Bristol head teacher pleads for Stoke Lodge vandalism to stop

bristol head teacher pleads for stoke lodge vandalism to stop - Bristol head teacher pleads for Stoke Lodge vandalism to stop
Image caption Cotham School says fencing has been vandalised in recent days

A head teacher has pleaded for the vandalism of her school’s playing fields to stop.

A long-running row over Cotham School’s use of Stoke Lodge in Bristol, which is leased to the school by the city council, has flared up again due to coronavirus restrictions.

The school had been unlocking the gates to allow locals to use the green space when lessons were not taking place.

The site has now been locked due to government advice.

However, some locals maintain the land should still be theirs to use.

In the past week fence panels have been removed and security cameras damaged.

Image caption The land was sold to the council in 1947 for educational use

Cotham School is three miles away from Stoke Lodge but the council granted it a 125-year lease for part of the space in 2011.

Conflict with residents escalated in March 2019 when the school fenced off its part of the land, a decision it said was to allow uninterrupted lessons and safeguard staff and students.

Head teacher Jo Butler said vandalism had increased since the school had locked the site 24-hours-a-day.

“I would very much like this to stop,” said Mrs Butler.

“Vandalism is nothing new, but it has increased since we locked the gates. We’ve had to stop replacing fence panels now because we cannot be constantly sending people up there.”

‘Deeply unfair’

Campaign group We Love Stoke Lodge said locking the gates prevented people exercising during the coronavirus restrictions.

Helen Powell from the group said: “It seems extraordinary and a real kick in the teeth.

“If you don’t have a car it is deeply unfair on people, especially when we know the land that is there, and you should have access to it.

“We do not condone vandalism of any kind but do understand where the anger comes from.”

Insp Chris Starr of Avon and Somerset Police confirmed the force was investigating the damage.

“We are conscious of the long-running sensitivities around access to the site, which appear to have heightened in recent weeks,” he said.

“However, we would ask all parties to act responsibly at this difficult time. As a police force we must prioritise jobs by the threat, harm and risk posed and would ask everyone to support us in doing this.”

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