Monday, 23 September 2019

Work on new school finally begins

Work on new school finally begins

WORK has begun to clear a site ready for the construction of a new school in Caversham Heights.

The Heights Primary School has been granted planning permission by Reading Borough Council to move from its temporary site in Gosbrook Road, Lower Caversham, to part of Mapledurham Playing Fields.

An area in the corner of the fields by the car park was fenced off when tree clearance work began on Monday.

The council says this should be completed by the end of next week.

Contractor Kier Construction  is to carry out soil investigation work in the car park and entrance road and these will be cordoned off with temporary fencing.

At the same time, the council will remove 15 trees in the centre of the playing fields in preparation for landscape work this summer which it says will improve the quality of the football pitches and provide more flexibile and sustainable use of the area. It plans to plant 57 replacement trees.

A lease on part of the area was granted by the council, in its capacity as trustee of the Mapledurham Recreation Ground Charity, last week.

This followed the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s amended planning application, which was approved by the council’s planning committee on February 6 and approved by the full council on Monday.

The amendments include changes to the design of the school building, internally and externally, as well as to the levels, trees and landscaping.

The reception year classrooms have been moved to allow the location of a year one classroom in the north-west corner of the building. There will also be new rooms for reprographics, showers and changing and a group room. The number of toilets has also been increased and the kitchen area redesigned.

The outdoor multi-use games area will now be 1m lower than the school building, with steps down to it.

There will also be a new gate to the playing fields on the southern side of the games area and trees on the western boundary will be removed.

Last year a legal challenge over the council’s decision to grant planning permission failed.

The Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group, which opposed the school’s relocation, sought a judicial review of the decision at the High Court.

It argued that the school should not be allowed to use the land as it was bequeathed to Reading by Charles Hewett in 1938 and set in trust for recreational use.

It claimed the council had contravened national planning guidelines, local planning policy and Sport England’s acceptance criteria and that the move would “devastate” recreational and social activities that take place on the playing fields.

Mrs Justice Lang rejected the group’s case and said the plans for the school should go ahead.

The primary has operated from temporary classrooms since it opened in 2014 and has had to expand several times to meet growing demand.

The new school will cater for up to 350 children.

Five possible sites were included in a public consultation exercise carried out by the council before the playing fields emerged as the overwhelming favourite.

The school said the playing fields were the best option but some residents protested.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency, a government body, offered £1.36million to improve leisure facilities on the playing fields in return for a lease on 1.2 acres of the 25-acre site for the school.

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