D-Day looms in battle over Rugby free school plans

The message is clear from residents in the Rokeby area... NNL-170305-104751001
The message is clear from residents in the Rokeby area... NNL-170305-104751001

A long-running battle over a much-loved green space is entering the crunch phase with a decision looming on building two free schools there.

The Education Funding Agency’s plan to build a permanent home for Rugby Free Secondary School and a separate, new special school on Rokeby Field, is scheduled to be heard at the county council’s regulatory committee meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

Rugby Borough Council agrees that our area is already short of open space and we need to fight to keep what we have.

SHARE chairman Sally Chant

Members of SHARE (Sustainable Hillside and Rokeby Education) have never denied the need for the extra school places Rugby Free Secondary School has started to provide but say the Rokeby estate is the wrong place.

They believe the estate cannot cope with the traffic, that the green space is vital to the health and wellbeing of the residents – and that crucially the demand for extra secondary school places is to the north of the town.

While the plans could be decided next month, there could yet be a twist in the tale of Rokeby Field.

Last September SHARE put in an application to have Rokeby Playing Fields registered as a town green.

They argued that residents had been using the field for more than 20 years for games and exercise and had established a right to use the fields for ever.

The county council has now appointed a barrister to hold a public inquiry into SHARE’s application. There is no date for that inquiry but intriguingly it will come after the planning application has been heard.

Chair of SHARE Sally Chant said: “We are delighted that our case will now be heard in public.

“We hope that the Education Funding Agency will follow the example set by the Co-op at Oakfield and back down rather than face the residents of Rugby in an inquiry.

“However, we need to be prepared for the agency to continue to object to our case.

“I would like everyone who has used the fields in the last 20 years or who is prepared to contribute towards the costs of our legal team to get in touch.

“Rugby Borough Council agrees that our area is already short of open space and we need to fight to keep what we have.”

Campaigners claim the borough council’s draft Local Plan local plan shows the Rokeby and Overslade Ward has a combined open space shortage of 25 hectares.

The battle of Rokeby Field takes place against growing concern about a lack of school places in the Rugby area.

The issued was highlighted on TV on Midlands Today last week looking at the specific issues caused by the rapid growth in Rugby and the pressure on school places.

With the draft Local Plan threatening thousands of extra homes, the concerns about infrastructure keeping pace with development remains a big talking point.

A Facebook page has been set up called Rugby Secondary School Shortage.

You can also air your views by writing to the editor, via email at editorial@rugbyadvertiser.co.uk.