Neighbors fear ‘prison yard’ gardens as Bexley School clears new play area

A secondary school in Bexley has been given permission to build new classrooms and extend its playground, but neighbors fear their garden is ‘strewn with bullets’.

Beths Grammar School on Hartford Road successfully requested the demolition of an existing building in place for a part one, part two and part three storey building to provide seven classrooms.

Additional plans to create an additional play area northeast of the site have also been signed.

But residents who live nearby told council they feared an increase in ‘shouting and shouting’ and raised concerns that their gardens would have the ‘prospect of a prison yard’ if expanded to be closer to their homes.

A local told Thursday night’s planning meeting: ‘What we oppose is the expansion of the playground, the removal of the long jump area and the extension of the playground to the fence of our garden.

“I sent some photos of the balls that have landed in my garden since our last meeting [six weeks ago]. There have been five soccer balls ranging from plastic balls to heavy duty leather balls. A very heavy basketball and four tennis balls.

“These balls landed in my garden after going over the 4.5 meter fence and then traveling the six meters through the long jump area to land on my property.

“Can you imagine how bad it will be if you allow them to move the big fence and move the play area to our backyard fence?”

The man added: ‘The school has realized that if they move the boundary adjacent to our fences, our garden will be littered with balls from the playground.

“So it only works if they put up a huge fence, making the prospect of our garden look like a prison yard. Please don’t condemn us to this.”

Another resident warned of a potential increase in noise if the request is approved. She said: “It causes my house to be one meter from the boundary of the playing field.

“The noise would be increased due to the proximity to the playground and I can already hear the screams and squeals of the pupils when they are inside with all the doors and windows closed.”

She also warned of “more tennis balls reaching the gardens and possibly bouncing off my side wall”. Beths Grammar School Deputy Headmaster Mr O’Regan spoke in favor of the nomination. His first name was not given.

Mr O’Regan said: ‘Thank you for hearing our submission in our efforts to improve the play area for our children. [This is] something we believe is especially important after Covid and all the lockdowns they’ve been through.

“The health and safety of students and improving the quality of their play space are the reason for this request. The number of students enrolled at Beths Grammar School is 1,741 and we have no intention, now or in the future, of increasing this number.

“The new classrooms we plan to build aim to provide adequate teaching space for our current students. Currently there are two relatively small playgrounds for our students, and these are the only places where younger students can play during the winter months when it is not possible to use our extensive grounds.

“By providing an expanded hard play space, we can provide a safe and less crowded play environment for the same number of students.

“The noise level will not increase because there will be the same number of students during break times.”

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Harold B. McConnell