Footballers kicking off protest over field fears

Over 100 young footballers in South Tyneside are kicking off a pitched battle to save their field of dreams.

Players from Whitburn and Cleadon Junior Football Club are going on the march this Saturday to show the red card to plans to sell off their home pitches which could be could be lost forever to housing developers.

Cleadon Lane Playing Fields, in Whitburn, has been the club’s home for 27 years but it could be lost to a 113-home scheme.

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More than 150 players in full strips - armed with referee’s whistles and red cards - will be teaming up with parents and concerned campaigners to call on the community to help boot the controversial bid into touch.

The five hectare site, which is in the heart of the green belt in the village conservation area, has been earmarked as suitable for potential future development by South Tyneside Council as part of a Strategic Land Review.

The review is a draft assessment of sites deemed most suitable to meet housing requirements over the next 20 years.

Paul Graham, secretary of the club, who play in the Russell Foster Youth Leagues and Durham County League, said: “It was a total bolt from the blue. The playing fields are used by nearly 200 children aged from five to 17 every week throughout the season.

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“We have been told that, if the council decides to include the fields in the Local Plan for housing, we would be relocated, but that could be anywhere in the borough. We want to protect these pitches for generations to come.”

The club has launched a campaign to retain the playing fields, which are owned by the council, and parents of players have delivered 6,000 leaflets to homes across Whitburn and Cleadon asking residents to support them.

Scores of players will gather in their full team strips in Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn and the Britannia Inn in Cleadon Village at 9.30am on Saturday and walk to the playing fields, where a sponsored fun run and friendly games will be held.

Councillor Allan West, lead member for housing and transport at South Tyneside Council, said: “Officers have assessed over 300 potential sites across the borough as part of this process but no decisions have been made at this stage.

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“The Strategic Land Review does not allocate sites for development and the inclusion of a site in the study does not necessarily mean it will end up being allocated.

“Developing the Local Plan is a collaborative process and we are keen for local people to have an input. We’ve had a good response so far and encourage people to share their views. We will continue to consult local people.”