Neighbours lose green space to new school

July 11 2016

WORK is under way on a new building for Chester Park Junior School on the Abingdon Road playing field in Fishponds.

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WORK is under way on a new building for Chester Park Junior School on the Abingdon Road playing field in Fishponds.

The development by Skanska for Bristol City Council is going ahead in spite of a last-ditch attempt by residents to save the green space.

They said the council had not given them enough information in good time about the proposals and urged officials to think again and look for a brownfield site instead.

The council says the Chester Park schools need to expand to provide places for the increasing number of children in the area. The new building will mean that the junior school can take 360 children and the infant school – which will take over the old juniors buildings as well as its own – can grow to 270 places.

It points out that the field was first chosen for potential development in 2008 and in 2010 the possibility of using it for housing was put forward, provoking some objections. In 2012, it was mooted as a school site and a consultation event was held the following year. A revised scheme was drawn up in 2015 and a consultation event, attended by 57 people, was held in June that year.

Planning permission for the new school was granted in March. A final public meeting was held on June 20, a week before work started.

Ali Cross, whose home in Abingdon Road backs on to the site, was one of the leading campaigners urging that the site be kept as a green haven for dog walkers, children and families.

She said the sight of bulldozers, fencing and mud at the end of last month was heartbreaking.

“The residents feel very frustrated. We have not been listened to at all,” she said. 

“There’s a huge feeling of our area being destroyed to benefit parents from outside the area.

“The only good thing to come out of it is new friendships and contact between the neighbours. We hope to build on this community spirit by organising street parties and other events.”

The campaigners began by holding  a party on the field on the last day before work began. They also plan to oppose the proposed one-way system for traffic once the new school opens.

The group created a petition last month calling on the council to choose brownfield sites rather than parks for development. It attracted more than 300 signatures without any publicity.

It said: “We appreciate that schools are very important, but would urge the Council to develop the plentiful local brownfield sites instead. What sort of city are we leaving for our kids if the council chooses to destroy the parks, and yet leaves the vandalised wasteland empty? We would urge Bristol City Council to step back and look at the big picture - develop the derelict wasteland, don’t build on the local parks.”