Bid for common ground over school fence row

A CONTROVERSY over a proposed security fence at a Sheffield school remained unresolved this week as councillors shelved a verdict under pressure from both sides.

They want Hallam Primary School and its critics to try to reach agreement on community use of the fields before finally deciding whether to grant permission for a 2.4m fence.

The scheme has divided the community around Lodge Moor, Fulwood and Sandygate, with the school saying better security is needed for pupils and objectors fearing being denied access to the land they have used for more than 40 years.

Representatives of both sides went to the town hall on Tuesday to make their respective cases but no conclusion was reached after 90 minutes, other than councillors asking the school and the community to attempt to agree on the terms of public access if the field is fenced off. A community use agreement will be a condition of any planning permission.

The school submitted a draft agreement but critics said it would be practically of no use to the people who regularly use it, especially dog walkers. They say the school has not made a compelling case for fencing off the entire field.

However, governor Richard Atkinson told councillors the fence was needed to allow pupils to use the field safely. He said used condoms and “drug paraphernalia” had been found and no play equipment could be installed because of vandalism.

Planning agent Nigel Cussen said the school’s “fall-back position” was to build a 2m fence, which would not require planning permission. He said the “benefit” of the 2.4m fence was that it would come with a community use agreement, allowing groups controlled access from 6pm to 8pm each day.

Coun Garry Weatherall supported the application. He said : “It’s only luck that the school is still in one piece. There have already been several fires and vandalism is happening all the time.”

But Coun Arthur Dunworth said: “What we have before us is an act of enclosure. I think the school is trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. Are we going to have ghettos and no-go areas? The school wants more space for itself but it wants it by taking it away from other people. What kind of example is that for the kids?”

Coun Denise Reaney added: “When I think what it cost me to put up a short length of fence in my garden, it gets me thinking what this will cost. I would like this money to be put towards the children’s education, not creating a ghetto which excludes the community.”

Councillors voted five to three to defer the decision for the two sides to reach a “meaningful” agreement.

The issue will be discussed again in six weeks.