Public meeting to be held after council admits no legal basis to fence off area of land near Peterborough school
A public meeting is to be held after Peterborough City Council admitted it had no legal basis to proceed with plans to fence off an area of land near a local school.
In what has been seen as a partial victory for campaigners in an ongoing dispute, the council admitted in a recent report, that it had been wrong to proceed with plans to erect a fence around an area of land close to Ken Stimpson Community School in Werrington.
In February 2019, the council announced plans to fence off an area of open space outside the school after a number of safeguarding concerns were raised. These concerns included: disruption to the school’s Sports Day by young adults who were drunk and disorderly coming onto the site, young adults riding mopeds over the playing fields, dog fouling/litter and an incident where a Year 7 child was jumped on by a large dog, which was not under the control of its owner.
Since the school opened in 1982, it has been able to use the area to deliver its sporting curriculum under a formal shared use agreement between the City Council and the County Council. The agreement also gives the public permission to use the school playing fields.
When plans were put forward to build a 2.4m fence around the site, residents were enraged and threatened legal action.
Campaign groups rejected various concessions from the council that included lowering the fence to 2m, a booking system and leaving the gates unlocked to give residents access at all time, apart from during school hours.
They claimed that the council’s actions were subject to legal challenge due to a ‘restrictive covenant’ on the land.
As a result of the backlash, the council agreed to carry out a review of the proceedings; these have been presented in a recent report.
The standout finding was that the area of the proposed fence is held by the council as public open space under a statutory trust for the benefit of the public. Building a fence, even if left unlocked at all times, for the benefit of safeguarding pupils at Ken Stimpson would likely breach this statutory trust.
It found that “the Council had been wrong to proceed with its proposals to erect a fence around the area as it was a breach of the statutory trust on which the land is held for the benefit of the public and that “the initial legal advice that the Council had the legal authority to enclose area with a fence and for public access to be restricted to outside of school time use was incorrect.”
It did, however, find that an area of land on the opposite side of the field (adjacent to Foxcovert Road and Ainsdale Drive), that currently has open access, is in the freehold ownership of the City Council and forms part of the site of Ken Stimpson Secondary School. This means the council could fence off the entire area, should they so wish.
In response to the findings, the council has insisted that it is committed to improving safeguarding arrangements at Ken Stimpson and ensuring their outdoors curriculum is not disadvantaged; the best way to do that is by erecting a fence.
It has identified possible two areas, both the size of four football pitches, that it intends to consult the public about fencing off. These will be discussed at a public meeting on September 20.
The meeting will be held on Monday September 20 in the Ken Stimpson School assembly hall at 6:30pm.
Residents have been asked to register their attendence at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/werrington-field-ken-stimpson-school-fence-public-meeting-tickets-170328650579 as numbers have been capped to 150. The meeting will also be live streamed on the council’s Youtube channel.