Pigeon fanciers will man the barricades

With just days to go before they face eviction, the fight to save Ryhope's historic pigeon lofts has now reached the top-tier of Government.

The crees made headlines around the world when architecture watchdog English Heritage stepped in to list one of the buildings.

That earned them a 10-year stay of execution, but the deadline runs out on New Year's Day and allotment holders have vowed to defy the bailiffs.

The land is owned by Newcastle-based WorkTalent Ltd, which has offered the men a pay-off and use of a new site at Tunstall Bank if they move.

Houghton and Washington East MP Fraser Kemp, whose constituency includes the crees, has been given leave to raise the issue in the House on Tuesday.

"I have got permission from the speaker to raise it in Parliament," said Mr Kemp.

"I intend to go into detail about the ownership of the land.

"It would be in the best interests of everybody if this piece of land, which has no real development value, was to be transferred to a community trust for the benefit of the children of Ryhope."

Lewis Llewellyn is one the pigeon fanciers who use the allotments. He said the men would be on the site on New Year's Day, ready to defy the bailiffs.

"They have tried to send us a threatening letter to say the bailiffs are coming on January the first," he said.

"We will be there. We will put a barricade up if needs be.

"If they try to come down here with a bulldozer, they will have more than us to contend with."

Lewis hopes the people of Ryhope will rally round in the allotment holders' hour of need.

"I would like to see as many people there as possible," he said. "They could offer us 20million and it would not make a difference."

Companies House lists Worktalent as based at an address in Grey Street, Newcastle, which is also that of its solicitor Mark, Gilbert, Morse.

The Echo contacted the law firm to speak to a representative of Worktalent, but was told: "I really could not comment on that. We have instructions not to speak to the press."