DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has thrown his weight behind a community campaign to keep Sheffield’s old Abbeydale Grange playing fields open for public use.
Residents in Millhouses and nearby Carterknowle are worried the site of the school, which closed last year, will be sold off for housing.
They want a guarantee from Sheffield Council that the school’s playing fields and the ancient woodlands at nearby Spring Wood will be kept open as public green space.
They gathered at the site on Saturday for a community picnic to publicise their fears and gather support for their cause.
But they did not expect such heavyweight backing - until their constituency MP contacted them to say he wanted to attend.
Mr Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “It is important the council take residents’ feedback into account when they come up with the final plan.
“They should resist the temptation to allow over-development.
“From talking to picnic goers, it is clear to see protecting the playing fields and woods for public use is a priority. They are well-loved assets for the community which should be protected into the future.”
Jon Clennell, of Carterknowle and Millhouses Community Group, said: “We are keen the area is kept as green and open space.
“We have been talking to the council for the last two years and now it has started a consultation on the matter.
“The picnic is an attempt by the community group to alert residents to this issue and invite them to take an active part in protecting future access for one and all.”
Abbeydale Grange School closed last July after more than half-a-century serving south Sheffield.
Parents and supporters waged a lengthy, but unsuccessful campaign to try to reverse the closure decision, arguing Abbeydale provided a type of education unique to the city.
However, councillors decided to close the school, saying it was not meeting educational standards.
They said too many parents in the area were choosing to send their children to other schools and keeping Abbeydale open was not sustainable.