MEASURES to increase security at a school have been approved by planning chiefs.

But residents have been reassured that their concerns over a loss of long-used footpaths and recreational green space, will be dealt with before the full scheme is implemented.

Sharples School has been given permission to create three new visitor parking bays and a four-metre CCTV poll and camera near the entrance from Arncot Road.

The bays will allow visitors to park up before entering the school grounds via a new pedestrian gate, while the CCTV camera will monitor the main car park , where there has previously been problems with trespassers.

Members of Bolton Council’s planning committee unanimously voted through the proposals which went before them this week.

Speaking at the meeting in support of the application or Jamie Wildgoose of agent AHR Building Consultancy said: “The project is part of an overall development plan for the school, the aim is address safeguarding issues that the school.

“The school has been subject to numerous anti-social behaviour and vandalism incidents over the past few years including criminal damage, fly-tipping, criminal damage, drug paraphernalia and general unauthorised access across the site.”

Cllr Nick Peel said he regretted that the school was having to take such measures: “I think it’s an unfortunate sign of the times when you have to deal with an application like this, that schools have to protect their premises and protect their children from vandalism, unauthorised access — and possibly even worse things.”

But part of the wider safeguarding plan referred to by Mr Wildgoose is a two-foot high fence around the perimeter of the school.

This is automatically allowed under permitted development rules and didn’t form part of the application before the committee.

But resident Ann Hughes told members that it would “at a stroke, prevent all public access to the area”.

She acknowledged that the committee could not decide on the basis of the fence, but wanted to express the “huge amount of upset and objection” it has generated in the community.

She said: “The playing field area, scheduled to be completely fenced off has been used by local residents for over 40 years, both as a recreational area, and as cut through footpaths between Thornham Drive and Hill Cot Road. Residents and the community strongly object to the school unilaterally riding roughshod over our existing rights. This land is the only significant, safe green space in the Sharples area.”

Ms Hughes added that she had recently applied to the council for official recognition of existing rights of way “established over 20 years of useage”, and was investigating, via a Freedom of Information request, whether any conditions apply to the land being retained as a community asset.

Councillor John Walsh said: “It is very clear there’s a huge amount of concern about fencing and the issues that arise from that.”

Officers indicated that the council’s property services would look into the issues raised by Ms Hughes.

Ann Webster, headteacher at Sharples School, told The Bolton News: " The perimeter fence is being erected to secure the school site and to safeguard our students. The project is funded by the Department for Education who regard the safeguarding of school sites as a key priority."