Government responds after petition over controversial housing vision for green belt land in Cleadon

The Government has responded to a petition it received, which aims to prevent 156 homes from being built on Cleadon’s green belt.

In September 2022 South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck presented the 878-signature petition to Parliament, during a Right of Refusal of Development on Green Belt Land debate.

This was on behalf of residents opposed to the proposals. They have concerns over urban sprawl, air quality, light pollution, traffic, noise, ecology, biodiversity, the removal of an ancient boundary between Cleadon and South Shields and the closeness to the Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve.

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The six-hectare site is currently a wheat farm. The land is owned by the Church of England, which is yet to address the issue directly, but is known to want to build more homes nationally.

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

However, objectors also say such a development could also impact negatively on the historic Bede’s Way, which is close to the land and of great significance to Christians.

The 7th century footpath links the ancient monasteries of St Paul’s in Jarrow and St Peter’s in Monkwearmouth. Every June it is used for a pilgrimage.

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Permission to build at Cleadon would be subject to decisions made by South Tyneside Council. The Government says it recognises the importance of green belt land, but has no intention of taking the decision out of the hands of the local authority.

Lee Rowley, Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “A local authority should consider releasing land from green belt only if it can demonstrate that it has explored all other reasonable options; including using brownfield land as much as possible, or optimising the density of development.

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Cleadon residents have spoken out against the development.

“Consequently, we believe decisions about such changes should be taken locally where possible.

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"Local authorities are legally required to consult local people at the outset, both on local plan proposals, including any green belt release and on individual planning applications.

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“Local authorities are best placed to plan their areas taking into account all the material facts and circumstances, which are often very locally specific.

“Given the strong existing protections, the existing consultation requirements, and the ability of local communities to ultimately remove their local elected representatives at a democratic election, we are not proposing to change this part of the process at this time.”

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South Tyneside Council said: “Under current government proposals, national targets for housing will remain. However they will be an advisory ‘starting point’.

“Officers are currently working through the implications of this now that Government has published its planning reform consultation

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“The Local Plan will seek to find the most sustainable locations for development borough wide to meet future needs and will actively encourage building on brownfield, with a focus in the main urban area.

“The Draft Plan contains a wider range of policies which any planning application would need to comply with before planning permission is granted. The plan would also ensure that necessary and appropriate infrastructure is in place to support future development.

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“At this stage, nothing is set in stone and we will use all of the comments received during previous consultations to help shape the next stage of the Plan.

"Ultimately, the Plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State for a Public Examination before an independent planning inspector."