School for autistic children breathes new life into Spurs’ old training ground

How Anderson overcame Green Belt challenges in Chigwell, Essex, to develop state-of-the-art school and housing

Anderson’s world-leading school for children with autism is breathing new life into Tottenham Hotspurs’ old training ground in Chigwell.

Set against a backdrop of trees on a Green Belt site flanked by the River Roding, development is now well under way on Anderson’s new school for the National Autistic Society.

Not only are we building the school, but we are also funding the multi-million pound project without relying on the public purse, through the sale of 60 sympathetically-built residential properties adjoining the site in Luxborough Lane as well as from our own charitable giving and fundraising through the Anderson Foundation.

The school for 128 children will have 16 classrooms and a gym and will provide primary, secondary and post-16 education, as well as workshops and training. It is due to open in September 2017.

The school is intended as an example of best practice. We considered its position in the community, its economic sustainability and its environmental impact.

The buildings have been designed to provide the most suitable accommodation for young people with autism, with classrooms for small numbers of children, wide corridors and high ceilings, as well as plenty of sound and heat insulation.

The exterior design reduces the visual impact of the school, settling gently into the rise of the land. Trees and hedges have been planted around the perimeter.

The school is similar to the one we have already helped to fund in Bristol and further develops the knowledge we have gained from supporting the National Autistic Society over many years.

Getting permission to develop any part of the Green Belt is protracted, risky, intricate, costly – just our kind of challenge.

We engaged a large team of experts to advise us on our proposal. These included planners, architects, designers, transport and technical consultants as well as environmental and ecological experts.

We also went to great lengths to invite ideas and test reactions with local people and councillors as well as parents of children with autism and many other local residents. The resulting master-plan creatively captured those influences.

As the site had been developed before for football pitches for Tottenham Hotspur, it had lost its natural contours. It was at best an artificial landscape, one which we have demonstrated can better serve the district by being sensitively redeveloped.

New Chigwell Grove housing development helps fund the school’s development.

To enable the build, we’re developing a small residential community of 60 high quality three, four and five bed properties, arranged around a broad green space, reflecting a typical Essex village plan.

Surrounded by fields and trees, with the River Roding winding past on its journey to the Thames, the houses have a number of different styles and finishes and blend into their surroundings.

Huge interest has been shown in the properties with more than 200 people attending the launch open day. Reservations are already being taken for the homes with the site due for completion in 2017.

The overall result of both the school and the housing is a cohesive scheme that is respectful of its surroundings, and admirable in its exceptional finish.

When the site is completed, Chigwell and Epping Forest will have sacrificed a small area of Green Belt for a facility and a residential community to be proud of, and a more confident future for many of the district’s children.

“Luxborough Lane is like a lot of sites that are sat there waiting for a good idea. Anderson had the idea and was not put off by seismic planning obstacles.” Ian Anderson, Principal, Iceni Projects