To: The Charity Commission

Protect Mapledurham Playing Fields

Protect Mapledurham Playing Fields

Mapledurham Playing Fields is a charitable trust (304328), like many others, bequeathed exclusively for recreation but targeted as the proposed site of a free school. We want the Charity Commission to honour the wishes of the benefactor, recognise the value of public open space and support the promotion of grass roots sport by rejecting the proposal. We believe this will serve as a valuable precedent to safeguard many other parks and playing fields.

Why is this important?

A Guardian article, published in June last year, estimated that sites for a further 500 free schools are required and that most will be playing fields. Recent National Audit Office criticism of the Education Funding Authority for overpaying for free school sites, will make playing fields an even more attractive cheap option. Although playing fields are usually protected from development by local authority planning policies, the EFA are exempt from these.

Mapledurham Playing Fields, a charitable trust bequeathed exclusively for recreation (Recreation Ground Charity #304328), is a case in point. This has been targeted by the EFA as the site of a free school. The trustee, Reading Borough Council (RBC), which is also the Local Education Authority responsible for meeting demand for school places, has given conditional approval to the plan. We, Mapledurham Playing Fields Action Group who are concerned residents, have registered a claim of conflict of interest and asserted that an independent trustee should be appointed to adjudicate. Despite the merit of our case we are sanguine about our chance of success in the courts: although we have raised over £25,000 from private donations, to fight the case, we recognise that this will not be sufficient against the funds available to RBC.

We presented our case to the Charity Commission which said that this gave it cause for concern and would investigate. Sadly of all of the points in the 22 page witness statement, which summarises our case, it addressed only one. It has since said RBC has rectified this and it is satisfied that there are no outstanding unmanageable conflicts. We believe we now need to bring as much influence to bear on the Charity Commission, as possible, to ensure that it recognises its responsibility to protect playing fields within its estate, and we would like to use Mapledurham Playing Fields as a test case.

If you believe parks and playing fields should be protected and would like to add your voice in support of this test case please sign our petition.

Further information about the campaign to protect Mapledurham Playing Fields is available at www.ProtectMPF.uk or email info@ProtectMPF.uk

How it will be delivered

We plan to present the petition to the Charity Commission in person


Reasons for signing

  • Wrong place for a school. The way the site was chosen using a totally rigged survey did not in any way take into account the views of local residents. The initial choice of the playing fields was by a very small pressure group including the local councillor who has a vested interest and is not impartial. With the impending sale of Caversham Park by the BBC, it is an ideal to look again at this whole project of a new primary school which is of course needed but there are much better sites for it.
  • Because my dad runs the tennis club and it means everything to him
  • Education is vital but so are playing fields. If the benefactor bequeathed the fields for recreation that has to be respected.

Updates

2017-04-20 13:23:10 +0100

500 signatures reached

2017-04-07 08:51:26 +0100

100 signatures reached

2017-04-06 17:43:10 +0100

50 signatures reached

2017-04-06 14:55:54 +0100

25 signatures reached

2017-04-06 14:25:59 +0100

10 signatures reached