Reading will be getting a new secondary school built next to the festival site and leisure centre despite several concerns.

Plans for a new secondary school in Reading have been in the works since 2018, when the council identified a site for the new school next to Rivermead Leisure Complex.

The latest approval means work on the 1,500 pupil school can now go ahead.

Within the 1,500 pupil capacity, there will be 300 sixth form students and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

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But councillors expressed concerns over how pupils would get to the site and how the buildings would be heated.

Councillor Andrew Hornsby-Smith (Labour, Church) raised the issue over travel to and from the school.

Cllr Hornsby-Smith said: “I’m concerned that simply providing 120 cycling spaces is inadequate, particularly as there is no bus service from the west at the moment.”

He stressed the need for negotiating with the school at a later stage for better cycling provision and improvements to bus services.

Currently, the only bus service running to Rivermead is the Reading Buses 42 route, which runs in a loop from the leisure complex to Kenavon Drive.

Other councillors expressed exasperation over how the school will be powered and heated.

The school was designed by Bowmer + Kirkland construction company which was contracted by the Department of Education.

Cllr Josh Williams (Green, Park) said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see no green roof, to the fact that we exist in a climate emergency, or to educating our children that that is the case.

“I look at the pictures and I see a fairly boxy unattractive design in front of us.”

Reading Chronicle: Plans for the new 'River Academy' secondary school in Richfield Avenue, Reading. Credit: Bowmer KirklandPlans for the new 'River Academy' secondary school in Richfield Avenue, Reading. Credit: Bowmer Kirkland

Earlier, he conceded the school is “obviously needed” and that the loss of the green space was “justified” in this case.

Councillors also complained about the incorporation of gas condensing boilers that would be used to heat the school.

Use of the gas boilers is referred to in the plan’s energy statement, with the prospect of them being replaced with air source heat pumps and further green measures being left open.

But there were fears that these measures may not be implemented.

Cllr Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey) said: “The hope and dream of any kind of future improved heating, air source heat pumps or PV panels on top of the roof, to me seem a pipe dream that will never be realised because we’re working on a budget here.”

She also pointed out that the school would have no access to the River Thames.

Cllr Rowland said: “I understand there’s safety issues there, but there’s just a cold lack of response to what is a local green space.”

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The school was approved by Reading Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, June 1.

Once built, it will be called the River Academy, and run by the Maiden Erlegh Trust.

It is hoped that it will open by September 2023.

You can view the plans yourself by typing reference 212061 into the council’s planning portal.