YOUNGSTERS are to be taught how to look after their environment at a fire station.

Land at the operational Coulby Newham fire station, near Middlesbrough, is to be turned into an open-air classroom for schools - with the blessing of Cleveland Fire Brigade.

The plot already includes a silted-up pond, but answering fire calls is causing havoc with the efforts of crews to keep their garden in shape.

The area is now to be included in a national Green Gym project which aims to get people fit by carrying out outdoor conservation work, geared to improving both physical and mental well-being - with a result the rest of the local community can enjoy.

Teesside telephone and cable TV company NTL is sponsoring the fire station scheme along with another 11 conservation projects across Britain.

Arthur West, acting project officer with conservation charity BTCV, which will be undertaking most of the spadework, says the fire station project is ideal.

"It is a good site - ideal for Green Gym because the fire brigade says we can use their canteen so long as they are not out on a shout.''

BTCV has already completed work developing a courtyard at St Luke's Hospital, Middlesbrough. Hospital patients will take part in the garden reclamation scheme behind the fire station.