Defiant football club not running scared in bid to save its field of dreams

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A team of determined campaigners aren’t running scared in their bid to safeguard the future of their footballing field of dreams.

Scores of young footballers and coaches from Whitburn and Cleadon Junior Football Club and concerned parents have joined forces to kick off a passionate protest against potential plans to sell off their pitches to housing developers.

It’s great that we are getting such massive support

Paul Graham

Club members have already gone on the march - dressed in full kit and armed with red cards - in an effort to shoot down the plans from council chiefs

Now they have scored some extra support - after 11 kit-clad scarecrows mysteriously sprung up on the Cleadon Lane Playing Fields, in Whitburn.

The five hectare site, which is in the heart of the green belt in the village conservation area, has been earmarked as suitable for potential future development by South Tyneside Council as part of a Strategic Land Review.

The review is a draft assessment of sites deemed most suitable to meet housing requirements over the next 20 years.

The scarecrow squad - complete with their own goalkeeper and with footballs for head - are standing defiantly on what has been the football club’s home turf for over 27 years.

Paul Graham, secretary of the club, is delighted at the eye-catching show of support.

The club has already delivered 6,000 leaflets to homes across Whitburn and Cleadon. in a bid to get the plans booted out.

Mr Graham said: “The scarecrows have mysteriously shown up recently. It’s great that we are getting such massive support.

“This isn’t just about our junior club, it is about protecting open spaces for youngsters for years to come.

“There are over 20 pitches across South Tyneside that are under threat due to this land review.

The club, which plays in the Russell Foster Youth Leagues and Durham County League, has been told it could be relocated if a 113-home scheme is given the green-light as part of the wide-ranging land review.

The playing fields are used by nearly 200 football-mad youngsters aged between five and 17 throughout the season.

Consultation over the strategic land closed on Sunday.

Councillor Allan West, lead member for housing and transport at South Tyneside Council, said: “Officers have assessed over 300 potential sites across the borough as part of this process but no decisions have been made at this stage.

“The Strategic Land Review does not allocate sites for development and the inclusion of a site in the study does not necessarily mean it will end up being allocated.