Thursday, 28 October 2021

Majority of residents support school move

CAMPAIGNERS say it is vital that a new primary school is built on Mapledurham playing fields in Caversham.

Reading Borough Council is carrying out a 10-week public consultation on the choice of the site off Woodcote Road by the Education Funding Agency to build the new Heights Primary School, which is currently based in temporary accommodation in Gosbrook Road.

The agency has said it will provide £1.36million to improve leisure facilities on the playing fields in return for a lease on 1.2 acres of the 27-acre site.

A second proposal called Fit4All has been put forward by the Mapledurham Playing Fields Foundation, which doesn’t want the school built and instead wants to lease the fields for fund-raising purposes.

More than 80 people attended an event at Caversham Heath Golf Club on Thursday last week, which was organised by the agency. Visitors were able to see the school plans and offer feedback.

It was the second such meeting this month with the result that about 70 feedback forms were completed: almost 50 in favour of the school and 21 raising concerns.

Daniel Pagella, a member of the Heights Primary Trust, said: “There were an awful lot of questions and quite a lot of misunderstanding over the need for the school.

“Some people didn’t appreciate how many children live in the area. Heat maps on display showed precisely where the children live and how close to the site they are. More than 70 per cent live within one mile and the school being located at the playing fields would lead to a big reduction in traffic.

“It’s vital we move there. We will have 220 children in September and we can’t continue to expand at the temporary site as it’s the wrong place. The kids need a school they can walk to.”

Opponents argue that the playing fields, which were left to the borough council in a trust by Charles Hewett to be used for recreation, leisure and sport, are not a suitable site for the school.

Martin Brommell, chairman of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group and a trustee of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Foundation, said: “The action group is against anyone breaking the trust, which was given in the best interests by someone who knew what they were doing.

“The amount of public open green space in Reading is already below the national average. We would never get this land back and future generations would have nowhere to go.”

The closing date for the consultation is September 25 after which councillors will make a decision.

Details of both proposals can be found at www.reading.

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