Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Le Football' Made Wembley Famous. Will a New French School Now Make It Chic?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Le Football' Made Wembley Famous. Will a New French School Now Make It Chic?

Article excerpt

Byline: Oliver Bennett

AS THE home of football, Wembley is accustomed to invasions of fans -- upwards of 12 million a year pay it a visit. But this corner of north-west London is about to experience an influx of a more permanent kind thanks to the arrival of a new French school in 2015, which will be housed in the former Brent Town Hall.

Set up to address the huge oversubscription for places at the Lycee Francais in South Kensington, the new school will cater for 1,000 pupils aged 11 to 18.

While the French ambassador to the UK, Bernard Emie, has been upbeat about the location of the new school, saying "the project is eagerly awaited by the French community", the reaction of French parents on blogs tells a different story, with many complaining about the feasibility of the school run if their other children are being schooled at the Lycee or the other main French school in the capital in Kentish Town.

And then, of course, there is the question of location: Wembley is not exactly a haven of international chic. It is characterised by suburban sprawl and banal shopping streets of predictable chains and fast-food outlets.

The area is also short of handsome period properties. There are two explanations for this -- what is now Wembley was largely farmland until the turn of the century. Development didn't begin in earnest until the Twenties and Thirties -- hence the predominance of houses from this era in the area.

The second reason is that Wembley, once a manufacturing base, was targeted by the Luftwaffe. More than 9,000 bombs fell on it during the Blitz, destroying much of its housing stock.

property search Local historian Philip Grant points out that there are pockets of attractive Victorian and Edwardian housing, mainly on Harrow Road, the High Road and Ealing Road.

However, he adds: "French families looking for convenient and quality housing near to the new school may be inclined to seek out properties in the Barn Hill estate, which was built during the Twenties and Thirties, or The Paddocks, the road running beside the school, which got its name because it was built on fields that once belonged to a polo club. …

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