Council chiefs have denied that a Wearside community’s ‘field of dreams’ has already been sold.
The Echo reported last week that Sunderland City Council intends to dispose of land north of Blind Lane, near Sunniside, close to Newbottle Primary School.
The announcement - confirmed in a public notice in the Echo on July 4 - has caused outrage with residents living nearby, who say it is well used for play by youngsters and families as well as junior football teams.
Since then rumours have circulated saying the land, known locally as the ‘field of dreams’, has already been sold despite council assurances last week that residents had a week to submit letters of objection which would be considered.
But Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Mel Speding, said that while the authority had received an approach to buy the land, no decision has been made to sell.
In a statement, he said: “There is absolutely no truth in this rumour, as anyone can easily verify if they care to check with the Government’s Land Registry.
“The facts are that we have received an approach to buy this land which we’re obliged to consider, and that at this stage no decision has been taken to sell.
“We have always been very clear that we would only sell this land if the development was appropriate, if it addressed all concerns following public consultation through the normal planning process, and if it could be demonstrated through the statutory S.123 process that the land was not required as open space. “So we are still some considerable way off being in a position to make a decision either way.
“No planning application has yet been received and for the avoidance of doubt, no contracts have been entered into for the disposal of the land.”
At a meeting on July 6, residents voiced their concerns, with many fearing that the sale of the land could block access when taking their children to school, as well as taking away a well used field which provides a safe place to play.
Coun Speding reiterated the fact that the public notices which appeared last week were part of the legal process of public consultation.
He said: “Any decision to sell the land would also be subject to the usual planning process which would enable anyone with concerns to have their say.
“It is this which will ultimately determine if the scheme is appropriate and decide whether the land should be sold.
“As a council we very much value green/open space and do everything we can to protect it but we have to balance this against the future development needs of the city and in some cases it may be necessary to release some green/open spaces.
“Sunderland is a very green city - with more than 1700 green/open spaces totalling 3,800 hectares. Combined with open countryside, this adds up to more than 8000 hectares (57%) of ‘undeveloped’ green land in the city.
“In fact the Coalfield area has more green/open space per resident than any other part of Sunderland - 8 hectares per 1000 population, compared to the city average of 5.34 hectares per 1000 population.
“This includes around 280 hectares of new green/open space added since the late 1990s with the creation of Herrington Country Park, Elba Park and Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve.
“But I want to reassure people that they will be given every opportunity to make their views known.”