Proposal to build executive homes on Sunderland’s West Park is ‘municipal vandalism’ say angry families

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Don’t take away our park!

Families have joined forces to urge council chiefs not to consider building 70 executive homes on West Park in Sunderland in the future.

Residents campaigning to save West Park attend a public meeting at Middle Herrington Methodist Church.

Residents campaigning to save West Park attend a public meeting at Middle Herrington Methodist Church.

Hundreds of residents in East and Middle Herrington have staged public meetings to express their concerns after the green belt site was included in Sunderland City Council’s Draft Core Strategy and Development Plan.

The authority says 13,824 more homes are needed by 2033, with an average of 768 to be built a year to help deal with the expected population increase – many of these on greenbelt land.

One of these sites mentioned is West Park – once part of the Lambton Estate holdings and home to historic Herrington Hall - although council bosses have emphasised this remains at th econsultation stage and nothing is definite.

It was purchased by the National Coal Board in 1947 to turn the hall into a convalescence home for miners, but the land was instead bequeathed to Sunderland Rural District Council with a covenant specifying its use.

This is an act of municipal vandalism

Chris Lavelle, Save West Park campaign

Since the proposal to build 70 houses on the site was published, the people of Herrington have banded together to form the Save West Park campaign.

Many believe that allowing this ‘municipal vandalism’ to go ahead would have an adverse effect on wildlife – including bats and owls – infrastructure and services, while destroying one of the more beautiful areas in Sunderland.

Campaigner Chris Lavelle, whose home overlooks West Park, said: “The council have a core plan and they want us to believe they need that land for executive housing because people are moving out of Sunderland and commuting in, because there is nowhere nice to live.

“They are proposing to take the park away. It belongs to the community. It was bequeathed to the residents of Herrington and there are covenants from the National Coal Board.

Residents campaigning to ave West Park attend a public meeting at Middle Herrington Methodist Church

Residents campaigning to ave West Park attend a public meeting at Middle Herrington Methodist Church

“It’s a recreational area and it should be classed as park.

“Our argument is they just want it because it’s valuable land.

“The core plan is about making Sunderland more attractive, but taking away green land doesn’t fit with the objective.”

Chris said the next step in opposing the proposal, will be to create an action plan.

West Park side of Middle Herrington Park,

West Park side of Middle Herrington Park,

“We are going to ask people with particular expertise to go through the plan with a fine-tooth comb – then we’ll produce a rebuttal.

“We will be putting together a task force.

“We have 13 action points, each one could potentially stop this.

“This is an act of municipal vandalism.”

Chris’s wife Louise added: “We think of it as a village green. It’s not really classed at that at the moment, but it’s a part of the community.

“The council even lists it as a park on its website.

“This has generated real community spirit – everybody is really coming together which is positive. We’ve been amazed by the strength of opinion.”

For more information about the campaign, search for Save West Park on Facebook.

Iain Fairlamb, Head of Planning and Regeneration at Sunderland City Council, said: “We very much welcome the input of local people in the consultation.

“At this stage the consultation is just that, none of the proposals are set in stone and we very much want to hear the views of local people.

“The plans have been developed in response to the need for homes to house the city’s growing population.

“We need a minimum of 13,800 new homes by 2033 to meet our housing needs in accordance with Government methodology.

“Following extensive research to identify where future homes could be built, we have been unable to identify enough land in existing communities to meet the need.

“So we have had to consider a small number of sites which have not previously been developed which are currently in the green belt.

“Fifteen potential sites have been identified across the city for under the draft plan which also aims to ensure that any new development will be supported by appropriate infrastructure such as schools and healthcare, and help to deliver enhancements to local services and the transport network.

“The input of local people is instrumental in ensuring the plan delivers everything needed for Sunderland to reach its potential as a thriving, sustainable city which is why we have organised a number of events across the city and are sending a leaflet to every household in the city with more details of these, and all the other ways residents and businesses can give their views.

“The consultation runs until October 2 and we would encourage people to join in and give their views.”

For the consultation, visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/CSDP