The scale of opposition to a controversial plan to build a new multi-sports complex in South Tyneside – which could be approved as early as March - has been revealed.
Figures show there were 4,245 objections to the proposed development at Temple Park in South Shields and 39 letters of support.
Objectors say it reflects the level of upset caused by the South Shields and Westoe Club’s bid to relocate a mile from its current home.
The club, which had been based at Wood Terrace, in Westoe, South Shields for 168 years, wants to move to satisfy its expansion ambitions.
Bosses claim a new ground would bring huge benefits to South Tyneside, and said any refusal to grant planning permission would be a “tragedy”.
Figures released by South Tyneside Council show there were 260 letters of objection received by Wednesday’s deadline for the public to air their views.
A petition of objection contained 2,641 signatures, and a proforma petition – a letter signed by each signatory individually – contained 1,344 names.
Dad-of-two Gerard New, 48, a member of the Friends of Temple Park group, formed to oppose the scheme, said: “Those figures are fantastic.
“It’s been quite a surprise to see how much opposition there is to this proposal.”
The club hopes to build new rugby and cricket pitches, as well as squash and tennis facilities, on around 38 acres of land to match its vision of expansion.
Its present home would be sold to developers, who would build 82 detached luxury homes.
Club chairman Duncan Murray insisted the development was not about losing open space.
Mr Murray said: “It’s disappointing that this many people have signed these petitions. The petitions had a national feel to them, and I saw a signature from Japan. There are claims that open space will be lost, but that’s not the case.
“This is about converting old sports fields into new sports fields and making them safe for people to use.”
South Tyneside Council said the planning bid could go before committee on March 19 at the earliest.
A spokesman said: “Careful regard will be given to these representations and the application will be determined by the council’s Planning Committee with a detailed report provided by the council’s planning service.”
*In Wednesday’s Gazette campaigners claimed councillors were invited to a meeting but did not attend because “it was a busy time of year”
A Council spokeswoman said: “Councillors were unable to attend the meeting organised by the Friends of Temple Memorial Park on December 21 as it clashed with the full council debate on South Tyneside Hospital. Councillors sent their apologies.”