Campaigners were boosted this week by the findings of a report, commissioned by the council, that found the council had received incorrect legal advice and they did not in fact have any legal basis to fence off the area of land, with public access, near the school over safeguarding concerns.
The council remains committed to plans for a fence, however, and have drawn up two options for an area the size of four football pitches they are now proposing to fence off instead.
SEE: Public meeting to be held after council admits no legal basis to fence off area of land near Peterborough school
Campaigners have not given up on a further legal challenge and have now written to Gillian Beasley, Chief Executive of Peterborough City Council to express their disappointment.
Speaking on behalf of Save Werrington Fields, Jenna Maryniak said: “While we appreciate the time and effort involved in this review, we are deeply disappointed that many of the key objections have still not been satisfactory addressed and further still, that the council sees fit to fence in an even larger portion of public open space. We raise the following formal objections:
“1. The proposed area is ‘Public Open Space’- We have sought specialist legal advice, and it is incorrect for the land to be deemed “School land”. Since 1981, the land has been a public open space for the public enjoyment with open access and falls very firmly under the definition of a “public open space” under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Public Open Spaces Act 2006.
“As a legally defined public open space, the council is therefore under a duty to protect that space for the enjoyment of the public, and, as the council’s review has itself pointed out, to fence out the public from this open space for school use would constitute a breach of statutory trust.
“2. From 2.5 pitches to 4 full size football pitches!- Given the public outcry at the loss of open space available to the community, the fact that the council and school now propose that they want to take even more space seems unfathomable.
“There has been no evidence presented as to why the need has increased from 2.5 pitches required in the original planning application – and this appears to be a blatant disregard for the needs of the community and the protective legislation that recognises the importance of the preservation of green space for mental and physical wellbeing.
“3. Unsuitable site- In the original planning application for the fence, the site now preferred by the council was deemed to be unsuitable, due to the fact it would fragment the open space and create “unsafe” corridors that would lend themselves to anti-social behaviour. The school itself objected to the site stating that putting the fence there would cut off a much-used route to the school and Werrington Centre, as well as being inconveniently situated.
“4. Safeguarding- Repeated calls have been made to the school and council to assess the risk in a balanced and evidenced-based way– rather than emotion and what-ifs’.
“We are quite appalled by the fact that Ken Stimpson students have been effectively banned from using the field for lessons now for almost two years. We believe that the students of Ken Stimpson should be able to use the field safely, but that the risk to students has been vastly over-emphasised. The council can fulfill its obligation to provide outdoor education provision to the school without a fence. The fields have been safely shared between school and community for 40 years, and other methods could be used to mitigate potential problems, but have not even been considered – such as increased CCTV, temporary roped off areas for sports days and tournaments, increased signage, fines and enforcement to control dog fouling (which is rare).
“5. Application for a recognised public Right of Way in progress- It is thought that there may have been a historic right of way passing through the area. There is a public access point in the centre from Goodwin Walk/Ainsdale Drive that provides a direct route across the field to the school and Werrington Centre.
“I have used this route for at least 30 years, having lived in Werrington for 42 years. This route has been established for well over the required time of 20 years, and recognised by the council, and therefore is eligible to be recognised as a legal right of way. An application is currently ongoing to recognise it as such. To fence off the proposed area would illegally block a historic and established public right of way.
“6. Green space- Public green open space is under threat with the expansion of cities and ever-increasing demands for housing and infrastructure. As representatives of the people, the council has a duty to ensure that remaining access to green space is protected for future generations and that legislation brought in to protect these areas for people’s mental and physical health, as well as the health of the planet, is adhered to in the spirit in which it was intended.
“Finally, we believe that the presentation of ‘Option 1’ or Option 2’ to the public is a false choice and deliberate attempt to manipulate the public response. The real question is whether the fence and the size of the area are legal or justified at all.”
A full version of Save Werrington Fields formal response can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/werringtonfields/.
A public meeting on the issue will also 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.