A campaign group trying to preserve a playing field in Hove handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street yesterday (Tuesday 14 May).
Hands Off Our Field submitted the petition, with more than 4,000 signatures, yesterday afternoon. It is also trying to obtain “village green” status for the field to give it greater protection from development.
The motion said: “That this House is opposed to the proposal by the Secretary of State for Education to concrete over a significant section of a playing field used by Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Brighton, Hove and Sussex VI Form College (BHASVIC) and Stanford Junior and Infant Schools, to provide a site for a new free school; notes that the playing fields are used daily by the schools and local community; also notes the schools’ joint statement that the plan would severely impair the institutions’ provision for sports and permanently remove a vital green space in the heart of a densely populated city; further notes that removing this field would leave the infant and junior schools with only a concrete playground; believes that this plan flies in the face of the UK’s Olympic legacy; further notes the village green application pending on this site; regrets the appalling lack of communication with the four schools from the Education Funding Agency; backs the notice of motion passed by Brighton and Hove City Council opposing the imposition of new school sites by central government; applauds the strong local resistance to this proposal which rides roughshod over the community’s wishes; and calls on the Secretary of State to withdraw it immediately.”
Dr Lucas said: “This is a government which likes to preach about localism and devolving power to local decision makers yet here it is barging into Brighton and Hove with plans to concrete over a piece of much-valued land against the wishes of the local community.
“The Education Funding Agency, the government body which chose the site for the free school, seems to have completely disregarded the fact that this land isn’t sitting vacant.
“The field is used by more than 4,000 students at four separate schools and is much valued by the community.
“While there is a pressing need for more school places, imposing a free school development on existing sports fields is not the answer.
“Rather than riding roughshod over the wishes of local people, (Education Secretary) Michael Gove must now drop the misguided plans and work with the local authority to find a more suitable location.”
Green councillor Ruth Buckley, who proposed the council motion last week, said: “Through its ill-considered ‘land transfer scheme’, the government has effectively allowed the Secretary of State for Education to propose a land grab on this much-loved field against the wishes of the local schools, the community, sports teams and even the local Conservative MP.
“This imposition by central government is completely unacceptable and, as the Green administration made clear in our motion to council last week, we believe that local authorities are far better placed to identify suitable sites for educational purposes.”