North East Connected

Children campaign to save their playing fields

Whitburn & Cleadon Junior Football ClubDozens of young footballers and their parents are holding a demonstration on Saturday to campaign against the threatened sell-off of their home ground for housing development.

The players from Whitburn & Cleadon Junior Football Club will march with referee’s whistles and red cards from both Whitburn and Cleadon Village to the playing fields at Cleadon Lane which have been their home for 27 years.

The five hectare site has been earmarked by South Tyneside Council for the potential development of 113 homes, despite being used several times a week by the club’s 17 teams and being located in the green belt within the village conservation area.

It is one of 12 sites in Whitburn, totalling 40 hectares, identified by the authority in its Strategic Land Review as amber – or considered potentially suitable for development. The sites could accommodate up to 930 new homes. Across South Tyneside the council is looking to release or secure land for 7,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

The authority is consulting until July 31st on its initial assessment of the sites and has held a number of heated public meetings where local residents have attacked the proposals to delete huge swathes of green belt land in Cleadon Village, East Boldon and Whitburn.

Paul Graham, Secretary of Whitburn & Cleadon JFC, whose teams play in the Russell Foster Youth Leagues and Durham County League, said news of the potential development of the home ground came as a huge shock.

He said: “It was a total bolt from the blue. We have been based here since the late 1980s and the playing fields are used by nearly 200 children aged from five to 17 from Whitburn, Cleadon, East Boldon and further afield every week throughout the season. The car park is also used as a safe pick up and drop off area for parents of children at the adjacent primary school.

“We have been told that if the council decides to include the fields in the Local Plan for housing we would be relocated, but that this could be anywhere in the borough. That could well mean somewhere inaccessible to many children from Whitburn, Cleadon and East Boldon. What would they do then? Where would they go to play?”

The club has launched a campaign to retain the playing fields, which are owned by the council, and parents of players have delivered 6,000 leaflets to homes across Whitburn and Cleadon asking residents to support them.

This Saturday at 9.30am around 150 players will gather in their full team strips in Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn and the Britannia Inn in Cleadon Village and walk to the playing fields opposite the former SAFC Charlie Hurley Centre – also earmarked for housing. At the ground they are taking part in a sponsored fun run and friendly games throughout the morning, with club officials available to meet villagers looking to support the campaign.

The club has already been given the backing of the Whitburn and Marsden ward councillor Tracey Dixon, who said she would not support the development of the playing fields. The three Cleadon and East Boldon ward councillors have also issued a highly critical newsletter
attacking the Strategic Land Review as “flawed”.

Paul Graham added: “There has been a fantastic response on the doorstep from local residents when we have been out delivering the leaflets, and lots of support from local businesses and community venues who have put up our posters.

“We understand the council needs to identify sites for new housing but there is a very clear message coming from the people of Whitburn and Cleadon that the playing fields at Cleadon Lane should not be one of them. We want to protect these pitches for generations to come.”

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