Monday, 30 November 2020

Free school sites considered for Caversham

A FIFTH possible site for a new free school in Caversham has been identified.

A FIFTH possible site for a new free school in Caversham has been identified.

Public consultation on the best location for the Heights Primary School, which is currently based at temporary premises in Gosbrook Road, was due to start on Monday but has been put back by at least three weeks.

A public meeting will now not take place until March.

The Education Funding Agency, which will make the final decision on the site, has added Dysons Farm in Kidmore End, which is in South Oxfordshire, to the list of possible locations.

The other four are High Ridge in Upper Warren Avenue, Mapledurham playing fields, Albert Road recreation ground and Bugs Bottom, off Hunters Chase.

Different petitions opposing development at each of these sites have been filed while a fifth is in favour of having the school on the playing fields.

The EFA, which is backed by the Department for Education, has asked Reading Borough Council to carry out a survey of the sites, which is expected to cost about £30,000.

The council said it would announce a revised schedule for the consultation, including the public meeting, when it had more information but leader Jo Lovelock expressed her frustration at the delay.

She said: “There have been weeks of planning going on around the four sites and suddenly with the consultation due to start they have dropped this extra site which has put it back.

“The residents who just want us to get on with this must be deeply frustrated at this last minute addition. We will obviously co-operate but I do wish the EFA would get their act together so we can all get on with the consultation and then they can hopefully make a decision and we all know where we are.

“We provided a temporary site for the school and I’m sure the parents want to be sure that we have got a site ready.“

Ruth Rosewell, a member of the Heights Primary Trust, said: “The decision on a permanent site for the school has now been delayed again and we are mindful that appointing contractors, preparing designs, applying for planning permission and actually building the school will take some considerable time.

“In the meantime, it is the children who are losing out. This site was put to the EFA over 18 months ago, so it is disappointing that this new site has only been introduced to the consultation process at such a late stage.

“This new site has some real benefits but we have many unanswered questions around the likelihood that planning consent can be secured and what impact being located in South Oxfordshire will have on vital services such as special educational need support and funding.

Reading East MP Rob Wilson said the farm should be “properly explored and consulted upon“ and added: “An extension of a few weeks will not cause a delay in delivering the permanent location for the Heights. It is important to get this right.“

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