Peterborough campaign group offer compromise to find solution in long-running battle over school playing fields
A campaign group has offered a compromise in order to bring to an end to the long-running battle over the future of school playing fields in Peterborough.
Over the last two years, Save Werrington Fields has been campaigning against Peterborough City Council and Ken Stimpson Community School’s plans to fence off an area of land outside the school, which has had open public access for over 40 years.
The latest plans put forward, which are up for public consultation until October 19, are for a 2m high fence to be placed around an area the size of four football pitches adjacent to Foxcovert Road.
The school does not currently allow its pupils to use the site, citing safeguarding concerns. This is a claim that campaigners continue to say is an overreaction.
After a public meeting last month (September 20), the council invited members of the public to share their views and to help it to make any necessary amendments to the current plans.
The group are not satisfied with this though, and have been seeking legal advice over the council’s claims that they do not need planning permission for the fence now that the proposed site of the fence has now moved to a different area of the fields from the site first proposed.
The group has challenged the council’s assertion that the area is “school land” and, in an open letter to senior council representatives, described the proposals as “illegal unjustified, unreasonable and inflammatory to the community.”
The group has, however, recognised the detrimental effect the ongoing wranglings are having and has offered a compromise.
Campaigners are willing to agree to the fencing of two pitches immediately south of the school, with a fence that is no higher than 1.5m. The gates of these would be left unlocked when not in use by students.
They have also asked for a legally binding agreement that no further parts of the land will be taken for school use and that the land that would be taken, would only ever be used as a school playing field.
An extract from the open letter states the campaigner’s rationale. It states: “- A smaller area, lower fencing and access outside lesson times would fall under the permitted development exemption to planning permission.
- This option will fit much more neatly into the corner of the field next to the school.
- The ‘Environment Impact’ will be dramatically lessened as it won’t fragment the field into two sections, and the lower fencing will retain an open aspect.
- The narrow alley ways (identified by WNC and Mr Erwin at the March 2020 planning meeting), attracting antisocial behaviour around the field, will be kept to a minimum and again be much more open with a lower fencing.
- Access from Foxcovert and Goodwin Walk / Ainsdale Drive will still be possible to the rest of the fields, and the right of way will not be significantly impacted.
- The school will have an area that is for their use only during school hours, plus the use of the rest of the fields as they’ve always done for Sports Days etc.
- The fenced area could even be astro-turfed for year-round use and to save the need for ‘rotation’.”
The letter then concludes: “If the council proceeds with its current proposal of 4 pitches, with a 2m high fence and limited public access, we are advised that there would be grounds for a judicial review of process due to the requirement of planning permission for a development such as this.
“We believe this proposal for a compromise satisfies the limits of permitted development and is a fair compromise that provides the school with a fenced area that mitigates the risks the school suggests are a problem, but also minimises the impact on the rest of the community.
“It is not our desired outcome, but we believe the Werrington community recognise the benefit of resolving this long and expensive conflict. We hope the school will be willing to work with the community it claims to serve, and that the council will help balance the needs of the school with those of local residents.
“We request a meeting with the council and a small group of interested parties, including our local councillors, Werrington Neighbourhood Council and the school ¬– to discuss our proposal.
“We suggest that meeting on the field (or including a site visit) would be uniquely helpful in visualising the various proposals and the impact of the options.”
A full copy of the letter can be found on the Save Werrington Fields Facebook group.