Parents, former teachers and councillors have reacted in shock and sadness over a college’s decision to close a field in preparation for it to be sold for possible development.
The Middy revealed last week that Central Sussex College has closed its playing field to Harlands Primary School pupils and members the public so site surveys can take place in the process of selling the land.
This week members of the community have ‘deplored’ the decision to close the community facility which has been enjoyed as such for around 40 years.
Carol Watson, a Lindfield resident and former teacher at the school, said: “I deplore the way Sarah Wright has handled the situation and shut the playing fields before permission to build has been given.
“When the government are trying to stop obesity the school playing fields are shut, well that sounds just about right.
“Please re-open these playing fields which many children have enjoyed using for 40 years.”
Eric Bassett, chairman of the Haywards Heath Society, said he felt the way the college had gone about its process of looking to sell its land to developers was ‘heavy handed’.
He said: “The college is a great asset to the town and it provides a very good educational service and we certainly encourage the fact that they are bound to a duty to try and balance their accounts but in this particular case it’s the way it has been handled that’s of concern to us all.
“We felt it was heavy handed. It seems to be an unnecessarily confrontational way they’ve gone about it.”
Mr Bassett added that the society found it hard to see how the college would manage to provide more external sports facilities for itself and the school - as it has claimed it will do with the money acquired through the sale of the land.
A college spokeswoman explained that the new external sports facilities would be in place of the old building which is to be demolished.
The new campus build already has internal facilities with a four court sports hall, used by curriculum college, teams and a number of local community sports groups.
Jayne Green, a resident from Penland Road, Haywards Heath, said: “Shocked and saddened by the article in the Middy about the impending selling off of the playing field adjacent to Harlands school.
“This seems to be yet another attack on our precious green spaces.
“I have two children I hoped would attend Harlands. If all these developments go ahead I’m not so sure there will be any space for them.”
Haywards Heath Town Council Cllr Mims Davies added that she was concerned the school’s high sporting achievements would be hindered by the closure.
She said: “The college too is vital for this community but at this point simply cannot see why access to this sacred green space which is so valued has been cut off abruptly.
“It has been happily shared by the primary school allowing it to be so focussed on high sporting achievement and wide participation for decades.
“We know the new leadership at the College is keen to overcome their difficult financial situation and wish them great success in achieving this. But simply not at the direct expense of our school children.”
Maggie Wainwright, a resident from Bridgers Mill, Haywards Heath, added that development would impact on other services in Haywards Heath “which are already struggling”.
She said: “With [Central] Sussex College intending on selling their land what will Harlands School do and how can the local schools handle all the additional children that will come into the area if these developments finally go ahead?
“Too many schools have lost their outdoors sports facilities. We must not allow this to happen.”
A spokeswoman for the college said it has spent many years actively communicating with and engaging local residents around the redevelopment of the campus and the land has always been marked as private land and closing the gates for security purposes has been its absolute right as landowners.
She said: “Given the location of the campus it has always been our express intent to ensure that communications with residents have been good, and that we respond quickly when issues arise.
“As is always the case with communications, some residents may have failed to engage and therefore may feel that our communications have not kept them informed but I would strongly refute any suggestion that we have fallen down on communicating with residents.”
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