Cleadon green belt battle campaigner tells of Brexit-like wait for verdict

Lilian Milne at the former Oakleigh Gardens school site
Lilian Milne at the former Oakleigh Gardens school site

Campaigning South Tyneside residents – fighting to save Green Belt sports fields close to their homes from possible future development – have compared their battle to Brexit.

The Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group says its failed bid to have land in Cleadon granted protective village green status, has similarities to the UK’s attempt to leave the EU.

Spokeswoman Lillian Milne said this was due to Britain’s knife-edge ‘in or out’ political position – the same as the group finds itself in over its land challenge.

Last summer, it took on landowner South Tyneside Council at a three-day public inquiry, where it hoped an inspector would recommend such legal standing be granted to Oakleigh Gardens.

But in March, the action group learnt its attempt had failed, with power to grant permission lying solely with the council, which opposed the move.

Council chiefs say they have yet to decide if they will accede to the group’s demand - leaving campaigners fearing it will not.

Mrs Milne, of Elmsleigh Gardens, Cleadon, said: “A bit like Brexit. Will it be a deal or no deal?

“It is hoped that out of all the hard work put into this application, the land will be used for the people’s well-being, The joggers, the elderly and the children for many decades to come.”

Mrs Milne also thanked supporters for backing the action group’s call to arms but she slammed the council over some of its procedures in fighting its corner.

Her criticism included a delay to the inquiry caused by the council not providing documentary evidence on time – something it has accepted.

A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said: “The application was considered by an independent inspector, in accordance with established practice for Village Green applications.

“The inspector has recommended that the land should not be registered as a Village Green.

“The council’s Village Green Committee will meet in due course to consider the report and determine the application.

As the council has a dual role in this case, as the land owner and the local Commons Registration Authority, and as the final decision on the application is yet to be taken, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”