Tuesday, 21 September 2021

School wins fight to isolate part of park for children to play

School wins fight to isolate part of park for children to play

PLANS by a school to fence off part of a recreation ground for exclusive use by its pupils have been approved.

The Heights Primary School submitted a revised plan to use a slightly smaller amount of Westfield Park in Lower Caversham after more than 350 objections from residents to its previous proposal to use 2,000 sq m.

Now it will be able to use 1,930 sq m of the park, which is adjacent to the school’s temporary site off Gosbrook Road.

Reading Borough Council’s planning committee approved the plans, despite another 133 objections.

The free school currently uses part of the neighbouring St Anne’s Primary School field for informal play at lunch and break times but this is no longer enough as the school roll is growing. It is being forced to expand in order to take pupils until August 2020 as it awaits a proposed move to a permanent site at Mapledurham playing fields in Caversham.

The school says it will use the area for 11.5 hours a week during term time only and it will be available to the community at other times.

Once it relocates, the railings will be removed and the grass area reinstated.

Dr Sophie Vickery, of the Friends of Westfield Park, claimed the school didn’t need use of the land.

She said: “With their maximum of 325 children, the Heights can manage in their own space plus the tarmac with the staggered breaks they currently have, or they could move to three staggered breaks which is what other schools do.

“The Heights School has supervised their pupils unhindered by fences, learning, exercising and conducting lessons in Westfield Park for the last four years. The community are happy for them to continue to use the park in this way.”

Dr Vickery said the council had spent an unprecedented amount of money on accommodating the Heights in its temporary location and its future site at Mapledurham.

She said: “More than £1.25million on a temporary building and thousands on legal fees, surveys, ecologists, planners, archaeologists, traffic, noise and air pollution consultants so this school can’t fail.

“And yet they will tell you they will fail without taking our public park. The reality is the school has not sought to find a solution. Why should this free school on a temporary site be allowed to have more than local schools which have been in place for 100 years?

“They cope, they adapt, they find creative solutions and we believe the Heights should be asked to do this too.”

Myles Milner, speaking in favour of the plans, said that having the fence-off area was “critical” to the school functioning.

He said: “The Heights School needs to breathe. The area involved also needs to support a pitch which is a requirement of Sport England.”

He added that the wear on the St Anne’s School field was “significant”.

Councillor Josh Williams was the only member of the committee to vote against the proposal.

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