Work on controversial fence delayed

January 24 2019
Work on controversial fence delayed

PROTESTS are continuing over work to install a controversial fence at Stoke Lodge playing fields on behalf of Cotham School.

Residents turned out in force on January 14 to prevent the contractors hired by the school from digging near the protected trees that line the playing fields.  

Instead, council officers and the school’s staff  have been devising a revised plan to take account of trees with protection orders, one of which is Bristol’s Tree of the Year. 

Protests had continued into a second week as the Voice went to print, with both sides in a bitter argument about access to the site. 

Cotham School described the actions of protesters as “outrageous behaviour” preventing them from securing the fields.

The school has a 125-year lease from Bristol University to use the council-owned Stoke Lodge site.  However, it hasn’t used the facility for PE lessons for the last five years because of concerns over safeguarding. Instead, the school has been paying to use facilities at Coombe Dingle.

A protracted legal battle has occurred to try to prevent the erection of a 1.5km long and 2m high fence around the playing field. The community are concerned that residents will be excluded from a large part of a publicly owned asset, while the school says it is not safe for people and their dogs to have access to the site while lessons are taking place.

Stoke Bishop councillor John Goulandris said: “Stoke Lodge has been a shared community asset since the 1940s. 

“Ofsted have said in writing that there is no requirement for a fence and this fence comes very close to some wonderful, protected trees. The fence line has been amended but they are still working in the tree zone. I see this fence as an act of gross, environmental vandalism."

Emma Burgess from campaign group ‘We Love Stoke Lodge’ said: “We aren’t saying that this shouldn’t be a shared open space. We are willing to look at different types of fencing and ways of achieving the safeguarding aims.”

Justice for Cotham School have been filming dogs on the site and posting the footage on Twitter stating: “Low level nuisance from uncontrolled dogs is disastrous for PE with 1 teacher and 30 kids.”