VOLUNTEERS have helped clear up old school playing fields in York but are still fighting to get the space properly opened to the public.

A group of Labour campaigners took part in the city’s annual Big Spring Clean earlier this month, and litter picked on the former Manor School playing fields on Boroughbridge Road.

The fields have been disused since the school moved to its new site in 2009, but Acomb councillor Stuart Barnes has been pushing to get them opened to provide much-needed open space.

“I remain firmly committed to securing the area as a green space for public enjoyment as, at present, it technically remains off limits to the public. This is a bit of a joke as the litter pick collected bags of rubbish so clearly people are using the field.

“Meanwhile, the council’s ludicrous position of pretending the site isn’t open to the public means that we can’t install rubbish or dog waste bins, despite the big problem with dog waste on the site. Nor can we begin planning to have children’s play equipment, outdoor gym equipment or sports use approved or installed on the site.”

Cllr Barnes said the litter pick was a “minor act of civil disobedience” to get the place cleaned up, and encourage the ruling Conservative-Lib Dem councillors to open it properly.

Last week, the former Manor School was included in a major housing announcement, and council papers revealed that 100 new homes could be built on the site as part of its partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency.

Cllr Barnes wants clarification on whether the fields would be built on, or just the old school buildings.

“I am very frustrated that the council team is quite happy to work on very complex housing developments for the former Manor School site, but they are not cracking on with the leisure aspects which are much less complex and could be done overnight. It’s just another year of kids not having somewhere to kick a football around.”

He and fellow Acomb councillor Keith Myers are trying to organise free summer activities for children, and are putting up to £5,000 of ward funding towards the project.

Their preference had been to use the former Manor School fields, but responses from the council have not been encouraging, Cllr Barnes said.

He added: “Why can’t we use our funding to provide what parents want - which is more sports and physical activities?”

As The Press reported last summer, Cllr Barnes started a petition about the former Manor School playing fields, which has now been signed by 540 people.

Last September also saw Cllr Myers host an Acomb Gala on the fields.

Mike Slater, assistant director for planning and public protection, said the whole of the site had been identified for possible re-use and redevelopment together with the British Sugar site.

“If this was to be taken forward a comprehensive masterplan would be required to consider the precise location of housing, open space and other community facilities.

“Parts of the old school site were damaged by an arson attack and are fenced off. Any use of the site has to be supervised for the protection of the public and the safety of the site, so currently we are not allowing open access to the field on health and safety grounds. We have allowed supervised access for special marshalled events and will consider applications for similar use where we can be satisfied that the health and safety issues will be managed.”