Saturday, 16 December 2017

Hundreds turn out to discuss new school

MORE than 200 people attended a public debate on potential sites for a new free school in Caversham.

MORE than 200 people attended a public debate on potential sites for a new free school in Caversham.

Security guards were hired for the event at the Rivermead leisure centre, which Reading Borough Council organised as a prelude to a public consultation that will begin on Monday.

However, they were not needed as the meeting passed without incident.

The Education Funding Agency is looking at five possible locations for the Heights Free School, which has been based at temporary premises off Gosbrook Road since it opened in September.

Visitors asked questions to a panel of 11 speakers, including agency project director Luke Kennedy, Daniel Pagella, of the Heights Free School Trust, Reading East MP Rob Wilson and Councillor John Ennis, the council?s lead member for education.

Also at the table were representatives of pressure groups opposed to development at each of the five sites.

The locations are High Ridge in Upper Warren Avenue, Mapledurham playing fields, Albert Road park, Bug?s Bottom and Dyson?s Farm, near Kidmore End. The last site is the only one of the five to be outside the borough as it is in South Oxfordshire.

The agecny bought High Ridge, the site of a bungalow, last summer and announced it was to be the school?s permanent home.

However, it then agreed to postpone its decision and consider alternatives following strong opposition.

Mr Kennedy told the meeting: ?It?s fair to say we didn?t anticipate such a strong reaction to the site we bought. We were faced with the decision to either press on or listen to people before moving forward.

?We decided to review what was being put to us because a number of people were suggesting various other sites which they deemed better and it would have been remiss of us not to.?

Cllr Ennis said: ?We need a school in west Caversham ? the numbers stack up because the schools in east Caversham are becoming full. We need the community to have its say on where that is located and I believe that will happen.

?I hope as many of you as possible will get involved in the consultation and I would urge you to tell your friends and work colleagues about it.

?We need to make sure it is successful and results in a clear view as to where the school should go.?

A full report on the meeting will appear in next week?s Henley Standard.

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