A PRIMARY school has lost out in a bid to stop access to a public footpath across its playing field.

The long standing row over access rights around Helmshore Primary School led to a public inquiry being called back in June.

And now a planning inspector has sided with campaigners, and ordered that walkers have access to the path.

Bosses at the school put up a fence around the perimeter of the school’s playing fields in 2005 after having problems with dog mess and broken glass.

The fencing blocked access to public footpaths regularly used by local dog walkers which caused friction with local residents.

They argued that villagers had had a 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 them, county council bosses were forced to apply for retrospective planning permission from their own committee.

This application was subsequently with drawn after the school reduced the fence to two metres, a height permitted under development rights.

However, the public inquiry chaired by Inspector Helen Slade into access rights around the school agreed with campaigners.

Mrs Slade said: “I conclude that a public right of way has been shown to subsist and that the order should be confirmed.”

Keith Pilkington, of the Helmshore Action Group, said: “Obviously we are pleased that the inspector recognised the rights of way we know have been there for many years.

“We are now wishing to hold talks with Lancashire County Council and the school to discuss the possibility of allowing the field to be used by the community out of school times.”

The school has six weeks to appeal the decision.

Nobody at the school was able to comment on the decision.