Oakleigh Gardens playing fields in Cleadon saved for future generations after being made 'Field in Trust'
Playing fields at the centre of a long-running battle have been saved for future generations to enjoy.
Campaigners spent years fighting for the green space on the site of the former Oakleigh Gardens School in Cleadon Village to be protected, with fears the land would be used for housing.
This included community members lodging a bid to make the land a designated ‘village green’ in 2016, which was blocked by South Tyneside Council.
Following calls from the Oakleigh Gardens Community Action Group, a public inquiry was launched into the plans in 2018. But campaigners continued to be unsuccessful in their endeavour.
Now, however, the playing fields have been made a ‘Field in Trust’, which prevents the land being used for anything other than recreation, sport and play in future.
The green space has been protected in perpetuity in a legal agreement known as a ‘Deed of Dedication – between the council as landowner and the Fields in Trust charity.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture, Leisure and the Visitor Economy, said: “Local people are passionate and protective about this open green space and have always enjoyed it for recreational use.
“Our partnership with Fields in Trust means that these playing fields will always remain so, safeguarded for generations to come. This is a great boost for the physical health and wellbeing of local people and for the environment.
“There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to secure this added protection for Oakleigh Gardens playing fields. The local community have played a key role in the process, championing the site for Field in Trust status.”
Phil Toulson, who lives near the site, was happy to see the land become a Field in Trust.
He said: “I first played rugby at Oakleigh Gardens over 50 years ago. Granting Fields in Trust status to the fields will safeguard the area for recreational use for at least another 50 years.”
Oakleigh Gardens joins three other open green spaces in South Tyneside to hold Field in Trust status.
These include King George V playing fields in Galsworthy Road, King George V playing fields at Lindisfarne Road and Lukes Lane Sports Field.
Fields in Trust is a national charity founded in 1925 with the aim of protecting parks and green spaces for future generations.
Chief Executive of Fields in Trust, Helen Griffiths said: “Parks and green spaces play a vital role in all our lives and over recent years we have seen a major shift in the way people talk about, visit and value their local parks. Our parks provided a lifeline throughout lockdown and now, we can all play our part to make sure local green spaces will remain a healthy part of the local environment forever.
“We congratulate South Tyneside Council on legally protecting Oakleigh Gardens Playing Fields, enabling residents to have somewhere to enjoy themselves, boost their health and wellbeing, build community connections and make life-long memories, contributing to a happier and healthier local community who can enjoy this green space for good.”