PLANS for a security fence around a Sheffield school have divided the community on the grounds that it would restrict public use of playing fields.
Residents are campaigning against a 2.4 metre green mesh fence going up on fields next to Hallam Primary School which they say have been used for 50 years for recreation, including dog walking and ball games.
Objectors say they recognise the school’s need to protect its children and premises but its current strategy takes no account of the community’s desire to protect the open space. They are pushing for an alternative solution that involves fencing the lower part of the field.
Meanwhile, they are making an application to protect the upper section, nearer Redmires Road, through declaration as a village green.
Hallam MP Clegg and council leader Paul Scriven are being urged to step in to protect public access to the land, which accommodates Hallam Community Hall.
The school requires council permission for the fence, which it says would provide secure grounds for pupils.
In a submission to the council it says: “There are three public rights of way next to the key stage 2 building and play areas with no physical barrier to stop members of the public or dogs having access to the playgrounds before, during and after school time.
“Currently broken glass bottles, dog dirt and other dangerous and unpleasant items have to be cleared from the grounds each morning before pupils arrive.”
The school, off Hallam Grange Crescent, adds it suffers from “vandalism, graffiti, arson and has even been broken into. Repairing the damage has cost the school significant amounts of money which could otherwise have been spent on learning resources.”
The fence would allow play and other equipment to be kept outdoors permanently, helping to encourage physical activity and learning about the environment, it is further argued. And a Community Use Agreement is planned to allow sports and other groups to use the fields at times when the school is not using them.
Residents complain that they would need to have keys to locked gates to use the fields if permission is granted to the school. Hallam Field passed into the ownership of the city in 1961, says a letter to Paul Scriven.
“Since then, or even before, the community has had free access to it and used it as a right for many and varied forms of exercise and recreation. It is the lungs of the community. In some cases three generations of the same family are still using it. They can see no good reason for a school of the size of Hallam Primary needing this amount of open space, which is greatly in excess of the guidelines set by the Department for Education.”
One objector says: “This field is used by very many of the local community and has been for at least 50 years, before the school was in existence. It provides a much-needed green space for recreational activities. It is difficult to see where people, especially those to the east side, could reasonably go as an alternative. Many older people rely on the field for (responsible) exercising of their dogs and for meeting up with fellow walkers.”
Complaints are also being made to the council that a proposed relocation of the school car park may cause a hazard for children and other pedestrians on the basis that they would have to walk through it from the bottom of the Redmires Road path to the school entrance.
The idea of a village green for the northern part of the fields has won support from 170 residents’ questionnaires and the council is being told it would be “foolhardy” for the fence to go up in the meantime.
Instead the authority should get everyone around a table “and really get things talked through thoroughly and fairly”.
The school says it has made a revised application after an agreement with community centre representatives, adding: The school and governors have spent many months discussing the fencing proposals and listening to all interested parties’ views.
“The governors have tried very hard to accommodate various groups’ ideas and views whilst ensuring that the new plan still provides the school with the high standards of safeguarding and facilities that many other schools in the city enjoy.”