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Frequently Asked Questions

  • When do Cotham School use the playing fields and when can the community in Bristol access the fields?
    The school use the site most days in term time, occasionally at weekends and, of course, barely at all during the school holidays. (However, there could, for example, be holiday schemes in the future). The field will generally be on a free-of-charge basis open for use by the public until dusk each day. Full details of the availability of the fields for public use and organised group lettings are available on the website. Any team or organised group use (formal or informal) must be authorised by Cotham School in order for the school to be able to appropriately manage the site and its pitches/playing surfaces.
  • How much does Cotham School charge for the public to use the sports field?
    The field is free of charge with all works such as grass cutting, pavilion and fence maintenance, and utility costs met by the school. Organised clubs can use the facilities by entering into a letting agreement with the school, please email lettings@cotham.bristol.sch.uk for information and pricing.
  • Can I walk my dog in the fenced area of the playing fields?
    No. As with other school playing fields across the UK, dogs are not allowed on the playing fields inside the fence at any time apart from ‘service dogs’. The perimeter part of the playing fields outside of the fence is accessible to the public including dogs twenty-four hours a day and for most of the year. For clarity ‘service dogs’ must be registered as such and perform duties. The playing field area inside the fence is not to be used for training or general exercise of service dogs.
  • I have found myself locked in the playing field, what should I do?
    Please walk towards the white mower shed building situated near Parrys Lane. There is a green exit button which will release the pedestrian gate by the mower shed. This can be found using the What Three Words app using the reference ///posed.soda.boxing
  • We understand there have been some complicated planning and landlord issues to work through with the Council, are these now resolved?
    Yes. We have worked closely with the City Council to work through the planning, listed building, landscape and landlord issues. Legal opinion confirmed that the playing fields are not within the curtilage of Stoke Lodge House which is a Grade 2 Listed Building. These matters were clarified in 2018. There was no approval required for the installation of the fence or for refurbishing the pavilion.
  • What Welfare facilities will be on-site?
    There are facilities available at the pavilion. These are for staff, students and hirers of the site only.
  • What are you doing with regard to signs on the site?
    We have two main signs that do not require planning approval. There are additional signs advising ‘no dogs beyond this point’ on all pedestrian entrances to the fenced area, there are also signs saying ‘do not climb’ mounted at 60m intervals on both sides of the fence to discourage climbing of the fence.
  • How will you know the site is being used properly?
    We have installed some CCTV cameras on the site. However, we are placing great trust in people to use the site properly and to respect school property. In the unfortunate event of any criminal damage or inappropriate behaviours, we will take necessary action.
  • Are you aware of the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) affecting the site?
    Yes, this is a group TPO, TPO1192 with some separately identified trees. It is the City Council’s responsibility to maintain these trees and undertake any work to them. When planning our fence and pavilion refurbishment we undertook further tree surveys and prepared ‘Arboricultural Method Statements.’ This was to ensure any impact on the trees was minimised. The School submitted at the time all necessary technical documents to the City Council including the plan of the site, the Arboricultural Method Statements and where needed the appropriate Ecology Reports. All documents have been to the council's satisfaction.
  • What types of TPO are there on trees at Stoke Lodge?
    There are 4 types of TPO: 1. Individual TPO. The number at Stoke Lodge on School leased land is 1 2. Group TPO. The number at Stoke Lodge on School leased land is 10 *note any tree in a group TPO is also specified by species 3. Woodland TPO. The number at Stoke Lodge on School leased land is 0 4. Area TPO. The number at Stoke Lodge on School leased land is 0 Please see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tree-preservation-orders-and-trees-in- conservation-areas#tree-preservation-orders--general for further info about TPOs including relevant uses of the various types.
  • Is Cotham School interested in biodiversity?
    Yes, we are keen to run a sustainable and environmentally responsible site as possible. As part of the pavilion refurbishment, we have started this work by adding bike parking to enable people to use their bikes to travel to the fields.
  • What does the reference to ‘community use’ in your lease mean?
    The reference to community use means that Cotham can share its facilities with the wider community of Bristol. On the main site, we lease space to community organisations such as the Saturday morning Arabic School and local sports clubs. This is planned and booked use. At Stoke Lodge we expect local sports clubs and community groups to plan and book the use of the playing fields including where required the use of the pavilion. For these services, there is a letting fee. At Stoke Lodge, we have also said that when the school and other organisations are not using the playing fields then they will be open without charge for informal/recreational public use by residents of Bristol. This informal use is allowed on a trust basis. We will not permit any dogs onto the land within the fence. This is common practice for school playing fields across Bristol and the rest of the UK. Public use is permitted for individual/family-type recreational use and is subject to conditions of use. Organised groups or team use must be expressly approved by the school
  • Will other local schools be able to use the Playing fields?
    Stoke Bishop Primary School continues to have the same access to the playing fields for educational use that it has always done. We envisage that Primary Schools and in some cases other Secondary Schools may also like to make use of the Fields and may do so at the same time as Cotham students are using them. Also that the other members of the NW24 schools group, of which Cotham is a member and in addition, Cotham’s many feeder schools may also wish to use the facilities from time to time.
  • Will it still be possible to walk around the site?
    Yes, it will still be possible to walk around the playing fields, there will be a walkway connecting the main access points to the play area, to Stoke Lodge House and to the local bus stops. Some of this route is school land that the public will be able to use at all times at their own risk. The public will also be able to walk their dogs around the site using this route. Since writing this FAQ members of the public have cleared a path behind Stoke Lodge house. This path was created without the knowledge or permission of the school or Bristol City Council. Cotham School did not create or maintain this particular path.
  • Are you aware that there are three Rights of Way applications on routes that go across the School Playing Fields?
    Yes, we are and we will make the appropriate representations at the point that the City Council considers these applications.
  • Is it true that another Town and Village Green (TVG) application has been submitted for this site?
    Yes, two new TVG applications were submitted in 2018/19 and accepted as duly made by the City Council. The School has been following due process to seek to ensure these TVGs are not allowed. We deeply regret these further challenges and the diversion of funds this has required, but we are committed to protecting our playing fields for future generations. As before we hope to work with the City Council as the landowner, the University of Bristol, local sports clubs and local interested people to ensure this application is not successful.
  • What risk assessments are in place for offsite PE lessons?
    The school has a RISK assessment for Stoke Lodge Playing Fields. The risk assessments have been reviewed and assessed by an appropriately qualified and very experienced Health and Safety Consultant. The school obtains health and safety advice and guidance from highly qualified, knowledgeable, professionals who are experienced in education requirements and laws, including health and safety laws; they also have local knowledge of Bristol and its education requirements. These services are procured through Delegated Services. A Risk assessment (RA) of Stoke Lodge was carried out in 2018 prior to the installation of the fence and was reviewed in 2019 subsequent to the installation of the fence. The RA will be reviewed regularly or more frequently if the need arises along the rest of the school site. As part of the review in 2019 RoSPA has also provided an assessment of our site, the school wished to be sure that the fence installation would not provide an additional risk to users of the site.
  • Has the user group been set up yet?
    A meeting including members of We Love Stoke Lodge and other people from the local community took place.
  • Relationship with the University of Bristol
    Many believe that Cotham School has a close relationship with the University of Bristol; we can confirm that the university has no interest in the land at Stoke Lodge. Cotham School has had in the past a long-established contract with the University for the Grounds Maintenance and management of lettings at Stoke Lodge. The school also rented space at the University’s Coombe Dingle sports site. These contracts have now ceased. Cotham School was grateful that the University worked with the School to defend the first application for a TVG on the school playing fields and that we were able to use Coombe Dingle Sports Complex when we needed to. The contract between the school and the University of Bristol ended on 31 July 2019.
  • Will people be treated as trespassers?
    People will be treated as trespassers if they go onto the school playing fields when they are being used by the school or when the gates are locked and the playing fields are unavailable. Trespassers will be asked to leave immediately. The playing fields are classed as private land which forms part of the school site. Section 547 of the Education Act 1996 applies to Stoke Lodge playing fields and any person without lawful authority to be present on the premises (including playing fields) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine. Persons including a Police Officer who have been authorised to exercise the powers of section 547 and has reasonable cause to suspect that any person is committing or has committed an offence under this section may remove the person from the site. The section 547 Officers for the school are currently the Headteacher, Director of Finance and Resources, Deputy Director of Finance and Resources and Assistant Facilities Manager. The school has the right to add other roles to the list of Section 547 Officers as required. Any users (including groups or teams, formal or informal) that are using the site not in accordance with the terms or conditions of use can/will be requested to leave the site at any time in accordance with the above.
  • Is it true that there has been a lot of vandalism at Stoke Lodge Playing fields?
    Yes, there has been a great deal of criminal damage including graffiti on the pavilion and groundsman hut, uplifting and defacing of signs, litter not disposed of, deliberate damage to the surface of the sports pitches, damage to the new fence and vehicles driving on the playing fields. We would be grateful if members of the public could desist from these criminal acts of vandalism. Clearly, Cotham School cannot condone criminal activities; all these criminal acts of vandalism have been reported to the police and we have now put in place additional security measures. The financial cost to the school has been considerable and has caused money set aside for the running of the school needing to be diverted to repair the damage. If you see any suspicious behaviour please report it to both the school and the police.
  • Are there specific conditions of use for the playing field?
    Yes, conditions of use for individuals on the playing field are listed on this website under "Conditions of Use".
  • Is there any specific guidance that says school sites should be fenced?
    Yes, draft guidance was first published by gov.uk in November 2018 indicating that school site perimeters should be secured using a number of methods including fences. Following consultation on the draft guidance the final published guidance reads: 1.1 Perimeter The boundary is the first line of defence and should be protected with a secure fence or railings such as Weldmesh fencing to BS1722 or expanded metal or railings over 2.0m high. More info regarding published guidance to schools can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-and-college-security/site-security-guidance
  • Why does the school use CCTV on the site at Stoke Lodge and does it record all the time?
    The cameras that have been installed are recording footage twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to maintain the security of the site, this is perfectly normal for a school site, we also have CCTV on our main school site on Cotham Lawn Road. It also provides reassurance during the day when lessons are taking place and for organisations such as our insurers. We will be able to investigate incidents that occur during or outside of the school day. We will and do provide evidence to our insurers and the police should incidents occur that we need to report to either of these organisations. The CCTV also enables us to manage any hazards before the students undertake their daily lessons that we would need to address, to ensure that our students and staff will be safe whilst on the fields.
  • Have any incidents occurred since CCTV was installed that you have needed to view the footage for?
    Since the CCTV has been in operation there have unfortunately been many incidents including criminal damage to the fence, trespass, dog walking inside the fence, antisocial behaviour including the consumption of alcohol - this has been on more than one occasion, graffiti and left litter. The majority of these have been reported to the police. We risk assessed the school site at Stoke Lodge and installed a fence to control the hazards identified in the RISK assessment. A high-risk hazard identified is the exposure to 'dog faeces' and the health risks this presents to our students, staff and local sports groups who are letting customers. This is why the permission given by the school to members of the public to use the playing fields specifically makes it clear through signage that dogs are not permitted inside the fence. If an incident is reported to us that dogs have been seen inside the fence, then we will want to verify this to assess if there is a risk to students, staff and local sports clubs from dog faeces. This will inform whether we need to dispatch staff to undertake a 'clean up' exercise before students use the site that day. The most efficient method of assessment for us is to use CCTV footage to undertake this assessment. This is what has happened in the past when we have undertaken investigations into complaints of dogs inside the fence on the fields.
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