Friday, 11 December 2020

Morgan Road Playing Fields sell off consultation

Guest post from David McElroy, Redlands Green campaigner (above right with Cllr Jamie Whitham):

UPDATE: Abbey school have said that they are interested in buying the playing fields.

Lots of residents have contacted me recently about Reading School’s proposal to sell off part of its playing fields on Morgan Road and then convert some of the remaining to an artificial pitch.

I know that Redlands Cllr Jamie Whitham and myself share many of those concerns, and we will continue to support local residents through any future Planning process. Any new sports buildings, and likely the 3G pitch, would need their own planning permission, as would any future development based on the land.

Below is some very dry planning related stuff, but I know that a lot of residents just don’t want to lose an amazing green resource in the community, great views, great history, and replace all that with posh flats and a plastic pitch.

Let the school know what you think by Tuesday, December 22.

Now for the dry planning bit.

The Planning process rests on the Council’s Local Plan, and the playing fields fall into the local Conservation Area – although residents have already spotted that there are two conflicting maps used at the end of the Conservation Area appraisal!

But the new Local Plan

(Map F) shows the playing fields included in the Conservation Area, and this is the primary document so my understanding would be that they are included. Eagle-eyed readers of those documents (who zoom in) will also see larger green dots over the playing fields denoting an existing or proposed Green Link (policy EN12).

I would also argue that the declared Climate Emergency is very real and very valid in a material sense in Planning terms (including at least one adjudication from the Inspectorate to back this up.)

Additionally, the local plan says: "playing fields ... should only be developed where: a) an assessment clearly shows the area to be surplus to requirements; or b) the loss would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or c) the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss." (Policy OU1) It also notes the: "national policy presumption against loss of playing fields in the NPPF."

Remember to respond to the consultation and we will keep working with you to protect and improve the local area.

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