A CONTROVERSIAL plan by a school to put up a 6ft fence to enclose its playing fields is being opposed by a borough council and residents.

Harrogate Grammar School is seeking planning permission from North Yorkshire County Council to build the fence along West End Avenue.

A footpath crosses the extensive playing fields, between West End Avenue and Arthur's Avenue.

Harrogate Borough Council objects on grounds that free access should be maintained and says the visual impact of the fence would be harmful to the character and appearance of the conservation area.

The borough council fears flooding, caused by poor maintenance of the existing drainage system, would be increased by the development.

Limiting access to one point along West End Avenue would greatly increase traffic congestion, says the council.

It also claims the application is premature, ahead of a decision on whether the route between West End Avenue and Arthur's Avenue should be declared a public right of way.

Six people who have written letters of support for the fence express concern about the high incidence of anti-social behaviour during out-of-school hours.

They support the design of the fence, and express concern at the current lack of visible security measures at the school.

But objectors say it would conflict with planning policies protecting recreational open space, and that it would detract from the special character and visual appearance of the area.

Others are concerned about lack of consideration to alternative proposals.

Mike Moore, the county's environmental services chief, is recommending approval when county councillors meet at Northallerton on Tuesday.

He sees no substantive planning objections to the scheme, pointing out that the design of the fence had been successfully used in similar conservation area locations.

He said if the fence was erected, the playing fields at the school would remain open to the public, subject to the school's letting policy.