A primary school has been granted a further year stay at temporary buildings in Caversham despite concerns over the school’s use of a fenced-over park.

The council’s Planning Applications committee unanimously voted to allow The Heights Primary School to stay for one more year at the temporary site on Gosbrook Road before moving to Mapledurham Playing Fields in 2021.

Reading councillors said the green space fenced-off for the school at Westfield Road Recreation Ground had become a “mudbath” and described the “dismal state” of the public space as “horrifying”.

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From mid-October last year to the end of February 200, the field became so muddy that it was unusable, according to local resident Dr Alex Vugler.

He said the school did not “need the space”, with the government stating that primary school students do not need to socially distance, but elderly and vulnerable residents did.

Speaking to the Reading Borough Council (RBC) committee, Caversham ward councillor Richard Davies said he could not support the continued fencing of the park space.

The part of the park that has been fenced for school use is also available to the public outside school hours but Cllr Davies said a combination of over-use by the school, bad weather and the fence had put people off from using the space.

The committee approved plans two years ago for the school to use the site for two years, with only councillor Josh Williams voting against the plans.

But this time around, the Green councillor voted for the proposal for the school to stay at the temporary buildings and retain their use of a fenced area of the park.

Cllr Williams said: “I am still very unclear that the need [for the fenced off area] has been shown but I realise there are 350 children there with little outdoor space on site.

“In an ordinary world, I think I would have come to the same conclusion as two years ago. But safe outdoor space is not just a nice thing to have anymore – it is an essential thing.”

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Other councillors expressed similar sentiments, with councillor Jo Lovelock saying “Covid-19 has to be a factor” and councillor Ricky Duveen calling it a “terrible choice” but supporting the plans “with a heavy heart”.

Councillor Karen Rowland, lead member for Parks, said: “If Covid-19 had not happened, I would have said this fence could come down.

“I cannot imagine the horrors of trying to keep the kids separate.”

Councillors also criticised the time it has taken for the Department for Education (DfE) to build the school, claiming they have built schools recently much more quickly.

But representatives for the DfE said the controversy surrounding the move to Mapledurham Playing Fields and the subsequent appeal from the community had delayed the plans.

While the use of the park was the chief complaint discussed on the night, neighbours had also raised concerns about traffic, pollution, noise and anti-social behaviour, but councillors concluded that the needs of the children were paramount.

However, Cllr Duveen warned he would “not be sympathetic at all” if another planning application came in next year for a further extension.

The DfE said it could not promise “100 per cent” that the permanent site would be ready for the 2021/2022 school year but said it is working “flat out” to meet the target.