A popular Sunderland park has won protected status after a bid to register it as a village green was backed by councillors this week.
West Park, off Durham Road, in East Herrington, was originally earmarked for development in Sunderland City Council’s draft local plan until 2033.
During public consultation, more than 5,000 people backed a petition as part of a campaign to save the park, prompting council bosses to remove it from the plan last year.
England footballer Jordan Henderson and Olympic medal-winning boxer Tony Jeffries, who grew up in the area, were among the big names backing the protestors.
On Monday, January 7, the council’s Regulatory Committee gave the go ahead to a village green application from The Friends of West Park.
The decision marks a crucial step in preventing building on the site in future and aims to preserve the space for future generations.
A report, presented at the Sunderland Civic Centre meeting, recommended the plans for approval, noting the land has been “openly used by a large number of people.”
It added the application passed legal tests for a town or village green, including being a hub for “lawful sports and pastimes” for a period of at least 20 years.
At the meeting, Coun George Howe asked whether the village green status would render the land “inviable for future building.”
Council solicitor Jim Wotherspoon, responding, said: “It makes it extremely difficult for a developer to put forward (proposals) as you have to get the registration removed which there would be objections to.
“It would be too much work and too expensive for them to even contemplate doing that.
“I can’t say 100 per cent whether that is the case but I think it’s extremely unlikely that this land would be anything other than as it is now.”
Under government guidelines, town and village greens are used for sports and recreation such as dog walking.
Once registered, it is deemed to be a public nuisance and a offence to interfere with, disturb or build on a green unless this is done “with a view to the better enjoyment of such town or village green.”
The meeting also heard the new status for West Park will not affect existing ‘grazing rights’ on the land.
West Park was one of four Green Belt sites removed from Sunderland City Council’s Core Strategy and Development Plan last year following public feedback.
The shift from 15 to 11 sites also saw Glebe House Farm, Offerton, and Peareth Hall, Springwell removed, with the final draft plan submitted to government in November.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service