RESIDENTS have pleaded with council bosses to scrap plans to sell off popular playing fields.
Durham County Council has sent letters to homes near the New Drive green belt area in Seaham, outlining proposals for the sale of the space to develop housing, shops or a new road.
While the correspondence makes clear a decision is yet to be taken, the community fears the fields, used by football and rugby clubs, schools and dog-walkers, could soon be lost.
Seaham Town Councillor Colin Snowball insists the town needs the open space more than it needs new homes.
“We should be saving playing fields to get more people into sport, especially after the Olympics,” he said. “But instead we’re selling them off.
“People are going to be very angry because, if anything, we need more fields.
“Instead, developers could just come in and build new houses because that’s where the profit is.”
He added: “It’s a beautiful green belt area and that we could lose. It is just totally wrong.”
Ray Timlin, who lives in nearby Boulmer Lea, shares the councillor’s concern.
He said: “What is the point of selling the land? Everybody thinks it’s ridiculous.
“The county council is totally unaware of the usage of the playing fields. They are very well used
Mr Timlin fears not enough people in the area are aware of the possible loss of the playing fields.
“They are very well used and a lot of these people won’t know because they don’t all live within 150 metres.
“It is a central hub of the community. Football teams use all the pitches.
“If you are a kid on our estate, there’s no where else to play.
“It is the only place you can let your dog off the lead.”
Jim Price, from Bamburgh Drive, questioned why other disused sites in the town could not be developed instead.
“I can’t understand why they would want to build on an area that is so well used,” he added. “They haven’t thought it through.”
The proposals are part of the major County Durham Plan, which identifies potential new infrastructure sites.
Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of planning, sought to reassure people that their opinions will be considered.
“I am pleased residents are responding to the consultation,” he said.
“We want to know what they think about these proposals, which are early thoughts on how the town can continue to develop.
“I believe we are the only council in the country to have sent out letters to neighbours informing them of possible development sites, and hopefully that clearly shows that we are keen to listen.
“This is a real opportunity for the residents of Seaham to tell us what they want to see happen over the next 20 years.”