A ROSSENDALE primary school has become the subject of a public inquiry five years after blocking off its playing fields which were used as a village green.

Bosses at Helmshore Primary School erected a two-metre high fence around the perimeter of the school's playing fields after having problems with dog mess and broken glass.

The fence caused friction with local residents who argued villagers had had right of way on the site at Gregory Fold for more than 70 years.

Lancashire County Council which owns the land erected the fencing without permission but after a 900 signature petition was presented to the town hall, county council bosses were forced to apply for retrospective planning permission from their own committee.

Councillors refused the application after 100 residents turned up to show their disapproval.

A public Inquiry started this week to decide the fate of the fence.

Keith Pilkington, of Helmshore Action Group fighting against the fencing said: “The public have had right of way on this site for many years and it is very important that this right of way is not lost. Members of the action group have even dug into their own pockets to pay for a barrister.”

The inquiry is expected to last four days, concluding in October at Ashday Lea, Rawtenstall.

County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: “The county council erects fences primarily because of children's safety and security.

"There are clear dangers attached to having open unsupervised access to primary school playing fields, and we need to be able to stop children from wandering.”