SCHOOL playing fields are at the centre of a battle for the preservation of green space, with moves to declared the area an official community asset.

Northallerton School and Sixth Form College moved from its site in the heart of the town on Grammar School Lane to the former Allertonshire school site in Brompton Road, this month.

A petition, already signed by more than 1,200 people, was launched to preserve the playing fields at Grammar School Lane for use as a "Jubilee Park".

Now Northallerton Town Council has backed the scheme by agreeing the site, which is owned by the education authority North Yorkshire County Council, should be made an asset of community value. This means town councillors would be told if the site was being put up for sale with the opportunity to bid first.

Mayor Councillor Phil Eames told town councillors this week: "Registering it with Hambleton District Council would mean for the next five years if that asset is put up for sale we would get to know about it six months in advance and would have the right to take it on by whatever means possible.

"I think the playing fields should stay green. It makes a statement that this space should be green and should be at the disposal of the public."

County councillor David Blades said there had been all kinds of stories going around as to what was going to happen to the land but he had a statement from the county's director of children and young people that the fields would be kept for educational purposes for eight years and any alternative to that would have to be agreed by the Secretary of State for Education.

Councillor Amanda Eames said the town council needed to know what that meant and would it be that people couldn't go on it for eight years.

Councillor Paul Cornfoot said fencing could be put across to secure the fields for public use, and it would be "pretty criminal" if the land was unused for eight years because there was very little green space in that area of the town.

Cllr Eames said the petition with 1,200 signatures showed there was a lot of public support to create a park.

The online petition says the Grammar school was built on charity land in 1909, and signatories want to see the site retained for community recreation as a public park in the spirit of how the land was donated, for the wellbeing of the community, sport, tourism, biodiversity enhancement and to mitigate pollution / climate change.