New row over playing fields

A fresh row has erupted between Cotham School and campaigners trying to secure open access to Stoke Lodge playing fields.

The campaigners say a criminal damage allegation against one of their supporters has been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

But they say the 76 year old man involved was “offended and outraged” by evidence submitted by a school employee.

We Love Stoke Lodge (WLSL) action group have now called on the school to investigate and apologise to the man.

The Voice has contacted the school, but at the time of going to print has had no response.

The investigation was into claims that in May 2022 someone put sticky tape on metal boxes by the park gates, blocking hidden CCTV cameras installed by the school in January that year.

WLSL said the CPS had written to the man last month saying the criminal damage case had been dropped because “there was no realistic prospect of conviction.”

WLSL said: “We do not know why the prosecution was being brought – this is alleged to have happened in May 2022. The school have said the hidden cameras were in place in January, but local people didn’t know about them until we published the fact in October.”

The group have been campaigning to have the 26 acre site kept open for public use. The school, which uses the area as playing fields, put up fences around much of it in early 2019, despite local objections. The site is open for public use at restricted times.

WLSL has applied to have the playing field designated as a Town or Village Green, and in independent inspector was due to report on the proposal in March.  Bristol City Council’s Public Rights of Way and Greens Committee will then decide the application.

In October 2022 the Voice reported that WLSL had complained that metal boxes by gateways into the area contained hidden CCTV cameras.

Cotham School said at the time that two covert cameras had been “reluctantly” installed because of repeated vandalism of gates and fences.

In January the Information Commissioner’s Office said the covert CCTV cameras were not compatible with GDPR guidelines. 

The school said following ICO advice and “concerns from the public” it agreed to delete all historic footage from the cameras, and install “enhanced” signage, warning people that the CCTV cameras were in place.

In February a planning application for a CCTV camera pole was rejected by the council.