An update to a park in Caversham embroiled in controversy was approved by the council this week in a fiery debate.

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning committee approved the works, which include a lit central avenue and football pitch improvements, after Sport England withdrew its objections.

The approval of landscape works at Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) on Wednesday, April 3, follow the controversial green light for a new school – The Heights – at the site.

Robin Bentham, chairman of the Warren and District Residents Association, said the works are an ‘unnecessary, costly and misguided shot at a flashy makeover.’

He said WADRA supports the football pitch improvements and perimeter pathway but are unhappy with the central avenue, which would ‘cut the playing fields in two’ and ‘depart from the existing character of MPF’.

Councillor Isobel Ballsdon, sole councillor for Mapledurham ward, was heckled throughout her statement to the committee.

She said most residents want improvements at Mapledurham and central path would provide a smooth level service for wheelchair users and help people to have safe passage through the park.

After the works were approved on April 3, protestors shouted that the council had ‘wasted money’ that they wanted to be spent on the Mapledurham Pavilion.

The works consist of drainage improvements to the grass football pitches, new trees and a tree-lined and lit central avenue perimeter footpaths with seating and trim trail equipment and a car parking area north of the site.

Mapledurham Trustee Sub-Committee members backed the plans in February, but did not discuss the plans publicly after a January meeting was cancelled.

RBC granted planning permission in August for The Heights Free School to be built on part of the playing fields.

Proposals for the school were opposed by the Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group (MPFAG), which said the fields were “highly valued” by residents.

Mapledurham playing fields are run by an RBC-controlled charity with the objective of providing and maintaining a recreation ground for the benefit of inhabitants of Mapledurham Parish and the Borough of Reading.

The MPFAG said the land was designated for community use and a school would break the agreement.

However, one of the town’s biggest ever consultations revealed that most residents thought the school should be built on the playing fields.

The High Court rejected the group’s appeal against the development in December and confirmed the plans would go ahead.