A campaigner who was instrumental in forcing council chiefs to make a u-turn on building a school on public land, is now fighting to have the land recognised as a war memorial.
Ronnie Mews already has the backing of the North East War Memorials Project - which says Temple Park, gifted to the people of South Shields for their efforts during the Second World War - is a war memorial.
He is calling on South Tyneside Council to recognise the park as a war memorial by replacing a plaque with wording reflecting its status.
The current plaque simply states it was named in memory of William Temple Archbishop of Canterbury when the land was gifted to the borough by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners but makes no mention that it is also in tribute to the war efforts of people in South Shields.
The pensioner, who campaigned to stop the council building a school on the land in 2006, says felt compelled to take action once again after it was reported South Shields and Westoe Sports Club were in talks with the council to lease land at the park.
There is a covenant on the land - as part of the gift - saying it should be maintained as an open space.
I’d like to see the council acknowledge the land for what it is - a war memorial.Ronnie Mews
The restriction was adjusted in the early 1970s to allow the building of Temple Park Leisure Centre.
Mr Mews said: “I’m glad the North East War Memorial Project has recognised Temple Memorial Park as a war memorial. It always should have been.
“I believe there has been a disservice to the people of South Shields by council’s - past and present - to acknowledge the spirit in which the land was given and the failure to publicise the reason why it was given.
“The place has in the past been used as a dumping ground. This is a war memorial and the manner in which the area has been treated is nothing short of contempt for the men and women of the town who gave their lives during the war and since then.”
He added: “We already have the fire station built on it. The council tried to build a school there and now they plan to lease land to a private club.
“It states quite clearly in the council minutes that the land should be maintained as an open space and that no buildings should be allowed on it except communal buildings or those designed to promote the public’s enjoyment of the park.
“I’d like to see the council acknowledge the land for what it is - a war memorial. The existing plaque has omitted this fact and this needs to be rectified.”
Janet Brown, chair of the North East War Memorial Project said: “We have carried out research and Temple Memorial Park is a war memorial.
“There needs to be a more clearly worded plaque stating it was given to the people of South Shields in recognition of their war efforts.
“We will back Mr Mews all the way on this.”
Father John Miller, who was also part of the Save Temple Memorial Park campaign in 2006, said: “I think it’s a shame, it’s a part of a town’s history which hasn’t been acknowledged.
“It would be wonderful to have a new plaque to acknowledge the gift from the Church Commissioners but also state the land is a war memorial.
“Temple Memorial Park is a war memorial and it would be nice for the council to acknowledge that and recognise it as such.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “Although the plaque erected in 1961 focuses on the naming of the park, it is recognised that the land was gifted to the people of the borough in recognition of the part they played in the 1939 - 1945 war at sea.
“This fact is well documented and is publicised on the Council’s website.
“The erection of a new plaque will be a costly exercise and at a time of unprecedented financial pressures the council will need to seek external funding for such a project.”
A Facebook page has now been set up, Temple Park War Memorial, where people can access documentation and news articles about the land as well as show their support in recognising the park as a war memorial.
DETAILS IN 70-YEAR-OLD MINUTES
Council minutes of 1944 stated: “The Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England had offered to make a gift to the town of a large open space for the use of the public in perpetuity,
“They also express the hope that possession of the park may be regarded in the borough as a tribute by the Commissioners to the part which the citizens of South Shields have played during war-time in the service of their country.
“It is a condition of the gift the land should be maintained as an open space for the use of the public in perpetuity and that no buildings should be allowed on it except communal buildings of buildings designed to promote the public’s enjoyment of the park.”
The minutes also recorded: “The commissioners desired the park should be given an appropriate name in recognition of their gift and have been pleased to approve of its being named the “The Temple Memorial Park” in memory of the late Archbishop Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was well known for his deep interest in social welfare.
The minutes go on: “RESOLVED - the council be recommended to accept the offer of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on the terms outlined above and to place on record the warm appreciation of the council and of the townspeople for the Commissioner’s most generous gift and of the spirit of goodwill towards South Shields which it exemplifies.”