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Basildon school woodland den plan labelled a 'backward step' by parish council

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Plans to create a forest zone for an outside learning area for primary school children in Basildon have been called ‘short sighted’ and ‘irresponsible’.

The school leadership has written back to West Berkshire Council in defence saying it is ‘disappointed’ to see such negative comments.

The primary wants to reuse an area of land at the border of the school grounds to put up woodland huts and dens.

But Basildon CofE’s plans to remove a pond and replace undergrowth with a rubber surface have prompted more than a dozen objections from nearby residents.

Basildon Primary School (58309695)
Basildon Primary School (58309695)

“To lose an established wildlife area providing an example of bio-diversity for the pupils is short-sighted and an irresponsible decision on the part of the school and West Berkshire Education Department, especially when other schools around the country are proposing to develop wildlife areas themselves,” said Chrissie Fielder.

Even the parish council had something to say, sending this note to West Berkshire Council planners: “It was felt that in replacing the current ‘wild’ area with something that did nothing positive for the local environment was a backwards step.”

The school defended its plan saying: "The pond within the area is a raised unnatural structure constructed with a pond liner which, due to its age, leaks and therefore, has none or limited ecological value. It is certainly not a wetland habitat. The area is overrun with nettles and brambles, and to use in its present state would mean substantive clearance.”

Other residents felt that a buffer zone would be removed, reducing privacy, with others worried about anti social behaviour.

“We are particularly concerned that this new area right on our boundary will become the perfect party and gathering spot for young people outside of school hours; they already frequent the school grounds on summer evenings, and weekends to have fun, sometimes quite noisily,” said Peter Greet. "They occasionally gather there beyond midnight and public footpath access makes this impossible to control."

Others wondered why the school didn’t make more use of nearby Emery’s Wood.

“Emery’s Wood is a fantastic resource, and the children love the opportunity to visit, whether as a treat to build dens or learn about the fauna and flora,” said the school.

“However, to take a class into the woods and across Aldworth Road requires a higher ratio of adults to children and separate, additional risk assessments and paperwork. The proposal will allow greater flexibility with significant, frequent opportunities to teach small groups and classes outside.”

The proposal will be discussed at West Berkshire Council’s eastern area planning committee next Wednesday. Officers have recommended the scheme is approved.

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