whilst the topiary may have been deemed unobjectionable when the building was
partly occupied by a nursery (whose small number of pupils played on a screened section to the rear of the
site, not around the trees), 420 children are due to attend the Belham when it reaches full capacity. This
means that the whole area to the front of the school would need to be sectioned off, with the topiary
serving a purely decorative function. Utilising the space with the trees in situ for any kind of activity
involving children is unfortunately not an option that I, as Executive Head Teacher with a duty of care, can
It is important to note that there is no suggestion of simply ripping up and destroying the trees, and that
discussions are taking place within Southwark Council around the feasibility of preserving and possibly
moving the trees to a more suitable location within the borough.
I hope that local people will understand the compromise of removing the topiary as proposed in the
planning application, in consideration of the factors outlined above.
I encourage you to view the full plans on the Southwark Council website at:
Comments can only be considered if directed to the Southwark Council planning department. This can be
done by emailing [email protected] stating application number 15/AP/0174. The
deadline for receipt of comments is Wednesday 4 March.
Executive Head Teacher
Dulwich Hamlet Educational Trust
Company no. 7531811