Saturday, 13 August 2022

18 reasons why this protected land shouldn't be built on

1. Mapledurham playing fields is a much-used recreational trust and protected public open space. 

2. Reading lacks accessible open space, including football pitches, especially to the north.

3. Open space affects the wellbeing of us all and Reading Borough Council made a commitment not to lose any.

4. Caversham Trents Football Club, which has 450 members, reports that the football pitches at Mapledurham playing fields are used weekly to capacity by the boys’ and men’s teams and through growth of women’s and girls’ leagues.

5. More than 500 dog walkers visit the playing fields weekly and Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club trebled use of its courts following Sport England’s Lottery investment in 2014.

6. At peak times, even with a closed pavilion, the car park is full to capacity and beyond.

7. The proposed school site would immediately reduce pitches, parking, access and accessibility for recreational users of the playing fields and is described by the council’s leisure department as unacceptable.

8. The proposed school site includes school rights over the remaining playing fields, car park and a pitch, to be upgraded and maintained from the £1.36million, further restricting public access.

9. Sport England, the Football Association and many other organisations have objected.

10. Although Mapledurham playing fields is 25 to 27 acres, the net open level space, including the playground, orchard and basketball court, is only around 16.3 acres. The 1.23-acre proposed school site and the 0.25-acre area cornered in by it represent a loss of at least nine per cent of the net open level area of the playing fields.

11. The £1.36million pledged for recreational investment is predicated on improvements required for the school. Under the 125-year lease, the playing fields trust retains responsibility for maintenance. Ground maintenance alone for the site is £30,000 per annum, hence the £1.36million over 125 years represents only £10,800 per annum. These sums simply do not add up.

12. The planning application refers to a 350-pupil school, the accompanying traffic study to a
420-pupil school and 50 full-time staff (for 20 parking spaces). The study suggests that the 76 per cent of parents who currently drive to school would drop to 23 per cent on relocation to the playing fields. The council’s transport report describes this as “too optimistic”.

13. Given the age of children, the weather, the fact that more than 85 per cent of primary school children live east of the A4074, the gradient and traffic of neighbouring roads and the school’s breakfast and after- school club arrangements, it seems completely unrealistic. Traffic created would exacerbate existing problems on the A4074 Oxford route and further restrict recreational users’ access to Mapledurham playing fields, impacting on the viability of the pavilion when it is

14. It can always be claimed there are “exceptional” reasons to build. Once the precedent has been set and land hived off for non-recreational use, Mapledurham playing fields will be forever vulnerable, particularly if the school needs to expand or secondary school places are required.

15. A Deed of Dedication will not protect the playing fields where its status as a recreational trust and the borough council’s own planning policy have failed. Council leader Jo Lovelock confirmed that she could not guarantee there will be no future development. All our so-called “protected” open space is at risk. 

16. There are better alternatives for the school that don’t involve the loss of important recreational space or playing fields. 

17. The Fit4All proposal would preserve Mapledurham playing fields without the need to sell land and enhance the recreation and leisure facilities in a sustainable way. Once green space is gone, it is gone forever.

18. Where will future generations go to play football or hang out with their friends? Young and old need open space.

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