BY OWEN SHEPPARD
Local Democracy Reporter
Residents are campaigning against plans to demolish and rebuild Hammersmith and Fulham College, following reports of its financial woes.
The site, pictured, beside Giddon Road and the A4, is run by the cash-strapped West London College group, which had a deficit of £2.9 million in 2018/19.
A full planning application has not yet been submitted. However there are fears the college may seek to build flats on the campus to help support its costs.
The West London College group has up to 20,000 students across campuses in Ealing, Southall, Park Royal and Hammersmith and Fulham, and was taken over in September last year by a new principal Karen Redhead.
Two months into the job, she was quoted by FE Week as saying: “I could see the college was about to run out of money in early October and I was only five minutes into the job.”
Proposals to demolish the Hammersmith and Fulham college campus have been around since 2016.
But local campaigners recently reignited the issue with a petition calling for the building, completed in 1980, to be listed by Historic England.
It has gained 300 signatures, including former students, comedian Marcus Brigestocke, and Black Mirror and Star Trek actor David Ajala.
Mr Bridgestocke said: “The education I got there set me on a great path and I’m not alone in that. Don’t assume you can close it and the young people in the borough will somehow find their way. They may well not manage to do so.”
West London College was asked to comment about the financial problems and the redevelopment plans, but has not responded.
John Bridges, 77, chairman of the West London College Action Group of campaigning local residents, said: “What I’m concerned with is the preservation of a beautiful building.
“You could view it that this attempt to demolish the college and rebuild it was part of a plan to rescue the college’s finances.”
Hans Haenlein, chairman of the Hammersmith Society, said: “It’s a great example of Scandinavian architecture. It’s a huge building but manages to be so unimposing from the outside. It’s a very human environment.
“If it came to giving planning permission to the redevelopment, it would be a loss to the area.”
Two sets of documents were uploaded to Hammersmith and Fulham council’s planning register in May 2018, and suggest it would be demolished to make way for a new campus.
One set is summarised: “A proposed educational-led, mixed use redevelopment of the Hammersmith and Fulham College site, comprising two elements and involving demolition of all the existing buildings, and erection of a new college building over seven levels.”
Mr Haenlein added: “These wouldn’t be the right flats. They wouldn’t be affordable for normal people. Losing a further education college would be terrible.”
Hammersmith and Fulham College was designed by Robert Giles, a former vice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The campaigners say that, because of its unique modernist style, it should become one of a small collection of 1980s buildings to be listed by Historic England.
Mr Bridges made an application to Historic England to get the building listed.
His application was turned down initially but he has launched an appeal, with the help of its original architect, Bob Giles, which will be decided by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“We believe this building is worthy of grade II listing,” he said. “It’s unique, no other college of this age is listed, but it deserves to be.”
The minutes of a West London College board meeting show that it is hoping to break even financially by April 2021.
The college runs a wide range of further and higher education courses for youths and adults in vocational and academic subjects.