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Blues move to Birchwood? 'We have no preferred option for use of Pearse House field and no agreement with Bishop's Stortford Football Club'



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By Dr Chris Ingate, principal of Birchwood High School in Parsonage Lane, Bishop’s Stortford...

I was sorry to read the letter by Rob Walker ("Just what is Birchwood hiding from us?", Indie, May 18). As a school, we believe in being an integral part of our local community, and I would like to clarify some points relating to issues raised in the letter. These principally focus on Mr Walker’s concerns regarding the possibility of relocating Bishop’s Stortford Football Club.

Birchwood is keen to ensure that our facilities are kept up to date and well maintained. One significant area of interest for governors is the detached playing field opposite the school. This 3.5ha piece of land is owned by the school and is currently used for some outdoor PE lessons. However, it is poorly drained and has limited use in winter months.

Placards outside homes in Parsonage Lane opposed to the suggestion of Bishop's Stortford FC relocating nearby
Placards outside homes in Parsonage Lane opposed to the suggestion of Bishop's Stortford FC relocating nearby

In June last year we published plans for potential redevelopment of the site to provide new and updated facilities for the school and the local community. Those plans included details of what an involvement of Bishop’s Stortford FC might look like alongside some other plans to enhance sport and recreation for our students and local residents. There was no formal agreement with BSFC.

We have taken on board feedback from local stakeholders, and we feel that all potential options need to be considered before any decision is made as to next steps. As a result, we are exploring these different options and plan to appoint an external project management team to help us with this process.

Our key aim is to enhance sporting useage by students during the day and further support our strong community programme in the evenings and at weekends. Once we are clearer about these options, the school will organise a further public consultation event to gauge views and suggestions. There is, therefore, no preferred option and no agreement at this point in time.

Initial plans for Birchwood High School's new sports and leisure complex (56850468)
Initial plans for Birchwood High School's new sports and leisure complex (56850468)

Towards the end of his letter, Mr Walker turns his ire towards the school’s chair of governors. This is unfair and unwarranted. We gave notice to Parsonage Residents Association (PRA) that we would be happy to attend its AGM meeting on April 24 and it was agreed that questions would be submitted in advance.

Alongside other matters under discussion, such as reducing the speed limit on Parsonage Lane to 20mph (which I would fully support), we were informed only one question was with regards to the detached playing field – which focused on the involvement of BSFC. As set out above, there are no agreements between the school and BSFC, and trustees have not yet made any decision. We liaised with the chair of the PRA and have agreed to engage with local residents once we are clearer on our options.

As principal, I am very proud of our school, its 1,400 students and 140 members of staff who, like many people-centred organisations, have been through a fairly challenging time over the last couple of years. Under these circumstances, it can be difficult to communicate clearly with key stakeholders with regards to any future developments and we certainly did not intend to obfuscate our intentions with regards to our detached playing field opposite the school.

I hope this response has helped to clarify our position. We are not ‘hiding’ or in breach of our articles of association. We simply want to explore options on an under-utilised parcel of land that could be of benefit to our students and local residents in a town that is rapidly expanding and needs to make best use of its open-air resources.

Birchwood High School principal Dr Chris Ingate. Pic: Vikki Lince (56850372)
Birchwood High School principal Dr Chris Ingate. Pic: Vikki Lince (56850372)


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