Residents in Peterborough furious at booking system and ‘field tax’ on fenced off land

Residents in Werrington are furious at plans to implement a booking system for land shared with a school that is being fenced off.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 7:29 pm
How the planned fencing will look.
How the planned fencing will look.

Approved plans for fencing around sports pitches in Werrington have left residents ‘furious’ around changes to access to the shared green space.

The public space which has been shared between the community and Ken Stimpson Community School for decades, is being fenced off after plans were approved by Peterborough City council back in January for the erection of 2.4m weldmesh fencing surrounding the 46,000 square metres of land.

Concerns over pupil safeguarding by the school were raised in the application stating the land was ‘uncontrollable; which poses risks to students during physical education activities.

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Residents who use the land adjacent to Staniland Way, were ‘dismayed’ as a new Community Use Agreement (CUA) proposed booking use of the space through an online system with charges applied in some cases.

Werrington resident, Trevor McSparron said he was given a different impression at a consultation meeting held about the proposed fence.

He said: “The principal of Ken Stimpson told me personally that residents would have free access to the space outside school hours.”

Campaigners from ‘Save the Werrington Fields’ group, Nyree Ambarchian and Jenna Maryniak attended a recent meeting to discuss the CUA with the council.

They said in a statement: “There seems to be very little opportunity to get a fair deal.

“We just wonder whether councillors who granted the planning application really knew they were voting for the field tax.

“At a time when green open space is even more important than ever, councillors voted to shut residents out of space intended by the development corporation for them.

“At a recent meeting held with residents, council officers admitted to us that there will be losers when it comes to the CUA.

“Parents with small children and elderly people with limited mobility and disabilities who rely on the green space closest to them are the ones paying the highest price. This is a tax on public open space and it affects the very youngest and very oldest, as well as low income families, disproportionately.”

A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “Having met with local residents following the granting of planning permission, we have considered their concerns and are now proposing to include in the Community Use Agreement (CUA) that the area will be open Monday – Friday 9am to 5pm for unbooked, free activities during non-school term time.

“Any specific (formal) sports activities will still need to be booked during these periods.

“We believe that this arrangement will strike a balance between ensuring we address the school pupil child safeguarding concerns that were the main reason for making the planning the application, the need to maintain a sport friendly space, the push to encourage more formalised sporting activities and the needs of the local residents to access the site.

“Sport England will be consulted to ensure that the CUA arrangements meet the needs for sporting activities in the local areas for their comment and it will be for the Local Planning Authority to ultimately decide if the conditions laid out by the planning committee have been met.

“Once the CUA is agreed, we will review its implementation after an initial three months of operation and then annually thereafter and as part of the review we will engage the Neighbourhood Council for feedback.”

Principal of Ken Stimpson Community School, Bryan Erwin, said: “The local authority is working under the Community Use Agreement to ensure that the fields will be available to the public outside of school hours.

“When the fields have no community sports fixtures booked through Vivacity (not the school), then the space would be open for public use.

“This is no different from the existing arrangement before the lockdown. Residents do not walk through a marked pitch in use or intrude on a sporting fixture.

“The land belongs to the local authority; the installation of the fencing is to address a safeguarding issue to protect the students of the school from any potential threat of using a public space for outdoor sports.

“I wish to put on record that the statement from a small number of residents is once again untrue, and a further attempt to publish incorrect facts.”

Considering the new agreement for charge-free access a ‘small victory’, the ‘Save the Werrington Fields’ group is still pushing for greater access.

Nyree Amberchian said: “We’re still pushing for greater access as it’s very limited at the moment.

“I’d say this goes to show the importance of local people standing up for what they believe in.

“It’s a good start. But this concession from the council doesn’t go far enough. We can’t allow public open space in the city to be fenced off under-the-radar without meaningful and extensive local community consultation. A few posters on lamp-posts doesn’t cut it.”

The petition can be found here.