School's protective fence plan prompts neighbour complaints

St. Joseph's has had youths enter its grounds after hours
St. Joseph's has had youths enter its grounds after hours
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A primary school in Chorley has been asked to rethink plans for a near eight feet-high fence around its perimeter.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Anderton wants to erect the 2.4 metre barrier along the edge of the Rothwell Road site and playing fields, after being advised that it was the best way to protect the grounds from intruders.

But members of Chorley Council’s development control committee deferred a decision on the proposal after neighbouring households claimed they would feel like they were “living in a cage”.

Councillors were also told that the school had failed to discuss a possible compromise with the authority that would avoid the creation of a metre-wide corridor at the back of nearby properties - which residents feared could become unkempt and attract anti-social behaviour.

But the school said it had to make the safety of pupils a priority and added that the Archdiocese of Liverpool - which has ultimate responsibility for St. Joseph’s - manages its grounds.

Anderton parish councillor Ian Horsfield told the meeting that the narrow track around the boundary would introduce “a potential source of vulnerability both to the school and households”.

And according to local resident Malcolm Cook, the proposed fencing - which would be a mesh design and contain gates at various points - was “excessive and unnecessary”.

Deputy leader of the council, Peter Wilson, said that the need to safeguard the school was “an absolute given”, but added that he supported locals who were concerned that the fencing would worsen overgrowth at the back their homes.

Speaking after the meeting, the school’s headteacher, Fiona Brownsey, defended the proposal and said that there had been several incidents of youths gaining access to the school grounds after it was closed.

“We have a safeguarding policy which we have to adhere to in order to make the school as safe as possible. But we live as part of a community and want to maintain good relationships with our neighbours,” Mrs. Brownsey said.

She said that the reason the new fence had been set back from an existing lower barrier at the boundary was so that nobody could use one as a way of climbing over the other.

And the headteacher rejected a suggestion by Chorley planning manager Adele Hayes that it had “not taken seriously the council’s concerns”.

“The Archdiocese works on the school’s behalf and so we haven’t been party to the discussions directly. We’ll respond to the deferral of the decision and will have to go back to discussions with the Archdiocese and its architects,” Mrs. Brownsey said.

Council officers had recommended committee members approve the proposal, but it will now be reconsidered at a later date.

Under planning rules, the school could erect a 2 metre-high fence without seeking permission.