Sunderland’s West Park could become village green if councillors back proposals to secure space’s future

Leon Cowley (left) and fellow campaigners celebrating a council decision to drop proposals to develop housing on West Park.
Leon Cowley (left) and fellow campaigners celebrating a council decision to drop proposals to develop housing on West Park.

A Sunderland park which helped hone the skills of England footballer Jordan Henderson could be given protected status next week.

Campaigners have applied to have West Park, off Durham Road in East Herrington, made a village green.

Proposals to build homes on West Park have been dropped.

Proposals to build homes on West Park have been dropped.

Council bosses could give the scheme the go-head on Monday, which could be an important step in preventing building on the site.

Ex-Sunderland player Henderson and Olympic boxing star Tony Jeffries were among the big names who backed protests against proposed development, prompting Sunderland City Council to remove it from a list of sites earmarked for housing last year (2018).

According to application papers submitted to the council: “Historically the site has always been accessible 24 hours a day and the entrances to the park have never been locked.

“We are not aware of any restriction or terms of use ever being imposed on use of the land.”

The Friends of West Park hope to have the land recognised as a village green to protect it from being used as a housing development.

The Friends of West Park hope to have the land recognised as a village green to protect it from being used as a housing development.

Related: Plan to create new bluebell wood for Sunderland on land saved from housing development

Councillors are expected to consider the application at Monday’s meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Regulatory Committee.

Village green status makes it illegal to do anything which could prevent the public making use of the space.

Part of proving the case involves proving the land has been in continuous public use for at least 20 years.

As part of this, the Friends of West Park group, which made the application, has included more than 40 pictures showing the park being used.

The most recent examples show 2017 Halloween celebrations, while the oldest show a 1955 family picnic and the 1946 Durham County Show.

West Park was one of 15 possible sites identified for development in Sunderland City Council’s draft Core Strategy and Development Plan, which looks at jobs, business growth, transport links and housing needs in the city until 2033.

But it was scratched from the list in August (2018) following a campaign.

At the time, Liverpool midfielder Henderson said: “I have great memories of my time living in Herrington, and along with my mates spent many happy hours playing football in the park as a youngster and honing the skills that have helped to take me to where I am today.

“I feel that it would be an absolute tragedy if such a beautiful, well-used space that so many people enjoy for recreation and sport was ever to be lost.

“It would alter the whole ‘feeling’ of an area that so many of us have a great affection for.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service