CAMPAIGNERS say Bolton Council's plan to "destroy" a park to build a new school is failing its duty to protect the natural environment.

The council first announced plans to build a new school on the site of Haslam Park last October, provoking widespread opposition.

More than 200 residents protested against the plans in November and now Bolton Friends of the Earth say that they too have reacted with "anger and "dismay."

Campaign coordinator Elizabeth Shepherd said: "This blow to nature in Bolton comes at a time of ecological crisis around the world.

"As people look forward to the UN's biodiversity conference in April, and also prepare to implement the local nature recovery strategies that are required under the new Environment Act, Bolton Council should be looking for ways to expand and improve the green spaces under their care not looking to destroy them.

"Greater Manchester's local nature recovery strategy is currently being prepared as part of the government's commitment to restore the health of our natural environment.

"Bolton Council have a legal duty to contribute to this strategy which the government says will build a network, across England, of sites in which nature will be protected and improved."

She added: "Everyone needs access to green space for their wellbeing and their physical and mental health.

"This is especially true of children who need not only education but also green space in which to play and discover nature."

The plans will see ownership of Haslam Park given up by the council to the Department for Education for the building of the new school.

Friends of the Earth says the park has been selected as the site for the new school as this is cheaper than finding a brownfield site.

But Bolton Council argues that relevant groups will have the opportunity to put their views across during the planning process, which will also give environmental concerns due consideration.

A spokesperson said: "Plans for a secondary school on land at Haslam Park are only in the very early stages.

"If carried forward, the plans would of course be subject to public consultation and the full planning process."