Melksham Oak Community SchoolLandscape masterplanning, detailed landscape design and ecology
Wiltshire County Council
The site in Melksham identified by Wiltshire County Council to accommodate the replacement George Ward Secondary School, presented the design team with particular challenges. It lay outside the town and was not allocated for development in the Local Plan. It was, moreover, in agricultural use, adjacent to a Grade II* listed 16th century manor house and in an ecologically sensitive area.
The development of the landscape masterplan was informed by a detailed landscape and visual analysis of the site, guided by the objective of safeguarding the setting of the manor house. This satisfied English Heritage that the main school building and formal sports facilities could be accommodated at the site with new woodland and parkland located to protect and frame key views of the manor house. Further mitigation measures were incorporated to ensure the flood lit sports facilities were acceptable within the rural location.
A set of outdoor rooms was created for specific uses associated with curricular learning activities and as outdoor recreational space. A purpose-built Year 7 student area, designed to enable supervision during break time, provides opportunities for students to socialise and integrates safely with the school. The landscape masterplan incorporates horticultural and wildlife gardens and an orchard, with a hard standing multi-use games area and a number of grass pitches for cricket, football and rugby.
The planting design was jointly prepared by Landmark’s Landscape and Ecology teams. It includes large trees and native hedgerow species to soften areas of hard standing within the school and to maximise wildlife diversity. Planting also serves to mellow the impact of newly built features in an otherwise local agricultural landscape.
Tree species were selected to maximise shade and shelter for students, to link the countryside with the campus, for their value to wildlife, and to add to the informal learning resource.
The integrated landscape design, ecology and project management skills Landmark was able to bring to the design team enhanced the creation of a sustainable and visually attractive educational environment which connects the school with the wider rural environment and respects its setting within this sensitive landscape.