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Sara, wife of MP Paul Bristow, to stand for Peterborough City Council after ex leader’s ‘useless’ taunt

Cllr John Fox said: ‘We have to genuinely work together for the good of the people not politics’

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Ousted leader Wayne Fitzgerald prepared the way with a wounding “they do nothing” attack on husband-and-wife city councillors John and Judy Fox, and MP Paul Bristow has revealed the reason – his wife Sara wants to replace one of them.

Cllr John Fox, Cabinet advisor for adults and health and deputy leader of Peterborough First, is up for re-election on May 2 in Werrington – a seat he won in 2021 with a 1200 vote majority.

The news that Mrs Bristow will contest the ward was revealed last night in a joint statement issued by her husband who said that it was “something we discussed as a family; we didn’t decide this lightly.

“Sara is making one central promise – to do whatever to save Werrington Fields. And if she can’t keep that promise, she’ll resign. No ifs, no buts.

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“The local elections on 2 May are a referendum on Werrington Fields and the outcome will be decided by local people.

“So, unless we put pressure on the council now to reverse their plans, we’ll lose Werrington Fields.

“The only way to save Werrington Fields is to stand with Sara Bristow.”

Brandon Lewis, then chairman of Conservative Party visits Peterborough. With Wayne Fitzgerald and Paul Bristow
Picture by Terry Harris.

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The statement added: “The attitude of the local council means that the only way to save Werrington Fields is for us to take a stand together as husband and wife – as the local MP and council candidate”.

But Cllr John Fox told CambsNews today: “I think the bit missing is that we all are thinking the same, so how can Mrs Bristow be championing this?”.

“The previous administration who were all Conservative, have led on this from day one and we are where we are because they lacked true and honest consultation with ward councillors.

“For four and a half years we have campaigned for a fence for safeguarding purposes, but no way whatsoever do we want the whole field fenced off.

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“We all feel the same way so how is anyone going to achieve this on their own.

“We have to genuinely work together for the good of the people not politics.”

Debate over Werrington Fields has waged since 2019, when Peterborough City Council first proposed fencing part of the fields following safeguarding concerns for pupils at Ken Stimpson Academy.

But how to manage continued public use and protecting children has been the subject of much – and often heated – debate since.

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Judging by the reaction to Cllr Fitzgerald’s ‘John the Baptist’ style warning, Mrs Bristow, and the Conservatives, may not find Werrington quite ready for their ‘to do whatever’ approach.

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Cllr Fitzgerald pointed out some days ago that “it’s great that Paul Bristow MP is standing up for local residents in Werrington whilst the local independent councillors John and Judy Fox do nothing as usual other than now pocketing a big allowance from the council as a cabinet advisor.

“It time that Werrington had good hard-working Conservatives championing their cause.

“In May’s local elections this year let’s get them out as they are all but useless.”

Reaction on social media was swift, and mostly hostile.

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One critic wrote: “It is clear that you know absolutely nothing about the great work that John Fox and Judy Fox do in Werrington. They are widely respected here.

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald pointed out some days ago that ‘it’s great that Paul Bristow MP is standing up for local residents in Werrington whilst the local independent councillors John and Judy Fox do nothing as usual other than now pocketing a big allowance from the council as a cabinet advisor’

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald pointed out some days ago that ‘it’s great that Paul Bristow MP is standing up for local residents in Werrington whilst the local independent councillors John and Judy Fox do nothing as usual other than now pocketing a big allowance from the council as a cabinet advisor’ PHOTO: Terry Harris

“As a paid-up member of the Conservative Party, I am ashamed of any member who speaks so ill of fellow councillors when they are so obviously ignorant of the facts. But then, as many others have said, you do live in ‘Wayne’s World’.”

The post added: “This is well below the standard of comment we have a right to expect from the leader of the Conservative councillors of our city, and it is easy to understand why, while he was the leader of the council, so many councillors decided to leave the Conservative group to join Peterborough First, the rest is history.

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“This kind of baseless histrionics is shameful.

“He is utterly ignorant of how widely John and Judy Fox are highly regarded in Werrington, and the great work they do on behalf of us all.”

Debate over Werrington Fields has waged since 2019, when Peterborough City Council first proposed fencing part of the fields following safeguarding concerns for pupils at Ken Stimpson Academy. PHOTO: Saturday 09 March 2024 by Terry Harris

Debate over Werrington Fields has waged since 2019, when Peterborough City Council first proposed fencing part of the fields following safeguarding concerns for pupils at Ken Stimpson Academy. PHOTO: Saturday 09 March 2024 by Terry Harris

Another post described Cllr Fitzgerald’s comments as “shameful ramblings”.

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Another comment thought Cllr Fitzgerald “crass and ignorant making statements like this.”

It added: “John and Judy remain extremely popular with the majority of people in Werrington. It becomes increasingly obvious to us all why so many Conservative councillors felt so strongly that they could no longer work with you.”

One other critic was “gob smacked to see these words written in any way, but on a public platform just boggles me!

“John and Judy are out and about daily in Werrington helping residents and making it a much nicer place to live, they help at events and represent local residents.

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“I can’t say I have seen our MP doing the same in the 10 years I have lived in Werrington.”

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Others described Cllr Fitzgerald’s comments as “pathetic vitriolic diatribe just because your party isn’t in the advisor roles anymore.

“This feels very much like throwing your teddies out of the pram and juvenile jealousy.”

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Cllr Fitzgerald was also told he had scored a “massive own goal” whilst another asked “wasn’t it him who ordered the destruction of the hydrotherapy pool to ensure it could not be reopened? Enough said.”

The issue stems from the requirement by Peterborough City Council to safeguard pupils from the Ken Stimpson Academy who use Werrington Fields to play.

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Five years ago, the city council announced proposals to fence off part of them during term time following reports of anti-social behaviour and threatening behaviour.

Debate over Werrington Fields has waged since 2019, when Peterborough City Council first proposed fencing part of the fields following safeguarding concerns for pupils at Ken Stimpson Academy. PHOTO: Saturday 09 March 2024 by Terry Harris

Debate over Werrington Fields has waged since 2019, when Peterborough City Council first proposed fencing part of the fields following safeguarding concerns for pupils at Ken Stimpson Academy. PHOTO: Saturday 09 March 2024 by Terry Harris

Andrew Pakes, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Peterborough, has also become involved in the saga.

He said: “The Government has now said they are willing to look again at Werrington Fields meaning we can get a solution.

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“This has been going on far too long, and it is clear the current council has inherited a mess they are looking to solve.”

He praised campaigners and local councillors who had been “strong advocates for their area. And a powerful voice for a new way forward”.

Andrew Pakes, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Peterborough, has also become involved in the saga. PHOTO: Terry Harris

Andrew Pakes, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Peterborough, has also become involved in the saga. PHOTO: Terry Harris

“This has always been a space for the school and community to enjoy,” he said. “Whilst it is vital we protect and safeguard students using the field at school that does not need to mean fencing the whole field.

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“The positive news is the council have now put the planning application on hold to allow a renewed conversation with the government about getting a deal in place.

“This removes the immediate risk of a bad outcome for the school and community.”

He added: “If the government is willing to work with everyone – council, MP, campaigners, and community – then a solution can be found. Over to the government now – let’s go get a deal that works.”

Mr Bristow, meanwhile, continues to be relentless in his blame of Peterborough City Council, even though until November 1 last year – and well after the issues were known about – to blame the new administration for not resolving the Werrington Fields problem.

In a recent intervention during Prime Minister’s Question Time, he succeeded in drawing Rishi Sunak into the debate.

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“Werrington Fields is a much-loved open space cherished by local residents and used by the nearby school as playing fields,” said Mr Bristow.

“Shockingly, Peterborough City Council proposed to fence off almost the entire area, rejecting a compromise that most residents and the school were happy with.

“Bizarrely, the local council seeks to blame the Secretary of State for Education, myself and even the Prime Minister.

“Will my right hon. Friend get behind my campaign to save Werrington Fields and make it clear—right here, right now—that this is a matter entirely for the local authority?”

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The Prime Minister told him: “I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for championing his constituents on this matter.

“As he knows, last year the Education Secretary rightly rejected Peterborough City Council’s application to change the playing field land at Ken Stimson Community School from educational land to public open space.

“That decision ensured that children will have access to the open space that they deserve, but I am told by the Department that the council can provide for some of that land to be fenced and that the Department would be comfortable with that, provided that the overall site remains educational land.

“That is something that I know he wants to see, and the Department is ready to work with him to ensure that happens.”

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Meanwhile Cllr John Fox believes a solution can be found and hopes for a round table meeting with all interested parties, including Mr Bristow.

He posted to a Werrington community group that the meeting could “finally agree” on one solution for Werrington Fields “as there appears to be two versions being promoted and logically this can’t be acceptable”.

Cllr John Fox says: “Do we have permission to fence off just part of the field or don’t we? Because we are fed up with the continual negative disinformation being spread on social media by people who are elected to tell you, their constituents, the truth.

“The politically motivated falsehoods ought to stop. They are misleading and disingenuous to you, the taxpayers, and residents of Werrington.

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Save Werrington Fields – a Facebook group with nearly 1000 members – says it was set up for anyone who is concerned about the proposed fencing of Werrington’s largest public green space for Ken Stimpson School.

“The land has been safely shared by the school and community for 40 years,” it says.

“We don’t believe that the safeguarding risk to the students has been adequately evidenced, and fencing the playing fields with 2m high prison-like security fencing is a disproportionate response.

“The proposed 2m high fencing will destroy the character of the fields and put a stop to all current public use of this area – and this is in addition to the recent loss of Werrington’s Community Leisure Centre for school-only use.

“The school and Peterborough City Council originally proposed to fence 2 pitches for school use, this has now increased to the whole of the field south of the school – around 6 pitches in the latest proposal (which has been leased to the academy): a greedy land grab in our view.”

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It adds: “The fields are one of Werrington’s most treasured assets, with green spaces being essential to the public’s health and wellbeing. We seek a way forward that more fairly balances the needs of the community and the school.”

Meanwhile Cllr Mohammed Farooq, council leader since November and facing major issues across the city, hopes a compromise on Werrington Fields can be reached.

It is, he says, exactly what the council has been fighting for.

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