Neighbours are demanding Richmond College removes signs on playing fields saying the public has no right to use them without permission.

Mac McInerny, of Craneford Close, has lived locally for more than 30 years and his sons and their friends all used the recreation ground regularly.

He said people had enjoyed the land for several decades and they intended to continue using them.

Christopher Kettle said: “It is completely wrong to say that the public has no rights any more, simply because the college says so. The college ought to apologise and take the notices down right away.”

Mr McInerny said this was a bad move by the college, which is currently seeking public opinion on plans to expand and redevelop the site.

Mr McInerny said: “The college authorities have not gone about this in a very constructive way.

“This is a sensitive time when the college actually needs to build trust and support in the local community in the run up to further public consultations. So far it has achieved just the opposite.”

The college’s director of estates and facilities management Sue Lockett said the college would not remove the signs.

She said: “The college does not object to the use of the land by members of the public for recreational purposes. However, the land may not be used by the public when the college chooses to withdraw permission, for example when the land is in use by the college for sport and open events, academic activities such as science, art and photography lessons or by other parties for external events.

“As owner of the playing field in Craneford Way, Richmond College is entitled to regulate and manage the land’s usage and make users of the land aware of the college’s ownership of the site. This is the purpose of the notices.

“No formal public rights of way or recreational rights have been established over the college-owned land; however the college does acknowledge that there is a public right of way outside the college land known as Marsh Farm Lane.”