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Special Report: How Hove Police Station is being transformed into a school
For almost 50 years, it was the unwanted and temporary home of criminals and troublemakers collared by local officers.
But from September, following a dramatic internal transformation costing £2.4 million, Hove Police Station will change its function from incarceration to education when it opens as a new junior school site.
Where previously the law of the land was rigidly applied, in less than five months time 96 students will be focussing on the laws of Boyle and Newton.
Construction work on the new site in Holland Road has been progressing well since October and the transformation is expected to be completed by July in preparation of accepting the first form intake moving up from West Hove Infant School.
The new building is not a new school but a satellite site of West Hove Junior School in Portland Road 1.5 miles away and will accommodate pupils currently at the Connaught annex of West Hove Infant School which was set-up three years ago.
Within four years, the site will be home to almost 500 pupils and 40 staff.
For the casual passer-by, not much may have seen to have changed to the police station which opened in 1964 on the exterior.
But taking an exclusive step inside, as The Argus did last week, reveals a radical overhaul of the interior to create a modern school from a faded police station.
Interior walls that used to mark out cramped and dark cells have been swept aside and new windows installed to turn the rooms into airy and light classrooms.
A long basement shooting gallery has been broken up with walls to create more classrooms while the thick metal sheet that caught the bullets has been removed, which was so thick it put the gallery's wall out of synch with the rest of the walls in the station, and is now being reused in the middle of the building site.
A reminder of the building's past history will be retained with an old prison door kept as a souvenir with planners hoping to incorporate it into the design of the reception area.
Site manager Martyn Smith of council contractors Westridge said: “The exterior walls carry the structure so that allowed us to take down the interior walls which allowed us to restructure the school to how the school wanted it to be.”
The addition to the exterior of the old police station is a new build two storey-high hall at the rear of the four-storey building which will be used as a dining room, assembly hall, for class productions and for PE.
The hall has been built tall enough to be used for badminton with services kept out of the roof to allow this to happen while the construction team were also very happy to have sourced highly-sought after Junckers sprung timber flooring which also has underfloor heating.
Four classes of up to 30 will start in September in the ground floor classrooms working their way up the school as they go through the ages until leaving as eleven-year-olds.
The construction team said they were currently ahead of schedule and had fortunately not affected by the terrible weather that made this January the wettest on record.
Mr Smith said: “We will be finished in time for July allowing the school to come in and fit out the school and get furniture in readiness for the new school year in September.
“We knew we needed to make sure we were finished in advance of the school holidays so that the school had time to get the classrooms ready in time.
“Because we already had the exterior, we weren't really affected by the bad weather.
“Other sites were badly affected, we know how it can be if you are working with the foundations and the rain is making it muddy, but fortunately that wasn't the case with us.”
The construction team have been working closely with teaching staff at West Hove Junior School to best use the blank canvas the freedom to change the interior allowed.
Each floor will have four classrooms with a group space for different lessons including art, cooking and drama plus rooms for one-to-one teaching.
Gillian Churchill, head of capital strategy and development planning at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “It's not the same thing replicated on four floors, it is four distinct group spaces that all of the children can use and this is what the school requested.”
The rebuild has also allowed the team to try out new innovations that have not been tried in the city before including putting radiators in the ceiling making it safer for children and freeing up more wall space to display their work.
Miss Churchill said: “It's not something we have used before.
“It is used in other schools around the country but we have not tried it before.
“In a way it's an experiment but there's no reason to believe it won't work.”
Much has changed in building design since the construction of the site back in the 1960s and the team have worked hard to ensure that the building is as energy efficient as any modern school as opposed to what you could hope for from a 50-year-old police station.
Around £100,000 additional funding was given to the project to replace the roof and all the windows as they were found to be in a poorer condition than originally thought.
Solar panels will line the building's flat roof making it one of the biggest producers of renewable energy among all of the schools in the city.
The thin 1960s windows have been replaced with double glazing for improved energy efficiency.
Mr Smith said: “With the windows as they were, there was no energy efficiency.
“Some of them literally fell out when you touched them.”
Miss Churchill added: “The time that the building was first put up in the late 50s, efficiency and sustainability weren't really considered.
“We have gutted the building, it has been quite challenging but we have achieved it and it will be much more efficient building than the one we acquired.”
“The school will have two play areas, one tarmac and one artificial turf, and there will also be a front of house garden and green areas that will be grassed.
“We did consider turfing but the benefit of artificial turf is that you can use it all year round and when you consider the winter we have just had, that's got to be a good thing.
“It's not unusual for an inner city centre school not to have their own green playing fields.”
Councillor Ruth Buckley was suitably impressed with the progress being made on the project when she joined The Argus for a tour last week.
The deputy chair of the council's children and young people committee and chair of the scrutiny panel on bullying in schools said: “This project is why it is important that education stays within council control.
“We have a new school building and it is all state-of-the-art.
“We know that space here in the city is at a premium and to have got this project completed when only two years ago this idea was put forward is great.
“We are very lucky to have an in-house architecture team who are very forward thinking and innovative with previous school experience.
“I am extremely happy we have a school.
“We need this because of the pressures on school places and I am happy there is a new option for people living in Goldsmid ward.”
While the prospect of room for another 500 pupils in and around Hove has been warmly welcomed by parents, the new school building is proving less popular with residents living in Holland Road.
Umberto Zaffiro, 70, has lived in the street for 31 years and his home faces the new school site.
He said: “One of the main reasons I moved here was because of the extra security from the police station.
“Now that has gone and there will be a school instead.
“Some people might like to live by a school but I haven't got any young children.
“There will be more traffic but now no security.
“I know the parents will just park anywhere and they will just park outside my house.
“If there was something they could do about the parking, that would improve things.”
His wife and former teacher Sue Zaffiro said: “I am really concerned that the playing space is not going to be sufficient.
“I didn't realise they were going to build on the back, there is certainly not that much space on that site and there's no space for a car park either.”
Graphic designer Sam Thomas, 28, said: “We already have another school on the other side and it is so loud.
“I am only renting but I feel pretty bad for people who have bought these houses.
“It will be interesting to see what the traffic is like at the busiest times of the day, I know what's like at Somerhill at chucking out time and I wouldn't want to see that here.”
West Hove Junior School headteacher Janis Taylor will have overall responsibility for the site.
She said the school's “experienced” assistant headteacher Rebecca Winn had recently been named head of campus at the new site Up to four teachers will be appointed in time for September and Mrs Taylor said there had been “unbelievable interest” in the roles already with the closing date still more than a week away.
The school is also currently going through the process of recruiting office staff.
Mrs Taylor said that staff were very excited about the prospect of moving to a new site and said she believed that concerns raised about playing fields and parking could be resolved.
She said: “We are really excited.
“It was an absolutely unanimous decision to go with it, there was no one who did not really want to go with it.
“Staff are very keen to work at the new school which will have a combination of existing staff and new staff there, we will make sure that we are offering the same premium education that we are offering at the junior school at the moment.
“Although we will be managing two sites, we will be one school with one personality and one vision, there will be a consistent approach to teaching and learning.
“We have been guided by the architect with what is possible and he has contacted me regularly to discuss everything from the height of the tables, the height of the toilets, the colour of the walls.
“Parking can be a problem for schools, sometimes it can be a nightmare here at West Hove.
“The good thing about the whole thing is that we are not going to be a school of 500 in September, it will be a school of 96 and so it means that can put things in place year by year.
“We have liaised very carefully with Connaught and coordinated the start and end of the day so that parents will be able to get from A to B in time to pick up their children.
“We only have a hard playground space here at West Hove as well and it is not a problem teaching PE to the full curriculum here.”
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