Football clubs and house builders have been united in their opposition to building on sports pitches in Washington.
The town’s Southern Area Playing Fields have been earmarked for about 200 new homes in Sunderland City Council’s draft Core Strategy and Development Plan.
The document, which is supposed to set planning policy in the city until 2033, is in the middle of an ‘examination in public’, led by a government inspector.
But at Wednesday’s session, which focuses exclusively on Washington, there was a strong feeling the site is not appropriate for development.
“It won’t ever be surplus to requirements,” said Mick Trainer a coach with Washington United FC, which has about 15 teams using the pitches on a regular basis.
“There’s potential for it to be used much more if there’s investment in the site, if the council used with groups like ours.
“The site is valuable in terms of finance, but also in its value to the community.
“We don’t know anyone who wants housing there, residents and clubs are strongly opposed to it – we don’t understand why the site is on there in the first place.”
According to documents submitted by the city council, the playing fields are expected to be ‘surplus to requirements’ once an £18million project to develop three Community Football Hubs in the city are complete.
However, the council is not expected to carry out a updated ‘playing pitch assessment’ until two years after the hubs are opened.
Dom Armstrong, who became the Green Party’s first councillor in the North East when he was elected to represent the Washington South ward in May, questioned whether teams currently based in the south of the town would be willing to move to the Northern Area Playing Fields, where Washington’s football hub is planned for.
Coun Armstrong also raised concerns about flooding at the site.
Andrew Rose, of Spawforths, a planning consultancy representing developers Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes, said it would ‘probably’ not be possible to build on the land before 2033, when the Core Strategy and Development Plan is due to run out.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service