Great-grandmother fighting for ‘village green’ status for sports fields to protect them against future development

Lilian Milne
Lilian Milne

A great-grandmother has told of her battle to save two playing fields from possible future development – but how she is doubtful of success.

Lilian Milne aims to give a sporting chance to cricket and football fields at Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon, being preserved for years to come.

Her determination to guarantee they remain untouched has led her to request the land be granted protective village green status.

To decide that, a planned two-day public inquiry, led by an independent inspector, will be held in South Shields next week.

The fields, which sit on the north-west edge of Cleadon, are owned by South Tyneside Council and are not believed to be subject to any planning application.

But Mrs Milne, of Elmsleigh Gardens, Cleadon, who is the bid’s applicant on behalf of Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, fears development plans will come because of a council development strategy document last year.

The retired foster carer said: “This bid was not done because we thought the council wanted to build on the land. All we wanted to do was to ensure the area was protected should that ever happen.

“But since we started this, we have noticed one of the fields has been included in a development strategy document, and so we do now have some concerns. These fields have been used by the public for years.”

Mrs Milne, who is in her 70s, added: “I’m not entirely confident that we will win at the public inquiry. Three of the action group’s committee members will give evidence and we will have a lot of support at the meeting.

“Hopefully village green status will be granted but. if it’s not, we will look at what else we can do.”

Those to have used the fields historically include children from the now closed Oakleigh Gardens School, at Cleadon.

The top ‘north’ field is used for cricket matches, and football is played on the lower ‘south’ field.

A spokewoman said: “We have received an application for registration of Oakleigh Gardens playing fields, as a town or village green.

“As the council is the landowner and the local Commons Registration Authority, the application will be considered by an independent inspector at a public inquiry on 14-15 March.”

The inquiry, which is being held at One Trinity Green, in Eldon Street, Laygate, South Shields, from 10am.