CAMPAIGNERS are rallying around a plan to preserve a valuable community field which could have a school built upon it.

Mapledurham Playing Fields hosts Caversham Trent FC along with a host of other sports teams but has been earmarked as a site for the Heights Primary School.

So far 350 residents have backed an alternative proposal, Fit4All, which would preserve the entire field and generate income to rejuvenate the site.

One of the campaigners Martin Brommell said: "The school proposal only meets the needs of a small community of primary school children, parents and teachers.

"The issue here is not against a school but about preventing building on land which will be to the detriment of its users.

"Caversham Trents FC have grown membership from 70 to 450 in six years and want to make the site their home ground, but have been refused a 25 year lease.

"Mapledurham Lawn Tennis Club were given Lottery Funding to improve their veranda but now risk losing everything if the pavilion remains closed.

"Fit4All will further the trust's objectives and help the council avoid being in breach of its duty as trustee by ensuring that no land is lost.

"To build a school will mean a breach of trust. This has led to planning objections from Sport England, Fields in Trust, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and even the Council’s own Parks & Leisure department.

"No land has been promised to compensate for the area that would be lost, which will include the loss of football pitches.

The Education Funding Agency has promised £1.36m for improvements to the playing fields but have dictated how this should be spent to the school’s advantage."

The recreation ground was donated in 1938 by Charles Hewett and put in trust solely for recreation and leisure to benefit users from across Reading and Mapledurham Parrish.

A council spokesman rejected any breach of trust and added: "The Education Funding Agency's planning application for the free school which it proposes to build on part of the playing fields at Mapledurham will be considered at a future meeting of the Council's Planning Applications Committee, when both objections to, and support for, the application will be evaluated.

“The Council holds the playing fields at Mapledurham as charity trustee and is currently consulting beneficiaries of the charity on both the proposal put forward by the Education Funding Agency and the "Fit4All" proposal put forward by the Mapledurham Playing Fields Foundation.

“The consultation is intended to allow beneficiaries to comment on how the £1.36m offered by the Education Funding Agency could be applied by the Council as charity trustee to improve the amenity value of the playing fields if the Council ultimately concludes that accepting the proposal is in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries.

"It is incorrect to state that the Education Funding Agency has dictated how this money should be spent. If the Education Funding Agency's offer were to be accepted by the Council, only the Council acting as Trustees would decide how to apply this money should be spent.

“The consultation process is being conducted by the Council as charity trustee and is entirely separate to the planning application process initiated by the Education Funding Agency (which is not relevant to the Council's decision-making as charity trustee).

“The Council has always acted in accordance with its duties as charity trustee in relation to the playing fields, including in relation to the Education Funding Agency's proposal.

"Any decision to accept the Education Funding Agency's proposal would also be subject to obtaining the authority of the Charity Commission as regulator of the charity (if the Commission concludes that such authority is required and can properly be given).

"On this basis, any decision to accept the Education Funding Agency's proposal would not be a breach of trust.

“The Council strongly encourages all residents of the Borough of Reading and the Parish of Mapledurham to engage with the consultation being carried out by the Council as trustee."

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