Thursday 21 September 2017

Mapledurham Playing Fields: Why Making an Exception is Right for Our Community

Two buildings are needed urgently for our community: a permanent home for The Heights school and a refurbished/rebuilt Pavilion.
Proposed school shown outlined in red

A consultation on two proposals is closing on Monday 25 September.  Only the school bid is fully funded and will deliver both buildings.  This in a nutshell is why I am supporting building the school on a corner of Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF).  

For those simply wishing to access the information and fill out the online consultation, this is the RBC web link.   If instead you are happy to give your permission for the form to be completed on your behalf in support of the school, type in your details here.  Further information is also available

If you are still unsure how to respond, the bid for the school comes with £1.36 million from the Education Funding and Skills Agency which must be invested solely on the MPF Trust.  Part of the money will be spent on restoring/rebuilding the Pavilion, with the balance being used to enhance other MPF recreational facilities, potentially broadening its sporting appeal whilst making the land more sustainable.

Naturally many residents instinctively are against anything being built on MPF.  After all, the land was left in Trust for recreational purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of Reading Borough and the Parish of Mapledurham.  However residents were consulted on 5 possible sites for The Heights and MPF came top.  The school will take up less than 5% of MPF at the same time as injecting much needed funding into the MPF Trust.  This will enhance and conserve the rest of MPF. Big community events, footballers and other sports groups will continue to have many acres of playing fields to use.

MPF is protected from development in the Local Plan and by national planning law.  It would continue to be just as protected regardless of having the school built on a corner of it.  To give even more reassurance, question 4 of the consultation should be ticked as it asks if the Trustees (ie Reading Borough Council) should take steps to impose a legal restriction on the remainder of the Ground (MPF) in order to ensure that it can only be used by the Charity for recreational purposes in the future.

An alternative "Fit4All" proposal has been put forward by a local community group called the MPF Action Group (MPFAG) which set up the charity Mapledurham Playing Fields Foundation.  This is an ambitious proposal with very optimistic projections of income growth alongside insufficient cost allowances. The works to restore/rebuild the Pavilion would be phased over time which means user groups’ return would be delayed. There are no guarantees as to when or if the money needed would be available: the plan may not be fundable and it is reliant on Reading taxpayers providing an ongoing subsidy.  Lastly, the group is against the school being built on MPF so the Fit4All proposal does not provide the required primary school places.

As shown I believe the choice is clear: the only way for our community to have both its needs met is to support the school proposal which also will greatly enhance the amenity value of MPF.