A protest petition to stop a private sports club being built on public land in South Tyneside has been launched, with supporters warning: “We will fight this to the end.”
Almost 650 people have already signed up to try to scupper the multi-million-pound proposal, which would reshape a huge swathe of Temple Park, in South Shields, if approved.
They are demanding council chiefs reject a bid by the South Shields and Westoe Club to relocate from its home of 168 years a mile away, in Wood Terrace.
The club wants to build new rugby and cricket pitches, as well as squash and tennis facilities, to match its vision of expansion.
Its present home would be sold to developers, who want to construct 82 detached luxury homes.
Dad-of-two Gerard New, 48, who helped set the petition in motion, said: “Residents are not being part of the process.
“The plans haven’t been properly publicised, and the consultation process is far too short for something as important as this.
“The move would be great for the club, which gets a dream new home, and for the developers, who will make millions from it, but it’s not so good for Temple Park and for the people use it, who will lose access to it.”
The youth and community worker, from Harton, added: “It is public land that the council is planning to hand to a private club, and that is the biggest issue.
“We have got well over 600 names on the petition in just few days and we are expecting very many more. We are frustrated by this consultation process, or lack of a proper one.
“This is not a flash in the pan protest, we will fight this for the long term, all the way to appeal if that’s what it takes.”
Club chairman Duncan Murray said Temple Park provides a “fantastic opportunity” to expand upon and improve its existing facilities and meet its growth ambitions as well as allow it to embrace the wider community..
Councillor Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, has said the proposal will provide a high-quality facility with benefits for the wider community.
The new complex would be fully-funded through the sale of the Wood Terrace site.
In turn, that would be developed by Persona, the private sales brand of housing provider and charity, Home Group.
The public can comment on the application, which can be viewed at www.southtyneside.gov.uk, until Thursday, December 28.
The petition can be found at www.change.org/p/friends-of-temple-park-help-us-to-keep-temple-park-for-public-use