Tuesday, 01 December 2020

New school 'could lead to more development'

BUILDING a new free school on playing fields in Caversham will put the land at risk of further development, claims a campaigner.

BUILDING a new free school on playing fields in Caversham will put the land at risk of further development, claims a campaigner.

A permanent site for the Heights School is due to be built at Mapledurham playing fields, off Woodcote Road, which was the most popular choice of residents in a public consultation carried out last year.

The school will be in the north-west corner of the fields and take up five per cent of the land, which was gifted to the community in trust.

However, Elisa Miles, a local resident and trustee of the playing fields, said the school could be extended or the site might be used for a secondary school, a doctors’ surgery or housing.

Speaking at a meeting of Reading Borough Council's Heights Free School sub-committee, she said: “We recognise that this is a Goliath and David scenario, where Goliath is the Education Funding Agency, which has vast resources at hand to support the irresponsible obsession of the school in pursuing a site that is a charitable trust for sport and recreation only.

“Why would a well-used playing field with trust status be the best place for an elite school? Why would a relatively small number of children take precedent over an entire community of all ages when there are other options for the school site on offer that are deliverable at a lower cost and a shorter time?

“In the 20 years that I have lived in Caversham I have seen Mapledurham playing fields come back to life and bring the community together.

“Where is the equity when a relatively small number of parents have access to massive amounts of taxpayers’ money and resources to drive through plans for which they take no account of the damage to what the community already has — a thriving community with residents who give freely of their time for the physical and mental health and wellbeing of others.

“The community provides hundreds of hours of free service in the clubs, groups, charities and events they run.”

The school has been using a temporary site off Gosbrook Road since it opened in September 2014.

A spokeswoman for the Heights Trust said: “We have been looking to identify what community benefits the new school could bring for the whole community to enjoy and how the existing facilities there could be enhanced as part of the proposal.

“So far we have received a great deal of valuable feedback which we will be considering before we submit a proposal to the charitable trust that owns Mapledurham playing fields.”

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