For those who don’t know, Stoke Lodge is a site in Stoke Bishop owned by the Council comprising Stoke Lodge House (which runs adult learning courses), a children’s play area and open green space of c26 acres used by residents for decades for walking, informal sport, exercising dogs, and general recreation. The main house and the walls, which wrap around the site, are both Grade 2 listed and so have planning protections.
At the moment there is a battle raging between the local community and Cotham School. The School is trying enclose the grounds with a 1.5km long, 2m high fence (paid for by you the taxpayer via a Dept of Education grant!) in order to ‘safeguard’ their pupils when playing sport at Stoke Lodge. This would effectively bar the local community from using the site as they do now - losing a precious green space of which there are so few nowadays.
I believe that Cotham School’s plans are seriously misguided. Fencing is not required to secure the site for the school’s sports activities. Ofsted have made it clear that a fence is not required for safeguarding and for many years Cotham School have played sport at Coombe Dingle Sports Centre , which has no fence !!
Now we are at the point, where a strong grass roots campaign group ‘We Love Stoke Lodge’, robustly supported by Councillors and politicians (from across the political spectrum) are working together to try and preserve open access to Stoke Lodge for the community. Fighting to protect open access for everyone, we supported the Town and Village Green Application and, once that fell through, have continued to provide assistance to empower the ‘We Love Stoke Lodge’ campaign group.
One of the acute problems we have at the moment is that previously the Council had informed the School that, because the main house and walls were listed, no fence could be erected without first obtaining full planning permission. Then, at the end of November, the Council’s advice suddenly changed and the School were told that the fencing would be covered by ‘permitted development’ and NOT require planning permission. This does seem a bizarre change of mind and understandably there is now a prospect of legal challenge to this decision by residents.
We are objecting strongly to this change of advice by the Council and have now written:
1) to the School urging them to think again and asking them to meet with councillors and residents;
2) to the Mayor and Council’s Chief Executive asking them to intervene to restore the original advice;
3) to the Secretary of State for Education asking whether the grant for the fence should be paused for fear that taxpayers’ money could be spent on fencing that might subsequently need to come down.
You can read copies of these letters below.
This is obviously a quick snap shot but you can find out plenty more about what is going on at welovestokelodge.co.uk. Do please take a read and get involved.