Plan for ‘prison-style’ CCTV at school playing fields refused

‘Great news’

A school behind the ‘unlawful’ use of covert CCTV cameras has suffered another blow in its bid for survellance of its playing fields. Cotham School was told to introduce signage for two cameras hidden within a metal junction box at Stoke Lodge playing fields in Sea Mills as part of a ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Officer in January.

Now the school has been refused planning permission for a CCTV pole and camera behind Stoke Lodge Adult Learning Centre by Bristol City Council, where officers noted concerns the recording could lead to a loss of privacy of people living in homes surrounding the playing field.

The planning application was submitted more than two years ago - and it appears the delay was partly down to the council waiting on information showing a ‘field of view diagram’. But this never came, and this month the council refused the proposal on the grounds it had insufficient information to assess the impact of the proposed CCTV mast.

The council also said there was a lack of justificiation for the installing of the CCTV camera next to the Grade II-listed Stoke Lodge, adding there was no clear evidence that the CCTV would address areas targeted by vandalism.

The news was welcomed by campaign group We Love Stoke Lodge, which had said the ‘prison-style pole and CCTV’ wouldn’t be appropriate for the parkland. Around 300 people living in surrounding properties also wrote their oppositon to the plan.

The group wrote on Twitter: “Great news today that Cotham’s 2020 application to install a 7-12m pole and pan/tilt surveillance camera on Bristol’s heritage parkland at Stoke Lodge has been comprehensively rejected by @BristolCouncil’s planning team.”

The playing fields are owned by Bristol City Council, but leased to Cotham School. Back in 2019, the school began putting up a fence around parts of the fields - and then installed cameras with warning signs due to concerns over vandalism.

In October, We Love Stoke Lodge revealed that two cameras had been set up inside the junction box, and this was confirmed by the school in January this year. However, following the ICO’s ruling, the school deleted all footage before introducing warning signs and turning them back on.

The school had said it would cease using the junction box cameras once the planning application for the CCTV pole was granted.