24th August 2012 at 01:00

Locals get grassy over loss of sports fields

Anyone caught selling off a sports field in our new post-Olympic fervour is public enemy number one. That's what Barnfield College has discovered as local residents unite to protest against its redevelopment of New Bedford Road campus.

They are furious at the loss of 1.8 hectares of sports fields, about a fifth of the whole area, potentially preventing the next Mo Farah from running around quite as much as he would if it had been left intact.

But a closer look at the college's plans show things are not quite so simple. At the moment, the pitches are really just one big open field that isn't well laid out for sport. So with Sport England and the Bedfordshire FA, the college worked out a plan to turn four football pitches and one rugby field on the existing layout into one rugby pitch, one artificial senior football pitch and one with real grass, four junior football pitches, four mini-football pitches and two artificial cricket wickets on one pitch.

By all accounts, those are better sporting facilities. But why reduce the space at all? Well, an earlier planning application didn't involve a sell-off, but since then capital funding has dried up and the college now has to build a care home and flats in order to pay for its rebuild.

As long as all the capital funding goes to free schools and new university technical colleges, even though existing institutions need the money, more sports fields will be sold off, making Wenlock's and Mandeville's giant, weird eyes weep salt tears.

A tale that's baffling but not perplexing

It is hard to know who's in the right between Newcastle College Group and Ofsted over the inspection that downgraded the college from "outstanding" to "good". Even more mysterious, however, is the college's description of the reaction of chief executive Jackie Fisher to the result: she was "astounded but not surprised". Eh? FErret spent a good half an hour in front of the mirror trying to work out what that facial expression would look like.

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