Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group
RBC Compromised over Sale of Playing Fields
Local residents of Mapledurham have indicated their vehement opposition to the proposal for the Heights Free School by the Education Funding Agency to the trustees of the Mapledurham Playing Fields charity, Reading Borough Council (RBC). The proposal is seen as unwelcome, as extensive funds of about £200,000 have been raised by volunteers who wish to renovate the pavilion themselves.
The pavilion faces demolition, and will not be replaced under the proposal, which also values the land at a meagre £25,000 an acre, though in 2006, RBC had itself estimated the land value at a whopping £660,000 an acre. Acceptance of the proposal would result in a minimal return for the Trust, and a whole raft of unenforceable promises by the school for community access to replace the pavilion.
More importantly, Reading Borough Council, as trustee, now appears set to accept a direct payment of £1.2 million, for agreeing to the sale.
“RBC pledged in 2006 not to sell any part of Mapledurham Playing Fields,” said Martin Brommell, spokesman for the Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group, a group formed by concerned volunteers who have been supporting the charity Playing Fields for many years.
“However, it now faces pressures on providing sufficient school places. But with its limited funds, the EFA is seeking to raid the charity for which RBC is the trustee for cheap land to provide for a new free school. However, as trustee, RBC is duty bound to act only in the charity’s best interests. Remember the charity’s purpose is to provide a recreation ground only. It has nothing to do with education. And remember, if the land was worth £660,000 an acre in 2006, it will be worth well over £1,000,000 per acre now.
“The proposal seems to involve selling off land at rock bottom prices, and giving the school privileged free access to the remaining land with representation on how it is managed from that point on. Other users, such as the youth football club, the Caversham Trents, will continue to pay for pitch hires.
“The proposal is also non-specific about the precise location of the land being purchased, and the restrictions that it will impose on the remaining land. RBC is duty bound to reject the proposal, as it has no reason to sell any land, because funds are already available, and, more importantly, because of the clear conflict of interests in its role.”
RBC’s Heights Free School Sub Committee will consider the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday 12 July 2016 at 6.30pm in the Council Chamber at the Civic Offices in Reading, and the Mapledurham Fields Action Group is encouraging those concerned to attend and express their concerns.
Please use the menu on the left to learn more about Mapledurham Playing Fields, the Trust, the current threat to their continued existence, and what you can do to help protect them.