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Mapledurham Playing Fields Action  Group

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MAPLEDURHAM PLAYING FIELDS ACTION GROUP

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The Heights Primary Free School

A company was set up on 18th December 2012 (registration no 8334593) to run the Heights Primary Free School, and at a small public meeting was held on 4th of February 2014 at Mapledurham Pavilion, the Heights headmistress, Sponsors, John Ennis (Lead Councillor on Education for Reading), Isobel Ballsdon (local councillor), Kevin McDaniel (Head of Education in Reading) and others announced plans for the Heights School, but not its location.

 

On 4th June that year, a property called High Ridge on Upper Warren Avenue in Caversham was purchased at auction for £1,160,000 (excluding stamp duty and legal fees) by the taxpayer, substantially more than the £875,200 that it had previous sold for less than two years earlier. This was duly announced to the local media, with the wholehearted support of the local MP, Rob Wilson, and a public meeting to discuss it was very quickly arranged in St Andrew Church on Albert Road on 17th June 2014.

 

The public meeting was chaired by Rob Wilson MP, and public anger at the proposed location became apparent, with disbelief that the proposed site could be viable for such a school. Unusually, and rather inappropriately, the discussion quickly turned to alternative sites, and Rob Wilson MP proposed a vote on Mapledurham Playing Fields as an alternative site, the first time it had been named, and surprising many. No votes on alternative sites (including High Ridge) were proposed from the chair, and members of the audience had to interrupt proceedings to point out how improper this was. It was also stated at the meeting that Reading Borough Council do not own the site known as Bugs Bottom (which is incorrect) so it was not included in the list of alternative sites. It was apparent that, despite the purchase of High Ridge, it was only one of a number of candidate sites for the school.

 

In September 2014, the Heights Primary School opened at a temporary site on Gosbrook Road in Reading, without having a feasible permanent site.

 

A public consultation was launched by the EFA and Reading Borough Council on 30th March 2015, which proposed five alternative sites, two of which, including Mapledurham Playing Fields, are protected by charitable trusts and not available for development. A public meeting was held on 25th March at Rivermead Leisure Centre, with defenders of each site pitted against each other. The consultation was completed on 1st May 2015, with votes taken on the suitability of each site. This process was not regulated in any way or audited by any accredited body, and could easily have been open to manipulation. The result of the consultation was announced on the 17th June 2015, with the predictable result that Mapledurham Playing Fields had been selected as the favoured site.

 

On 17th August 2015, the Education Funding Agency announced that it wished to site the school on the charitable land at Mapledurham Playing Fields, despite of the fact that suitable council owned land existed elsewhere.