FAMILIES have launched a campaign to stop a park being chosen as the site for a new free school in Caversham.
More than 150 residents attended a Save Albert Road Park festive get-together on the Sunday before last.
Members of Caversham Bowls Club served refreshments in their clubhouse and Caversham Croquet Club ran taster sessions for beginners.
The park in Caversham is one of four sites identified by Reading Borough Council as a potential permanent site for The Heights School.
The others are Bugs Bottom, Mapledurham playing fields and High Ridge in Upper Warren Avenue.
The SARP campaign aims to raise awareness that the park is under threat and has gathered more than 800 signatures on a petition opposing any development there.
Campaign co-ordinator Fiona Pringle said she was delighted with the show of local support.
?Albert Road Park is a much-loved park on a compact site and a focal point for the community,? she said.
?It is used by people of all ages and we believe it best serves the community as it is. It would be a huge loss if the park was developed, with many facilities having to go with the school located there.
?We urge residents to pledge their support for this campaign and safeguard this popular facility for residents to enjoy for years to come.?
She said the campaigners agreed a new primary school was needed to meet demand for places but added: ?We very much hope through the consultation process the right choice is made for the school and community to ensure in decades to come we have the right balance of facilities.?
Facilities at Albert Road park include tennis courts, which are free to use, a children?s play area and an open green space popular with dog walkers and families as well as the bowls and croquet clubs. The bowls club has been located at the park for more than 90 years.
There is a shortage of primary school places in Caversham but the council has been unable to find a suitable site for a new school.
The Heights, a new free school, opened in September in temporary buildings in Gosbrook Road, Caversham. The Education Funding Agency bought High Ridge, the site of a former bungalow, last year with a view to this becoming the school?s permanent site.
However, following protests by residents and the establishment of campaign groups in support of the other two sites, it suspended further action until the council has assessed the suitablility of all four sites.
The action groups for all four will be invited to explain the impact the proposed school would have on their site and to comment on the other sites. The community will then be consulted. At the end of this process, the most suitable site will be recommended.
To support the SARP campaign, visit www.savealbertroadpark.com