Families fear a “total fudge” of a planning application could pave the way for housing on green land near their Sunderland homes.
Sunderland University put a 9.9 acre field it owns, off Weardale Avenue, in Seaburn, up for sale earlier this year and marketed it as an “excellent residential development.”
Now it has submitted plans to Sunderland City Council to use the plot for stables - but that has sparked concerns it could pave the way for an eventual change of use for housing because, if approved, it would then be classed as a brown field site.
Residents in South Bents and Seafields fear over-development of the area - with new homes in Seaburn already in the pipeline in a separate plan by Siglion as part of its regeneration vision - as well as the loss of green space and a right of way.
The university has said the stable scheme is a stop-gap plan until its future is agreed in the long term.
Michael Hartnack, who lives close by to the site, said: “This application is a total fudge.
Sunderland people are not stupid but we are being treated as naive fools.Michael Hartnack
“If these plans are approved, it could circumvent the planning process by blocking up the right of way, which has been there for generations, and then apply for a housing development and get it through because it’s no longer a green field site.
“Sunderland people are not stupid but we are being treated as naive fools.
“If this application is successful, Sunderland will be losing more open green space.
“The application is being objected to.”
Councillor George Howe, the Conservative member for the Fulwell ward, has previously raised concerns about the loss of the land.
He added: “The idea is to cut off and close the green space through losing the right of way. “I have written a letter and sent it to the agent and to the university.”
Dozens of letters have been sent to the council objecting to the plans.
A spokesman for the university said: “The University of Sunderland is reducing its estate to focus on its core business, ensuring graduates can continue to leave equipped with the high-level skills and abilities that businesses need to thrive, long into the future.
“The location and nature of the site at Seaburn do not support the University’s core business.
“Therefore, in the short term a planning application is being made to change the use of the land and protect this university-owned asset, until its long-term future is determined.”
Siglion, which is a joint venture between the council and construction firm Carillion, is working on plans to redevelop Seaburn with new places to eat, drink and shop, leisure facilities, hotel, as well as family homes and apartments.