Friday, 19 August 2022

Site decided for new Caversham free school

MAPLEDURHAM playing fields have been chosen as the site for the new Caversham free school.

MAPLEDURHAM playing fields have been chosen as the site for the new Caversham free school.

The news was revealed in a letter to Reading East MP Rob Wilson from Luke Kennedy, the Education Funding Agency's free schools project director.

The agency was weighing up five possible locations for the Heights Primary School, which opened at temporary premises off Gosbrook Road in Lower Caversham in September.

The others were High Ridge in Upper Warren Avenue, Albert Road park, Bugs Bottom and Dyson?s Farm, near Kidmore End. The last site was the only one outside Reading borough as it is in South Oxfordshire.

A consultation on the sites closed in May with 4,376 people responding.

In his letter Mr Kennedy said: "Overall, and for every sub-group, development on the Mapledurham playing fields was the first choice for the majority of people and had the least opposition to it.

"We have therefore decided to pursue this site for the school and will commence the work necessary to put forward a proposal to the site?s trustees.

"We are aware that the playing fields are a valuable resource used by a variety of people for organised sport and other less formal activities. We remain keen to engage with local people while we develop our plans and hope the final plans will address any concerns to ensure that the development is welcomed.

"Local people will also have the opportunity to offer views on the plans, once fully developed, via Reading Borough Council."

Mr Wilson has asked that there is "appropriate compensation" for any space given over to the school, so that there is little to no overall loss of green or open space in the area.

He said there should be no loss of playing space to the sports clubs at the field, adding: "Indeed there should be improvement and investment in the leisure facilities currently available which relevant local sports clubs should be closely involved in scoping."

Sufficient space should also be provided for a new community pavilion to complement the school plans, said Mr Wilson.

Campaigners who had been fighting to stop the new free school being built on the playing fields have already threatened legal action.

The Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group had written to the agency, warning that it had received legal advice from a barrister that using the site would be in breach of charity law.

It said the land was given to the community in trust for leisure purposes in 1938 so the agency?s decision would have to be approved by the Charity Commission. A previous bid to build a school there was defeated in 2006.

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