Cardinal Newman School’s plan to surround the BHASVIC field with a fence to gladden a prison governor’s heart has set alarm bells ringing among locals concerned about losing access to the biggest open space in the area. Posters have gone up around the Dials, and this evening, at a meeting convened by BHASVIC Principal Chris Thomson, a dozen neighbours subjected the plans to polite but devastating scepticism.
While the Council owns the field, Cardinal Newman has the major responsibility for looking after it. Citing concerns about students’ health and safety, including ‘intruders who generate child protection concerns’, it is making a joint application with BHASVIC to fence the whole thing off.
Although Newman has invited comments via its website, the consultation period is less than two weeks (you’ve got till Friday!) and according to one of the people at the BHASVIC discussion, Newman has refused to hold its own public meeting. It’s far from clear why this move is being made in such an apparent rush.
Nor is it clear what kind of access would be permitted at times when there aren’t any students around – which is when local people mostly use the field. Chris Thomson noted that full-sized adult football teams turning up without permission do the pitches no good, and he made it quite clear that he doesn’t think dogs have any place on a field used by students, even if their owners pick up after them. But it would be good to get acknowledgement that much informal use – kids and families kicking a ball around, for example – is healthy, convivial, safe and neighbourly.
Local resident Katherine Ladd suggested that this was in fact what the field was meant to be for, having been given to the local authority by the Goldsmid Estate for the enjoyment of local residents.
However, in recent years the college and the school have seen very different possibilities for the space, encouraging tenders from commercial sports companies to take over large parts of it. There are no current bidders in the frame, but as Katherine Ladd also pointed out, any future private developer would want the field fenced off first.
The Friends of Dyke Road Park have been discussing the field too, here.