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|Park plan: School ‘delighted’ by public inquiry outcome|
|Thursday, 30 March 2017 11:53|
Updated Bitterne Park Primary has said it is “delighted” with the outcome of the recent public inquiry concerning the footpath that currently runs behind the school, as revealed last week by bitternepark.info.
The government’s inspector confirmed that plans – outlined in planning permission granted in 2015 – for “stopping up” the existing path behind the school and diverting it round the field behind in Riverside Park, could go ahead.
This means the school can finally enclose part of Riverside Park in the manner it wishes. It will be reserved mainly for the school’s own use, although it will be open to the public during holidays and bookable by groups out of school hours.
'Free of the limitations of a concrete yard'
Chair of governors Howard Whitehead, left, told bitternepark.info that the decision means that “children who attend Bitterne Park Primary, now and for generations to come, will finally have unfettered access to a clean, safe, secure green space. The green space will enrich all of the children’s learning and allow them to play on a grass field, free of the limitations of a concrete yard.”
“In addition to the benefit to the school and its children, this rather run down area will be regenerated, including the construction of a new pathway around the green space, providing full access to Riverside Park.
“It is also important to re-emphasise that all of our community will benefit, as everyone will be able to have free bookable access to the green space for private events. During the Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays, the area will be freely accessible for everyone’s enjoyment.”
The news received a strong positive reaction on our own Facebook page, although the plan has always been controversial since it emerged in 2007.
Eleven objectors spoke at the public enquiry in February, and the inspector said in his report: “Clearly there are a large number of additional people who have objected to the diversion or submitted a representation in support of the proposal.”
Doug Perry, chair of the Riverside Park friends group (FORP), left, who completed his own education at the schools in 1946, and who objected at the public enquiry, said he was disappointed with the outcome, but stressed that the group would continue to improve Riverside Park “for all of Southampton to enjoy”.
He said that rerouting the path would mean a 282-metre diversion, and that one of his concerns has been for the elderly and disabled. “If you get someone on a walking frame, or even on walking sticks, it’s difficult, that amount of walking,” he said.
“I was disappointed, because we put a case, and there were a lot of objections, and I don’t think they ever thought of disabled people. It’s been an open pathway since 1901.”
The planning inspector, however, puts the increased distance at "approximately 182 metres between points A-B that would arise out of the diversion"*, and said in his order decision:
“The increased distance could impact upon some local residents, particularly those with limited mobility. However, the extra distance needs to be balanced against the other issues outlined above. In terms of access to the park and the play area, I am not satisfied that the evidence presented to the inquiry indicates that the extra distance would have a significant impact on local residents. Furthermore, the location of the footpath suggests that it is used to a large extent for recreational purposes, such as dog walking or as part of a longer route. This was evident to some extent during my visits to the site. In this sense the extra distance is unlikely to be problematic.”
So when will the work to enclose the field and on the footpath be complete?
Chair of governors Howard Whitehead said: “It would be great… if the green space would be ready for the new year in September, but clearly some of this is in the control of the local authority, as they are building the path.”
* Point 21 in the above order determination. Article updated 3/4/17 to include this point.
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