Leen Mills expansion angers neighbours

PLANS to extend Leen Mills School and fence off the playing field has outraged the neighbouring community.

Nottinghamshire County Council has submitted detailed plans to build an extra classroom as well as 2.4m security fencing around the perimeter of their land, which effectively cuts off the community.

Residents overlooking the field say they will have their views blighted by the green grid fencing.

Access to the surrounding green space will also be denied, a move which has provoked a petition objecting to the scheme.

“The fence will make us feel like we are all in a prison camp,” said Arthur Fox-Smith, who lives on Windsor Close, and started the petition. “It is diabolical and too high. I just don’t think it’s right.

“We will fight the proposals as many neighbours feel the same way.”

His wife agrees and says she remembers times when their children, grandchildren and now their great grandcildren used the field to play on.

“This is the only space in the area now where children can come and play,” added Joan. “There have been some anti-social problems in the past but that has been sorted now.

“If this is closed off where will youngsters go?”

The feelings are echoed by countless residents who have been accessing the playing field since the houses were first built in the 1970s.

Neil Broome, who lives on Balmoral Grove, and is also objecting to the proposals.

“This is the only free space in the area since they developed the land on Wigwam Lane,” said Mr Broome. “When my kids were young they always played there and we used to fly kites and play football.

“It is a lovely open area and it is going to be spoilt.”

Mr Broome is also concerned about the implications of the extra classroom.

“Traffic at school times is a problem and with more kids come more cars. They are already struggling to park here and the problem will only get worse.”

Sandra Straw, who has lived on Buckingham Avenue since 1975, said: “Having such a high fence outside my window is just unacceptable. For years I have watched children playing here and having fun and now the only other option will be to travel to Titchfield Park.”

June Wesley has the same objections. She said: “My first concern is the safety of the children, but the fence will be an eyesore as it will be only a footpath width distance from the edge of my property.”

John White, headteacher of Leen Mills Primary, said it was early days in the scheme and that a consultation with the community is ongoing.

“The school is part of the community and we will do what we can to make the neighbours happy,” said Mr White who has been head for 18 years.

“We are hoping to reach a compromise and are in discussions with councillors and officers from County Hall to come up with alternative proposals.”

The new classroom is needed as the school is oversubscribed due to new developments in the area. The extra space will enable classes to be taught in individual year groups which are currently mixed in key stage two.

“Once we get this extra classroom there will be no need for further expansion as internal modifications we have planned will give us what we need,” explained Mr White. “The problem we have is that there really isn’t enough grassed area for pupils at the moment.

“However we are prepared to work with the community to come up with a solution.”

Nottinghamshire County Council’s children, families and cultural services service director John True said the council have heard the concerns of the community and are planning to amend the original plans regarding the fencing.

“We plan to remove the proposal for 2.4m high security fencing around the school playing field area,” said Mr True. “A note will be added to the amended application stating that we still need to find a way of securing the playing field for the school to readily use on a day-to-day basis, not only because it currently doesn’t provide a secure environment for safeguarding purposes, but also because of considerable health and safety risks it presents: dog faeces, broken glass, litter and anti-social behaviour. The other smaller playing field which falls within the school boundary is inadequate for its needs.

“We are committed to working with the school and the local community to find a way forward. We must stress though that whilst we recognise that the playing field is a community asset, it does form an important part of the school site at Leen Mills.”