Plans submitted for next phase of regeneration of Sunderland's former Elemore Golf Course into ‘heritage and eco country park’

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Proposals for the latest phase of works to transform a former Sunderland golf course into a ‘heritage and eco country park’ have been submitted to planning chiefs.

In recent years, Sunderland City Council has been developing a new use for the 61-hectare Elemore Golf Course site in the Hetton ward.

Regeneration plans were developed through a council ‘Let’s Talk’ public consultation exercise, with local residents calling for the site to be used as “usable green space” and for measures to address anti-social behaviour.

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The wider vision for the site included the creation of a heritage and eco country park boosting biodiversity and providing education and leisure facilities for visitors.

The former Elemore golf course.The former Elemore golf course.
The former Elemore golf course.

In February, 2022, the first phase of works were given the go-ahead by the council’s Planning and Highways (West) Committee to transform existing golf club buildings on site into a community-run garden centre and café.

A hybrid application has now been submitted to change the former golf course into a heritage and eco park with associated infrastructure, such as woodland planting and car parking.

Sunderland City Council is also seeking outline permission from its own planning department to set up a community farm, camping/education facilities and a miniature railway on the site.

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A planning, design and access statement notes the proposals would be the second phase of regeneration work on site, with an aim of providing a“safe recreational space for families”.

According to planning documents, the proposed country park would be the largest feature offering around 55 hectares of open green space connected by a network of paths for visitors.

Landscaping proposals include extensive woodland, hedgerow planting, wetland creation and wildflower meadow planting, as well as a number of play parks.

In the north and west of the site an “EcoZone” has been proposed, which will aim to “protect and enhance existing habitats of value” by using enclosures and fencing to “control” public access.

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The existing car park will also be retained and updated, with electric vehicle charging points included, as well as an overflow car park incorporating a new access off Elemore Lane.

As the wider site is accessed from sections of Elemore Lane where the national speed limit applies, an existing 30mph speed limit is expected to be extended to a point 100m west of the site’s western boundary to “reduce the risk of speed related accidents”.

Elements of the scheme proposed under outline planning permission include a community farm and a miniature railway paying tribute to the site’s links to railway and coal mining history.

Camping facilities and an educational building or ‘scout hut’ are also planned in the south west part of the site aimed at organised groups and schools, rather than for general public use.

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However, the city council sees these features as an “aspiration” and further details will be provided in a future “reserved matters’ application to council planners.

The submitted council planning statement adds:”The former Elemore Golf Course has been abandoned and is no longer operational, it’s overgrown [and] suffers from anti-social behaviour including high levels of motorbike and quad bike usage,vandalism and litter.

“The site offers a fantastic opportunity to provide an invaluable asset for the local community.

“[An] initial application for the change of use of the former clubhouse to a café/ garden centre/ visitor centre has already been approved and the principle of an ‘eco and heritage’ country park already established.”

The site of the former Elemore Colliery and spoil heap was reclaimed in the 1990s to allow the development of a golf course within a woodland setting.

According to planning documents, the site was shaped to blend in with the natural landscape and once featured an 18-hole course before closing in 2019.

A decision on the second phase of regeneration work at the site is expected to be made later this year, once a period of council consultation has concluded.

For more information on the application or to track its progress, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/01673/HY3