TWO heavy metal gates to a village playing field vanished at the weekend and soon returned – but only after their disappearance had been reported to police.

Spennymoor Town Council staff were shocked to learn that the gates providing vehicular access to the football pitch, toddlers' play area and changing facility at Byers Green, along with a section of security fencing, had been cut down and taken away at the weekend.

The discovery was made by the council's grounds and maintenance officer when he went to carry out his regular safety inspection at the site on Monday.

The matter was reported to police but by the end of the day the gates had been returned and crudely reattached.

Town clerk Katherine Hierons said the authority now has health and safety concerns about the attempted repairs so is looking to have the gates replaced.

In the meantime she advised people to avoid the gates, for which there are a limited number of key-holders, and instead use an adjacent pedestrian gate to reach the park.

"The town council was shocked to discover part of the fence was missing, then again on Monday afternoon when someone had tried to weld them back on.

"We're probably going to have to removed them to be sure they are safe," she said.

Yesterday, neighbours believed they could shed some light on what had happened to the gates.

One woman, who did not want to be named, believed they were temporarily taken down so a farm vehicle could be taken onto a nearby field for harvesting work.

She said: "I think it was just a man trying to do his job and not meaning any harm.

"The gate was a mess anyway and it was brought back, maybe it should have been repaired a bit better but no little kids will be down there without a parent so it shouldn't be a risk to anyone."

Use of the site has recently increased as the council bought and erected new goalposts to allow Byers Green Under 15s football team to play there from the start of this season.

It is also looking at options for the refurbishment of the changing facility onsite to bring it back into community use.