Gates to fenced off land near Peterborough school to remain ‘unlocked’ after residents’ protests

Peterborough City Council has said controversial gates to fencing placed around public land next to a city school will remain unlocked.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 8:33 am
MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow talking to protesters on the playing fields in October this year.

Residents in Werrington have campaigned against plans for fencing to be placed around three sports pitches which have been used as shared green space for decades.

The plans, which were submitted in January this year by Peterborough City Council, were put forward because of safeguarding concerns at Ken Stimpson Community School.

The planning application stated the site was: “uncontrollable, which poses risks to students during physical education activities.”

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Werrington residents protest against a fence being erected around the playing fields behind Ken Stimpson School in October.

The scheme included erecting 2.4 metre weldmesh fences surrounding all three pitches, blocking in 46,000 square metres of green space.

At that stage the plans included the opportunity for the public to book time in the fields.

The plans prompted a huge backlash from the local community - including a protest march in October and a petition signed by hundreds of residents.

Now the city council says gates to the fenced off area will remain unlocked so residents can access the green space.Cllr Lynne Ayres, Cabinet member for education, said: “Since deciding to install a fence on this site to safeguard the pupils of Ken Stimpson Community School, we have taken account of advice and support from Werrington councillor John Fox and city MP Paul Bristow to achieve compromises.

Work is due to start soon

“We have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by some local residents over the height of the fence and the potential loss of access to public land.

“We took these views seriously and have worked tirelessly to achieve solutions that would meet both the needs of the school children to participate in outside sports in a safe environment and of local residents to use the open space.

“We can now confirm that gates to the fenced area will remain unlocked meaning the land will be accessible to members of the public at all times.

“This will ensure that it can continue to be used as a Public Open Space for recreation, walking and other much-valued activities. We will also continue to work with the school to ensure the safety of their pupils is maintained.

“The fence has been designed to blend into the landscape to minimise its visual impact and following continued discussions with local representatives it will be 2 metres in height, which is lower than originally planned, but in line with minimum requirements set out by the Department for Education in guidance published in November 2019.

“We firmly believe that these arrangements will strike a balance between education, safeguarding concerns and the needs of the local community to be able to access a sport and leisure friendly space.”

Bryan Erwin, Principal of Ken Stimpson Community School, said: “With public access to the land being maintained, we will put in place our own risk assessment to manage lessons on the site. We will be working with the Council’s Education Department over the coming weeks to implement this, with the safety of our pupils our utmost priority.

“Our pupils deserve to have the quality of their outdoor physical education to the highest standards possible and comparable to other schools locally and nationally. This development will ensure we can achieve this and fulfil our curriculum.”