Hove v Gove: Victory for campaigners over plans to build new free school over playing field

School to be built elsewhere after locals deliver 5,500-signature petition to 10 Downing Street

It was a contest billed as Hove versus Gove – and it appears that Michael Gove just blinked.

The Education Secretary has been vilified on the Sussex coast in recent weeks over controversial plans, announced by his department, to concrete over a well-loved playing field in Brighton and Hove, to build a new free school.

However, locals declared victory in their campaign to save the Bhasvic Field, after receiving a letter from the Schools Minister Lord Nash saying that the school would now be built elsewhere.

The 22-acre site on Old Shoreham Road was earmarked by consultants from the Education Funding Agency for the development of the King’s Church of England Free School, which received Mr Gove’s personal approval in September. However, the field is already used by four existing schools for sports and recreation and is regarded by the community as a “village green”.

As reported by The Independent last month, an unlikely alliance of local residents, head teachers, Green councillors and even the local Conservative MP was formed in opposition to the plan. Campaigners calling themselves the Friends of the Field erected banners around the site bearing the slogan: “Hove vs Gove”. Critics said that the episode was just the latest example of Mr Gove’s Department for Education riding roughshod over the interests of local people.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, who raised the issue in Parliament and joined campaigners when they delivered a 5,500-signature petition to 10 Downing Street, said she was delighted that the “misguided” plans had been dropped.

“It’s great news for the Friends of the Field and for all those who fought to protect this much valued land, currently used by more than 4,000 school students,” she said. “The decision today is proof that pressure from local people does make a difference, and that by working together, we can force the Government to listen.”

Three of Brighton and Hove’s Green councillors wrote to Mr Gove last month outlining the council’s opposition to the plan to build on the Bhasvic Field, which is named after one of the local schools – the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College.

Responding on the Secretary of State’s behalf, as the minister responsible for Free Schools, Lord Nash admitted that the playing fields site “would clearly not be ideal” and had only been considered “as a last resort.”

“Given that Brighton and Hove City Council owns the portion of land under consideration, and that you have confirmed your position, this is clearly no longer an option we will be pursuing,” he wrote.

Lou McCurdy, of Friends of the Field, said she did not know what had prompted Lord Nash’s decision but suggested a “killer letter” sent by the campaigners may have helped. “Maybe scary ladies of Hove had something to do with it,” she said. “Bhasvic Field is a vital green space with social and environmental benefits for everyone and the campaign to save it has really united the city.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are continuing to work with the free school proposers and the council to find a suitable site. We remain committed to helping the proposers establish a new school that will raise standards in the area and help to address the pressure on school places.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive - Hair & Beauty - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supplies the ultim...

Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence