A COMMUNITY campaigner in Larkfield is pleading with the council not to punish all youngsters for vandalism at sports pitches.

Local dad John Houston has hit out at a decision to dramatically reduce access to the 3G park at Inverclyde Academy following £2,000-worth of damage to the goalposts.

Council chiefs have reacted by deciding to keep the 'crawl hole' access points locked up, apart from evenings up until 9pm.

The Tele revealed earlier this week how there was also damage done to new pitches at Parklea following a £1.4m revamp of parks across the area.

But angry community councillor Mr Houston says the Inverclyde Academy park is the only facility of its kind in the Larkfield area for a kickabout and that hundreds of kids will now be affected by the decision.

He said: "It is unacceptable to punish the majority of young people for the minority who cause problems.

"They have done nothing wrong and they are left with nowhere to go to play a game with their friends.

"Inverclyde Academy was built on the site of community pitches, so it is only fair they get access now.

"I get asked by the young ones all the time about the park and my own kids want to know what we can do about it.

"We want to get children outdoors and playing sports, but they are locked out of community facilities.

"Not every kid wants to be in a club and not everyone can afford to pay prices to book the pitches.

"There is also a safety issue because the young people climb the fences to get in anyway to play, as they are desperate to have somewhere to go.

"I urge the council to reconsider."

Mr Houston previously won a fight for 'hole in the fence' at Inverclyde Academy and other schools after organising a 600-strong petition.

As a direct result it was agreed that crawl spaces would be put at the pitch off Cumberland Road school, as well as at St Columba's High in Gourock and the Port Glasgow community campus.

A year-long pilot took place before councillors backed a decision to keep the access points opened.

Now a decision has been taken to reduce the times the crawl spaces are opened up.

Council leader Stephen McCabe says he is 'sympathetic' to the argument from Mr Houston.

He said: "I know that young people need somewhere to go to play football, I used to love playing on the old red blaes pitches.

"But it is about getting the balance right.

"We also have to protect the pitches so that they can be used by the community and the clubs who book them.

"They need the facilities and we have to act when there is vandalism."

An Inverclyde Council spokesman added: "While it might be easy for some to look at these issues as being one simple solution, the truth is that we need to try to get the balance right between open door access, supporting our schools and clubs and having access available for the many groups who book a facility to guarantee access to allow games and training to go ahead at set times.

"Opening up, cleaning up and repairing damage all cost money and that also needs to be factored into any decisions about opening up facilities."