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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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 Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy