Green space protestors turned out yesterday as a Government inspector opened a hearing into the status of a plot of land.
The heating has been called to rule whether part of the playing fields at the former Oakleigh Gardens School site in Cleadon should be recognised as a village green.
Witnesses told the hearing at South Shield Town Hall how the land had long been used by the community - for events like bonfire night celebrations and sport.
Lilian Milne, of the Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, who has lived at her home in Cleadon since 1976, said: “My husband and I have used the land to our convenience and at our leisure,
“Our six grandchildren have played, ridden their bicycles, had picnics and attended parties held by other local residents.”
She added: “This is a special place, loved by all who use it as a right and without permission.”
Also giving evidence was girl guide leader Valerie Cram, who said she had contacted the council about a decade ago about permission for the 1st Cleadon Guides to use the site.
She said she was told by her ward councillor that he ‘couldn’t see a problem’ with the group using the land, while she was also told by a council officer she was allowed to use it.
If village green status is granted, it would protect the cricket and football field at the north-west edge of Cleadon from future development.
The hearing was due to go ahead in March but was postponed after council chiefs failed to meet a deadline to submit evidence.
The inquiry is to rule whether the land – currently mapped out as a cricket and a football field – should be granted village green status. Although there are no known development plans, approval would make it a no-go zone for future building incursion.
South Tyneside Council admitted it had erred in not submitting essential representations and evidence to the independent inspector.
The Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group Members say one field was highlighted last year in a council planning strategy document, raising fears it may be consumed in a future development scheme.
Their main claim to village green status is that they have enjoyed free and open access to the site for at least 20 years.