Winchcombe School sports field sale defended
The sports pitch at the Winchcombe School was one of 21 named in a list of school pitch sales approved by the Government since it came to power in 2010.
National media outlets jumped on the figures in the wake of the Olympics and accused the Government of breaking a General Election pledge to preserve the sports provisions.
The 1.6 acre playing field has outline permission for housing and was sold with the blessing of Conservative education minister Michael Gove.
However West Berkshire Council said far from depriving the Winchcombe School pupils of a sports pitch, the land was sold in order to fund the redevelopment of the school and a new playing field was provided.
Education portfolio holder Irene Neill (Con, Aldermaston) said: “The Winchcombe School had an oversized playing field, some of which was never used. We have therefore, disposed of the 'surplus', as approved by both Sport England and the Secretary of State for Education, to part fund the redevelopment of the school and creation of new pitches, including all-weather to enhance all year round sporting opportunities.
“The school current accommodates one and a half forms of entry, but the site and pitches can support a two form entry school, should we need to increase its size to meet pupil number demand.”
A statement released on Monday by the Department for Education said: “We will only agree to the sale of school playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools can continue to be met.
“Sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities and any new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years.”
The Winchcombe School underwent a significant refurbishment in 2011, in which redundant buildings of the school (the existing infants section) were demolished, and the newly freed up land was offered to developers by West Berkshire Council to pay for the scheme.
It was bought by MedicX who are in the early stages of building an 80-bed specialist dementia care home for the elderly on the site in Maple Crescent.