South Shields campaigners hold protest against Holborn housing plans
Campaigners have called for a rethink of controversial plans to build houses on “treasured” green space.
Fears for the future of the play park and field in the Holborn Riverside area of South Shields were raised in 2020 after plans were revealed for a major housing and regeneration project.
Subject to approval from South Tyneside Council’s planning committee, the plans from Keepmoat Homes could pave the way for hundreds of new homes across the former shipyard docks site.
Yet families have been angered by proposals to build over a section of land containing a park and green space between Laygate Street and Commercial Road.
On Wednesday, campaigners took their fight to the steps of South Shields Town Hall calling on decision-makers to listen to their concerns.
The council responded by saying it would be inappropriate at this stage while objections are being handled.
Keepmoat Homes, meanwhile, stated that “we have sought to address residents’ concerns and have incorporated a play park into our proposals by reducing the number of new dwellings proposed”.
While proposals for a replacement play park and open space on the Holborn site have been included in a planning application from Keepmoat Homes, some locals say this “compromise” isn’t good enough.
Instead they are calling for developers and the council to go back to the drawing board to preserve the green space for future generations.
“The space is scenic, it’s beautiful and it’s a lifeline to the residents of Simonside and Rekendyke,” said Leyla Al-Sayadi, who began a drive to raise awareness of the plans last year.
“We have used it at length during the various lockdowns, it’s used by children and I have three children who have been out on that field every day of lockdown. It’s a place my family have used for the last thirty years.
“There’s a climate emergency at the moment declared by South Tyneside Council and I don’t understand how the answer to that is to build 48 houses over the only green space in a deprived area of South Shields.”
Housing plans linked to the play park and green space are part of phase one of the Holborn regeneration scheme which is expected to go before the council’s Planning Committee this year.
The hybrid application includes full planning permission for a total of 48 homes in phase one and outline planning permission for around 300 homes across phases two and three.
Campaigners stressed that they support the wider redevelopment of the Holborn site and are only looking to save a small section of green space used by the local community.
Leyla Al-Sayadi has called for the different phases of the scheme to be separated and “voted on independently and on their own merits”.
The mum-of-three also said Keepmoat Homes could have done more to consult the community at large and that the replacement park proposed would be a “downgrade” as it would not meet the needs of older children.
Rachael Milne, of South Tyneside Tree Action Group, added that the loss of green space would be a “devastating blow.”
“The power is in the council Planning Committee’s hands to stop this,” she said.
“It’s a treasured asset that we must protect and without it, the area is not going to be as nice, the children will have nowhere to play and it’s going to become more depressing and it’s going to affect mental health.”
A spokesperson for Keepmoat Homes said: “Holborn Riverside has been identified as an area for regeneration by South Tyneside Council and, having been appointed as their preferred development partner with Cussins in 2020, we aim to transform the area into a thriving community which will create or safeguard 1,500 jobs in the area.
“Following an extensive public consultation last year, we have sought to address residents’ concerns and have incorporated a play park into our proposals by reducing the number of new dwellings proposed.
“The constraints of the overall scheme have meant that we are unable to reduce the scale of our development further, however the council have confirmed a commitment to retain open green space in the wider area as well as creating more public open space via the riverside promenade and opening up access around the three dry docks.
“We have submitted our planning application, incorporating these changes, and it is now down to the council to decide, under the statutory process, whether or not our proposals are acceptable.”
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council added: “Formal objections are now being handled as part of the planning process and until such time as this has concluded it would not be appropriate to comment further.
“All issues relating to traffic, environment and the provision of public open space will be dealt with as part of that planning process which we expect will be considered by Planning Committee.
“In developing the proposals for new housing, employment space and public realm across the South Shields Riverside area the council has sought to balance its approach to meeting the current, and future, needs of residents, businesses and the environment.
“The issues relating specifically to the site will be assessed thoroughly by Planning Committee.
“Following the decision at Planning Committee, whatever the outcome, we are committed to working with local residents to make sure that any development has a positive impact on the borough.”
For more information on the planning application, visit South Tyneside Council’s online planning portal and search reference: ST/0245/21/FUL