A campaign to declare a Sunderland park a village green to protect it from becoming a housing estate has moved a step forward.
People living close to West Park, off Durham Road, are making moves to register the land as a village green so that it can continue to be used as open space by future generations.
It’s a park that has been used for generations and hundreds of years.Leon Cowley
The application was made to Sunderland City Council, after the local authority included the site in its list of green belt spaces which it suggests can be used by developers to meet housing needs in years to come.
Its inclusion of the land - and several other sites across Wearside as part of the draft Sunderland Core Strategy - sparked upset as residents of Middle and East Herrington believe there are more suitable plots for housing than the park.
The council has acknowledged the application, which details how the Friends of West Park claim it should qualify as it has been used for sports and past times for more than 20 years - it is said it has been used for hundreds of years.
A petition of more than 5,000 names has already been lodged with the council against its inclusion in the draft plan, with England and Liverpool footballer and former Sunderland AFC star Jordan Henderson among those to voice support for the land to be protected, after he spoke about his childhood memories of playing in the park.
Leon Cowley has made the village green application alongside Chris Lavelle and Mark and Sarah Watson.
The energy consultant, who is dad to Max, 11, and Molly, nine, said: “We hope that West Park is removed from the development plan, and we hope the village green application means that in future, it won’t be put forward for the development of homes.
“It’s something we have maybe taken for granted and when it was suggested that there was the potential it could be taken away, we were shocked.
“It’s a park that has been used for generations and hundreds of years.”
Labour councillor Stuart Porthouse added: “Firstly, we want it to be acknowledged West Park has been a public amenity for around 150 years and possibly longer than that.
“Secondly, we don’t think Sunderland City Council should build on a park.
“Thirdly, if the council is to propose housing is built on green belt, we think there are better sites than West Park.”
He added the plan was being drawn up as part of the Government’s rules to ensure authorities looked to the future for housing as well as other areas of growth.
Gillian Galbraith lost her seat as a Labour councillor to Conservative William Blackett, polling 1,203 votes to his 1,268 in this month’s local elections.
She handed in the petition to the council and says she will continue to support the friends in their efforts.
She said: “I was as shocked as anybody when I realised it was in the development plan and did my best to help them.
“I’m supportive of their fight to save West Park.”
The notice for the village green registration reads it will provide “protection, which includes but is not limited to, from it being damaged or encroached upon or fenced to prevent access or the erection of any structure on it other than in a very limited way for the purpose of better enjoyment of the green.”
People have until Thursday, June 14, if they wish to object.
CONSULTATION UNDERWAY ON PLANS
Sunderland City Council has said the next stages of the draft plans are now being finalised after it announced proposals back in August.
In addition to West Park, 14 other sites have been put forward for housing as leaders look at providing plots which will add a further 13,800 new homes by 2033.
Residents living close to Herrington County Park are also against plans to build 400 homes there, while Washington United FC is against the proposal that 202 homes could be built on Southern Area Playing Fields in Rickleton, Washington, as it hopes to take on the pitches and develop its squads in years to come.
In regards to the village green application from the Friends of West Park a council spokesman said: “Following Government guidelines to identify possible future development sites, the council conducted one of its biggest ever consultation exercises with more than 6,000 representations.
“The council is very grateful to everyone who took part as it was all about gathering views and opinions on future economic growth and housing development, and nothing was set in stone.
“The details on the next stages of this draft Sunderland Core Strategy are being finalised.
“As with all planning applications, the council has been in a dialogue and had correspondence from the applicants for the Herrington Village Green.
“Consultation on the application has opened and it will be considered on its merits and in accordance with national and local planning policies.”