Church quiet on possible sale of green belt land for potential housing in Cleadon

The Church of England has declined to say exactly what it intends to do with land it owns in Cleadon, which has been earmarked for 156 homes in a development blueprint.

The land at the foot of Cleadon Hills is presently used as a wheat farm covering almost six hectares, which is 60,000 square metres or nine full-size football pitches.

Opponents have voiced concerns over ecology, urban sprawl, air quality, light pollution, traffic, noise, biodiversity, the erasure of an ancient boundary between Cleadon and South Shields and the closeness to the Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve.

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South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck is concerned for the future of the 7th century Bede’s Way, walked on by pilgrims for hundreds of years.

The land is owned by the Church of England.

She has presented an 878-signature petition to Parliament. But South Tyneside Council have stressed that “nothing is set in stone” and will decide later whether building can go ahead.

In 2021 a housing commission, set up by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said thousands of hectares owned by the church across the country could be used to build affordable homes.

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A Church Commissioners spokesperson said earlier this month: “The Church Commissioners are supportive of these proposals.

“As long-term landowners we aim to assist with delivering new homes and employment opportunities which support and enhance their local communities. This is something that we do across the country.

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Cleadon residents have spoken out against the development.

“We do this by seeking to build new, and strengthen existing communities, helping to create and sustain vibrant and vital places.”

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This newspaper has since asked the Church to address the protesters’ environmental concerns, what reassurances they have for the nearby Bede's Way, what proportion of the land would be used for housing and whether they intend to sell or retain the land.

The Church says it can’t yet give definitive answers to our questions, but will provide updates once any planning application is submitted, when they say concerns about the environment and Bede’s Way will be addressed too.

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Although the C of E made no direct comment, we understand that they will take on board the views of an independent planning inspector, and that the Church Commissioners would undertake ecological assessments during the submission of any future planning application.

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For further information, visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/localplan.