Village green status approved for beauty spot

Coun. Pat Smith
Coun. Pat Smith

A historic Wearside beauty spot will be protected from development after councillors agreed to award it “village green” status.

The decision came after Sunderland City Council’s Regulatory Committee met to discuss an amended application for land at Tunstall Hills by Leechmere Road.

Plans were originally discussed last year following an application by a member of the Tunstall Hills Protection Group (THPG) for a village/town green.

Although sites of special scientific interest exist on the land, THPG aimed to use the status for land enclosed by existing local nature reserve boundary.

The application provided evidence that the site has been used for more than 100 years and argued it had “no protection from inappropriate development”.

Councillors, sitting at Sunderland Civic Centre, were asked to rule on the application based on evidence submitted by the campaign group.

Under current laws, the applicant must prove land has been used for “lawful sports and pastimes” for at least 20 years and continues to be used.

Another requirement includes the land being used by a “significant number of the inhabitants of any locality or any neighbourhood within a locality”, a report states.

During consultation, a 134-signature supporting pétition was submitted alongside 59 evidence questionnaires showing the land is used by a large number of people.

The applicant also stated the land was used by Silksworth ward alongside other “locality” areas including Ryhope and St Michael’s.

With no objections submitted by the public or SCC as landowner, the committee heard there was no need to hold a public inquiry on the application.

Following discussion, councillors voted to unanimously approve the application for the Tunstill Hills site.

Silksworth ward councillor, Pat Smith, welcomed the decision and credited the work of campaigners.

“They work all year round and keep things in the public eye and it’s great that they put themselves out like that,” she said.

“We all want to see green spaces and it’s great that this has happened. It’s for everybody’s benefit.”

The new plans don’t include Rock Cottage Farm to the North West of the site.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tunstall Hills plan courtesy of Sunderland City Council

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service