A HIGH school which has suffered from anti-social behaviour, trespassing and vandalism – as well as some students absconding – is set to fence off its fields.

Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley has been given the go ahead to erect fences, more than two metres tall, around the perimeters of its playing fields.

This includes new fencing around Hope Park, where some areas of open space and sports courts have been leased to the high school for over nine years now.

The dark green fencing would link into some existing fences, preventing public access to the school site, but would cut off a path next to the playing fields.

In a written statement submitted to the planning committee, the school’s director of business and finance Alex Gallimore said there is evidence of drug use, arson and anti-social behaviour taking place on the school’s grounds.

He said: “There have been a series of incidents over the past few years where students have been exposed to unacceptable health and safety risks including injuries, safeguarding risks and disruption to curriculum activities.

“The current measures in place are not suitable or sufficient and do not meet minimum safeguarding requirements in line with Ofsted recommendations.”

A public right of way which runs through the school site along Printshop Lane and another footpath on the southern side of Hope Park will not be affected.

But a pedestrian route running from Lodge Lane through the playing fields and along the side of Sacred Heart School, will be closed off by the new fencing.

Wigan council received 18 letter of objections to the planning application with many commenting on the loss of public access to open space it would cause.

Leigh East councillor Fred Walker said he assumed the path next to the playing fields was a public right of way because it has been used for such a long time.

He said: “I just think we’re taking a long-established route off people. Whether they have a legal right to it or not is almost irrelevant.”

But councils officers pointed out that the school could close off the paths by erecting fences up to two metres in height without planning permission.

A legal claim could be made on this route in the future by members of the public to have it recorded as a public footpath in the future, a report said.

Planning committee chairman Stephen Hellier, who represents Tyldesley, said he looked into the plans with ‘considerable care’ as a councillor for the ward.

He said: “I think a lot of people have assumed it’s a public right of way, but believe me, I’ve looked at the definitive map and it’s not on there.

“I think it’s for people to try to claim it if they wish to do so, but that’s an issue for another place on another day.”

Golborne and Lowton West councillor Gena Merrett, a former headteacher herself, was surprised the high school had not fenced off the fields sooner.

She said: “The first priority of any school, and indeed of the council, is to keep children safe. I’m absolutely with the school on this.

“There’s no way they can keep their children safe on those playing fields, on those playgrounds, without those fences being up.

“It’s really sad that that is the case. But I note that the official footpaths are kept open and I think if an unofficial footpath is closed in order to keep these children safe in this school, that is frankly a price that is worth paying.”

The planning committee voted to approve the application on Tuesday with all councillors except for Fred Walker voting in favour of the new fencing.