TVG Application submitted 14th September 2018

 Please find below a summary of the reasons why We Love Stoke Lodge have submitted a TVG Application. At the base of this page you will find a summary copy of the application. 

 

Application for Town or Village Green status for Stoke Lodge 

An application has been lodged with Bristol City Council to register around 22 acres of green space within the Stoke Lodge estate as a Town or Village Green (TVG). TVG status would protect this historic and beautiful open space from future development and preserve it for schools, local team sports and for informal public recreation and access. 


The community (embodied by a Facebook group We ‘Love’ Stoke Lodge) is seeking to maintain this important, historic and highly-valued open green space. Our objective in this application is to enable a stronger platform for partnership working between the school, the Council and the community and so that we may return to a position of peaceful coexistence on this land, as enjoyed for many generations and for the benefit of future generations. 


Cotham School, which has a lease to use the grounds for school sports, has previously published plans to erect a 2m high perimeter fence around Stoke Lodge and restrict access to the site. The community has put forward compromise solutions that we believe meet the school's safeguarding needs while maintaining open access, but the school has rejected these and continues to maintain a 'fence at all costs' approach. The School's lease is subject to 'existing rights and use of the Property including use by the community'. 


A previous application for TVG status was initially successful but was challenged by the school via judicial review. The school lost on all its substantive arguments at that review; however the High Court found procedural errors in the way that Bristol City Council had reached and recorded its decision to grant TVG status, the key issue being whether two Avon County Council signs were sufficient to mean that community use was not 'as of right' during the early 1990s. The Council accordingly reviewed its decision and, mindful of the public funds that had been spent due to the school's legal challenge, decided not to grant TVG status. 


As a result of the school's attitude and actions, the community has been left with no option but to make a second application for TVG status, based on a later 20-year period after the Avon County Council signs were no longer valid. 


What does this mean for Cotham students and sports groups?

The High Court has ruled that there is NO statutory incompatibility, and in short this means that TVG can be granted and the school and other can STILL use the land for sports. Our objective in this application is to enable a stronger platform for partnership working between the School, the Council and the community and so that we may return to a position of peaceful coexistence on this land, as enjoyed for many generations and for the benefit of future generations.


We have recently commissioned an expert, independent risk assessment of Stoke Lodge and are confident (based on its outcomes) that the School could return to play sports at Stoke Lodge quickly, safely and at a lower cost (than their current plans) if they so wish. Since 2014 the school has voluntarily chosen not to provide sports at Stoke Lodge, saying that this was because the site has no perimeter fence. 


However: 


  • Ofsted has confirmed, contrary to statements by the school, that it does not require schools to put perimeter fencing around detached playing fields.
  • Multiple other Bristol schools provide sports on unfenced playing fields, including on the Downs and at Muller Road Recreation Ground and the Greenway Centre. Cotham School has for several years used Coombe Dingle Sports Centre (CDSC) for sports provision; this site does not have high fencing around its perimeter and public access is available through the site both on foot and by car - the school considers safeguarding to be sufficient at CDSC and we believe there is no reason why the school cannot use Stoke Lodge on the same basis. 


The school is able to reverse its 2014 decision at any time and return to using Stoke Lodge for school sports; the community is only seeking to restore peaceful coexistence between all users of the site, as was the case for nearly 70 years before the school's decision to leave.


What about the Pavilion?

The School has had two applications to replace a derelict Pavilion at Stoke Lodge rejected by the council. It is really important to the community that Cotham’s pupils, other schools and sports groups are able to use the Lodge as soon as possible and have access to changing facilities. 


The community therefore welcomes considered and appropriate plans for a new Pavilion and have therefore excluded the land around the Pavilion in this TVG application so that the School can make a planning application when they so wish. The TVG application does not impact the school or others using the land for sports or making an application to develop the Pavilion.


Why do we believe this will be a successful application?

This NEW application follows a previous application, public inquiry and judicial review. These have been invaluable as findings of the Inspector and Judge are that significant elements of the test (for TVG) have been well established and should not be contentious. This also means that financial burdens processing this application will be minimised for the Council which is very important to us. 

It is important to note that TVG status has no impact on the ability of Cotham School to use the pitches at Stoke Lodge for its school sports. This was one of the clear findings of the High Court's ruling and means that the community's new claim for TVG status is even stronger than before. 


We will provide updates as the application is processed. 

Files coming soon.