Budmouth campaigners fear the school’s 12 acres of playing fields might not be protected from future development - and that the sports centre could close at the end of August.

Neither claims have been substantiated by Dorset Council.

Caroline Lester told councillors that she was informed that the fields were likely to be handed to Aspirations and then swapped for the Portland Osprey Quay site which Aspirations owns, allowing a Dorset Council special school to be built there.

“As you can imagine this is no consolation at all the many of us who do not welcome the forced academisation of Budmouth. In fact it is cold comfort indeed as it could appear that Budmouth’s playing fields are being swapped as an asset for the convenience of Dorset Council and their new special school.”

She said that she was worried that, ultimately, the fields could be lost to the community: “we have received very many questions and comments about this substantial community and educational asset, in particular the issue that they should not be built on further.”

She said that Oliver Letwin, MP, had told the group opposing the move to academy status that he was trying to make it a ‘requirement’ that the playing fields would only pass to Aspirations Academies Trust on exchange for their Osprey Quay site for use as a new special school.

She also said that staff had been told that it might close on August 31 which, she said would be another loss for people in Chickerell.

Education brief holder Cllr Andrew Parry said that the future of the sports hall was awaiting the outcome of a structural survey which would outline what remedial work might be required. He said he understood that it, along with the fields, were expected to be transferred to Aspirations at the end of August, a process which Dorset Council was bound by law to assist with.

Said Cllr Parry: “Dorset Council continues to work with all parties involved in Budmouth College. Following the tonight’s council meeting I will be writing to the Department for Education to relay the strength of feeling expressed by councillors and members of the public.

“It is essential that Budmouth College’s future s underpinned by an inclusive culture, prompting learning opportunities for all students and the fears expressed can be addressed.”

Unison spokesperson Janine Miller told the meeting that staff at the College opposed the forced academisation of the college: “We note that when schools become academies it is the local authority that pays the bill, leaving private companies to make profit from public services.

“In this situation any money the council has to spend on Budmouth should be an investment in our children’s futures and not as a financial penalty to facilitate a course of action which will be detrimental to the community.”

Another campaigner against the academy process, Tara Moggeridge, urged the council to continue to challenge the process with the Secretary of State.

A petition of 1,000 signatures was handed to the council chairman Pauline Batstone in support of the plea.