Campaigners lose bid to have Cleadon's Oakleigh Gardens fields protected by village green status

Campaigners have lost their bid to protect village playing fields from development.

The Oakleigh Gardens site
The Oakleigh Gardens site

Community members lodged a village green application in 2016 for playing fields on the former Oakleigh Gardens School site in Cleadon.

But South Tyneside Council, which owns the land, claimed it had previously tried to stop people accessing the site- essentially removing any public status.

Following calls from the Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, a public inquiry was launched into the plans in 2018.

Colin Campbell

The group wanted to permanently protect the site, which is mapped out as cricket and football fields at the north-west corner of the village.

If approved, the bid would have made the site a no-go area for housing – but this has now been thrown out by the council’s Common Land, Town and Village Greens Committee.

It followed recommendations from government-appointed planning inspector Eric Owen, who said non-registration would not affect the site’s continued use for sport and leisure.

While campaigners proved the site had been used for sports and pastimes for at least 20 years – including bonfire night celebrations – the bid fell because the council had allowed this “by permission” rather than “as-of-right” use.

Coun Joan Atkinson

Council leader and committee chairman Iain Malcolm said village green status would have created restrictions around improving the site in future, including adding lighting columns or even bins.

Coun Joan Atkinson, speaking as a representative for the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, said it had been a fair hearing.

“We supported residents in their application because we know that the fields are a well used piece of land within Cleadon Village,” she added.

“I think we all felt it was open access and not ‘granted permission’, however we sat through days of hearings and that’s what the inspector found it to be.”

But Cleadon resident Colin Campbell questioned what the future of the site would be, including possible council housing development.

“We have an opportunity now to make this a village green in perpetuity and it’s a legacy for your children and grandchildren,” he said.

“Although I accept the inspector’s report and it’s all sound, you do have the opportunity to keep this lovely piece of open land green for the people of South Tyneside.”