School leaders have been slammed as “spiteful” by the Mayor of Penwortham, after going against official advice not to erect gates across a shortcut.
Since February residents of Alcester Avenue, Clifton Drive and Hill Road, Penwortham, have been fighting the wishes of Penwortham Girls’ High School to block a well-trodden shortcut between Alcester Avenue and Cop Lane over safety concerns.
It’s spiteful and it’s primarily affecting elderly and disabled residents.Coun David Howarth
Householders said it had been used as a cut-through to shops and a health centre since before the school was built and as such should be officially designated.
At least 20 households have lodged applications to make it a public right of way, and with a decision likely to take up to 12 months, Lancashire County Council planners urged the school to delay installing gates while experts decide what constitutes a footpath and therefore the legal position.
But instead, govenors applied for planning permission for boundary fencing and 2.4-metre gates, and the work was carried out last week.
Coun David Howarth said: “At the moment there has been no decision taken by the County Council, but the school has taken to blocking off the path with two gates anyway.
“Why do this just as the school finishes for the summer holidays? They say it’s a child protection issue, but there’s no children here now, and there’s there’s no way of getting in touch with anyone for seven weeks.
“It’s spiteful and it’s primarily affecting elderly and disabled residents.”
A spokesman for the school said: “Members of the public having unhindered access to the school grounds via Alcester Avenue either to exercise their dogs on the playing fields or take a shortcut to Cop Lane undermines the governing body’s legal safeguarding obligation.
The route used by some members of the public between Alcester Avenue and Cop Lane passes in very close proximity to classrooms and recreational facilities where girls can be observed working or relaxing at break times.
“We find it unacceptable that anyone can enter the grounds by this route, loiter and potentially cause harassment, alarm or distress to our pupils and staff.
Thankfully there have been very few incidents of concern but we maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’ so we have decided to fence off all areas that give unauthorised access to people. The safety of our pupils must take priority.”