Clash between parish council and school over ‘vital’ playing fiel

PUBLISHED: 17:37 23 November 2018

Councillors Jill Ingle, Alan Cook, Jessica Bailey, Jo Talbot and Christopher Hall outside the playing field. Picture: West Hill Parish Council

Councillors Jill Ingle, Alan Cook, Jessica Bailey, Jo Talbot and Christopher Hall outside the playing field. Picture: West Hill Parish Council

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A six-month debate has been raging regarding the public use of the school’s playing field.

Councillors Jill Ingle, Alan Cook, Jessica Bailey, Jo Talbot and Christopher Hall outside the playing field. Picture: West Hill Parish CouncilCouncillors Jill Ingle, Alan Cook, Jessica Bailey, Jo Talbot and Christopher Hall outside the playing field. Picture: West Hill Parish Council

West Hill Parish Council and The Smile Learning Trust have been embroiled in a back and forth as the parish council seeks to re-establish the public’s access to the playing field.

In a statement released on Monday (November 19), the parish council said the decision to exclude the community from the playing field was a breach of an arrangement that has lasted 30 years and was ‘a source of frustration and disappointment’

The parish council says an original agreement between the community and Devon County Council (DCC) was set up in the 1980s and that the playing field was vital to the community, however locked gates were installed two years ago, preventing public access.

The school is part of The Smile Learning Trust, which responded to a letter from the parish council saying they saw ‘no benefit’ in allowing public access.

The parish council said it was ‘shocked and dismayed’ at the trust’s response and has previously applied to register the field as an asset of community value to ensure that it cannot be sold without consulting the public. However, the school objected and the determination of the application now rests in the hands of East Devon District Council.

Cllr Margaret Hall, Chair of West Hill Parish Council, said: “The parish council believes that the community needs to work together as a whole. The parish council is willing to support the school with funding or in other ways to address any concerns that it has with the use of the field.”

In a letter to the parish council, the trust listed a number of reasons it would not open the fields, citing antisocial behaviour, safeguarding and vandalism.

A letter to parents from the school also states the decision to not leave the playing field open is supported by DCC and the police.

The Herald received a letter from Christopher Hall, a councillor on West Hill Parish Council and a grandparent of a West Hill pupil, about the topic.

He said: “At a time when a significant proportion of the population is obese, which includes a third of school children, it is puzzling and disappointing that the school is preventing access to the only open green space in the village.”

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