COUN Derique Montaut is asking schools to open up their facilities after hours for community use.

On Monday the councillor for Liden, Eldene & Park South submitted a written question to cabinet member for children’s services, Fionuala Foley.

He asked whether schools, such as Oaktree Nursery and Primary School in Priory Road, should be opened up to help tackle community issues including youth-related crimes.

He said: “I put a simple request to the cabinet members that schools like Oaktree Primary School should open up their facilities for community use and events and I outlined the youth-related problems we have around Cavendish Square, including obesity.

“I believe this would be helpful to the Parks South area in tackling obesity, reducing anti-social behaviour and it would stop young people congregating around the Cavendish Square shopping precinct intimidating vulnerable people like the elderly.

“Her reply was she agreed with me and she said she would put her officers on to it to ask about the school’s provision before and after school and to what extent the school could make further use of its facilities.

“She also said that any responsibility for the use of school premises resides with the governing body.”

In the past, Derique asked council officers to look into whether schools, including Oaktree, under council control, could open up in the evenings for use by the community.

This would let people make make the most of the resources available in an effort to tackle youth crime and provide an alternative place for youngsters to meet other than Cavendish Square.

He said: “There are a number of issues of particular concern in the Park South area which could be dealt with by opening up the school after hours.

“It will help counter obesity because they will be able to play basketball or other activities and it will mean that young people don’t congregate in Cavendish Square and help to stop anti-social behaviour.”

But Derique was disappointed with the initial response from Oaktree, after they indicated the difficulties with opening up facilities to the wider community.

He said: “I have asked officers in the past to ask Oaktree if they would open up their facilities after hours and their response was to say that the use would cause a depreciation in value of their facilities and they asked for a cost of £25 per hour.

“I was disappointed that a community school that operates with taxpayers’ money raised these particular problems.

“But even if there is a cost this does not take away from the fact that we should be using our existing facilities for community use.”

Sue Rees, headteacher art Oaktree Nursery and Primary School, said that while it was important that schools support their local communities, it should not have a detrimental impact on their pupils.

She said: “While we always endeavour to work well with our community and try to support local initiatives when we can, it is important that we ensure that the facilities of the school are not compromised for the pupils in our care.”