Battle to protect sports fields from future building set to restart

Lilian Milne wants village green status to be granted at Oakleigh Gardens.
Lilian Milne wants village green status to be granted at Oakleigh Gardens.

Campaigners are set to renew their battle to protect two sports fields at a South Tyneside countryside spot, after a new date was set for a postponed public inquiry.

And they say they remain confident of success ahead of the delayed probe into the land, at Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon.

We are quietly confident that village green status will be granted

Lilian Milne

It was temporarily shelved in March after council chiefs failed to meet a deadline to submit their evidence.

The inquiry was to examine if the land – currently mapped out as a cricket and a football field – should be granted village green status.

Although there are no known development plans, approval would make it a no-go zone for future building incursion.

Campaigners and the council, which opposes the bid, will now go head to head over three days – July 18, 19 and 20 – at South Shields town hall.

Lilian Milne, of the Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, which is fighting to protect the site, said she remained hopeful they would prevail.

Mrs Milne, of Elmsleigh Gardens, Cleadon, said: “We are quietly confident that village green status will be granted.

“We have used the time to add some extra detail to our evidence statements, which the inquiry inspector said we could do.

“All in all, we think we have a strong case and are hopeful of success.”

South Tyneside Council admitted it had erred in not submitting essential representations and evidence to the independent inspector.

At the time, the action group claimed cancellation had disrupted the schedules of members, some of whom had taken time off to attend the inquiry.

Campaigners say they have now been handed three evidence statement on which the council will base its case.

Formed in November 2016, the group wants to protect the fields, which lie at the north-west edge of Cleadon.

Members say one field was highlighted last year in a council planning strategy document, raising fears it may be consumed in a future development scheme.

Their main claim to village green status is that they have enjoyed free and open access to the site for at least 20 years.

The council has previously asked for proof of the group’s claims, stating as landowner it had made “reasonable attempts” to restrict access to the land.

It says some of the historic usage has taken place “pursuant to consents granted” and “was not as of right”.