Campaigners seek ‘transparency’ at public meeting to decide fate of school playing fields in Peterborough

Campaigners seeking to ‘save Werrington fields’ are asking for transparency ahead of tonight’s public meeting on the future of the site.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 4:00 pm
Werrington Fields.

The meeting is being held at Ken Stimpson Community School at 6:30pm tonight (September 20) and will be live streamed on Peterborough City Council’s Youtube page. Residents can also register to attend the meeting on the school’s website.

Ken Stimpson School Principal Bryan Erwin and the council’s Director of Education Jonathan Lewis will address the meeting before the floor is opened up for questions.

Capacity was limited to 150 people, with 90 tickets reserved by the school, for both parents and staff.

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Option 1 for the area to be fenced off (green area).

The meeting will discuss new plans to fence off an area of the Werrington Fields, after a council review found that its previous plans could not proceed after they were given “incorrect” legal advice.

They are now proposing to fence off an area the size of four football pitches on the opposite side of the field (adjacent to Foxcovert Road and Ainsdale Drive), which it describes as “school land.”

Campaigners are still unhappy with this and have put forward a series of questions ahead of the meeting.

Option 2 for the area to be fenced off (green area).

These are: “Legal definitions: Please can the council explain its legal understanding of a ‘Public Open Space ‘and ‘School Land’?

“Does the council agree that Area C does not belong to the school and cannot therefore be described as “School Land”? Does the council also recognise that Area C falls under the legal definition of a “Public Open Space” – which brings a duty to maintain it for the public enjoyment only?

“Why was the covenant protecting Area A kept a secret by the council during the consultation and planning application to fence it?

“Will the council be making its legal advice on this matter public, as a matter of transparency and to help rebuild community trust?

Risk assessment: Could you please confirm that the only existing risk assessment so far done by the school (May 2020) demonstrated that a fence would not make the children any safer than existing safeguards? Bryan Erwin’s argument in the planning committee meeting records was that “It was not the teachers’ job to safeguard students”.

“Why hasn’t a full set of risk assessments for Physical Education yet been done, particularly since this was documented as a matter of urgency by Ian Roberts in his health and safety report on 29 April 2021 (point 1.8) - to be done by 1st July 2021. Surely this is essential to judge whether a fence is actually required?

“Ian Roberts also states in his health and safety report (point 10), that due to safety and welfare “the school must not use this area for practical use”. On what basis/information/evidence was this claim made, when a risk assessment has clearly not been done?

“Was he using the statistics provided by the council for all crime in the whole of Peterborough, as with the previous report in April 2020 on the fence, to come to his conclusion?

“Two further incidents at the school have now been cited as reasons for the fence – including a youth with an ASBO, and another in July 2021 when a dog walker shouted at a teacher (when all the students were behind the existing fence). Do you agree that in both instances fencing the field would have not have prevented either incident?

Size: Please could the council explain to residents why 2.5 pitches were enough last year, but now four are needed? How does this reconcile school and community use?

“Please could the council interpret the Department of Education ‘Area Guidance for Mainstream Schools’ p38/39, which provides government guidance on the size of soft outdoor PE (pitches) required by secondary schools. This guidance seems to show that the school’s interpretation that it requires 64250-71500m2 is vastly inflated. Could a plain English breakdown be provided of the balance within the overall recommended PE provision of tarmac courts, hard courts, artificial grass surfaces and grass pitches for a school the size of Ken Stimpson?

“Could you also confirm that nowhere in this guidance does it say the pitches must be fenced?

“Please can the council also clarify whether previous expansions of the school footprint– which includes playgrounds, hard courts and tarmac areas – have been illegally built on areas protected by a covenant of the field (Area A)? If so, how does the council intend to compensate the residents of Werrington for the loss of protected land?

“If the land is fenced off, what benefit will local residents have from it? Will it be protected from being built on? And what will be done to protect remaining land for public use?

Location: How is a site that was previously deemed by many as unsuitable, now fit for purpose? Bryan Erwin at the Planning Meeting in March 2020 is on the record highlighting the unsafe areas it would create for students and residents, as well as cutting off a much-used route and fragmenting the fields.

Expansion: Where will the expansion of Ken Stimpson stop and what will the public have left of its village centre?

“It seems that instead of being a community school as the name suggests, is more like a greedy corporation growing in the heart of Werrington. It is set to become a privately-owned academy by April next year we believe. And as such if these proposals go ahead the school will have:

• The whole of the area of fields next to Foxcovert and Ainsdale Drive.

• The original area near Swallowfield that still has planning permission for a fence,

valid until 2023.

• The school has already stopped locals using the leisure centre during the day Monday- Fridays.

• We now hear it wants the library as well…

What next? “Finally, what do the council hope to achieve by holding this public meeting? The local community protested at the loss of open space, and now you intend to take even more. If the council intends to just proceed as planned whatever the community think, what is the point of this meeting?”

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