New consultation on plans to fence off land near Peterborough school after lively public meeting

A further public consultation has been launched about the future of Werrington Fields in Peterborough after a lively public meeting on Monday (September 20).

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 7:14 pm
Werrington Fields.

The consultation has been announced after the latest twist in the long-running debate over plans to fence off part of the fields next to Ken Stimpson School that is currently ised as open space by residents.

Parents, staff, residents and campaigners met in the Ken Stimpson Community School hall on Monday (September 20) evening to listen to representations and then to ask questions to Peterborough City Council’s Director of Education Jonathan Lewis, Ken Stimpson School Principal Bryan Erwin and Mike Sanderman, Chief Executive Officer of The Four Cs Academy Trust, which Ken Stimpson will be joining.

The meeting was called after the council found that it had received incorrect legal advice in regards to fencing off the area it had originally intended to (Area A).

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Option 1 for area to be fenced off.

Plans to fence off part of the fields, submitted in December 2019, had received approval from the council’s planning committee before it was found, in a recent review, that in fact the land is held by the council as public open space under a statutory trust for the benefit of the public under Section 10 of the Public Open Spaces Act 1908.

Therefore, a covenant exists that it must be used as public open space.

As a result, two new proposals have been drawn up to fence off an area the size of four football pitches on the opposite side of the field, close to Foxcovert Road (Area C).

The council states that this is under their freehold ownership and forms part of Ken Stimpson school land.

Option 2 for area to be fenced off.

Therefore the land is held by the council for education purposes and has statutory protection under Section 77 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1988.

One of the main grievances for campaigners is that the area being proposed has risen from the size of 2.5 football pitches to four.

Mr Erwin said: “When we assessed our need for physical education, we found that Area A could only house two and half pitches and that was a compromise we were willing to make at the time.

“When it became clearer we were considering Option C, we decided we could have taken six.

A diagram of the school area, showing Area A and C.

“I’m not about to compromise and have second class facilities for PE when other schools have athletics tracks and can do a full range of outdoor sports.

“Every day four classes, approximately 100 students have PE and we can not use the fields because the school, myself and risk assessment experts at the local authority have identified that there is a significant risk.

“We have received significant concerns that have caused significant problems, which we have had to call the police to on numerous occasions.

“Our last sporting event we had to stop because we had two drunks come onto the school fields, we couldn’t control them.”

Mr Erwin then played a video submitted by a sixth-form pupil, who shared why she felt a fence was necessary.

She said: “Having been at the school since Year 7, I, along with my fellow students, have memories of PE lessons being interrupted by various recurring intrusions; dogs off their leads and people walking across our pitches during our lessons.

“At the open walkway straight into our lessons, even if no harm was meant, there were and still are instances of members of the public watching what is taking place out on the field. The lack of a fence causes worry to embed itself in the students, even in the most innocent of situations. All students have the right to feel safe when in school. This could easily be fixed with a fence.

“We are lucky that Werrington has many other green spaces that are easily accessible and close-by to our school. The fence around a small proportion of space close to our school will not mean the residents are unable to exercise or walk their dogs.

“Without the fence, however, we students are unable to access the green spaces; being outside during PE lessons can only have a positive effect on our mental wellbeing and help the students destress/let off steam from the pressures sometimes felt by being in school.”

Mr Sanderman then allayed any fears that there was any possibility of the land being sold of and built upon; insisting that there had never been any conversations on the matter within the trust. It was later confirmed by Mr Lewis that the land would be subject to a 125 year lease, after which time it would be handed back to the council, and could only be used for educational purposes throughout the lease’s duration.

He was then quizzed on the possibility of mobile classrooms being placed on the land, in light of many local schools in the area applying for extra space.

He said: “Our current demography forecast shows that there is no need for further secondary provision to be created. There is enough space, I can’t guarantee but I can look 10 years into the future and say, at the moment, that there is no need for extra provision. What we are actually seeing, as a result of brexit, is a decline in our pupil numbers.”

The two plans differ in terms of whether the pitches will run all the way along the existing wooded area or will be rotated around but both include three access points (two vehicle and one pedestrian) and will be off-set from the school’s existing fence line.

Comments from attendees were critical of the school’s ‘dismissive attitude’ towards campaigners, the fact the meeting was further reduced from 150 attendees to 96, with between 40 and 50 tickets reserved for parents and staff, the cost of the plans, the impact on street scene. Campaigners also asked what alternatives had been considered.

One said: “Werrington is a lovery area, unlike anywhere you get in Peterborough, full of green open space, lovely for the soul.

“How is it going to affect the mental wellbeing of them and the people around here walking and seeing a 2m high fence soon to be graffitied?” Another added: “Why is there not an option which balances what people want, none of us are against the pupils, but why must it be done in a way which decimates the area?”

Mr Erwin confirmed that the school had looked into roping off the area and building a hedge row, as a result of previous consultations but it was decided that neither were robust enough.

The council insists that these two options are not final and they want to work with residents to create a formal community use agreement and to refine plans.

Mr Lewis said: “I’ve come here to listen, as much as anything else; process wise, this is land which sits in the city’s council control, we could put up a fence tomorrow if we wanted but we’re not going to. We’re here to listen, get feedback and then we’ll have a period and make a public decision and we’ll be scrutinised on that.

A new consultation has now been launched and will run until October 5 at 4pm. Any comments on the plans should be sent to [email protected] On October 8, the final decision will then be made by Cllr Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, Skills and the University, and be posted on the council’s website.

After the decision has been made, any councillor that is on a scrutiny committee has the ability to call in the decision and hold another public meeting on the process.