A running enthusiast fears thousands of people who take part in the sport could be left with nowhere to race if a new sports complex is given the go ahead on Temple Memorial Park.
Each year, runners of all ages descend on the site to take part in organised events from 5k runs to cross country competitions.
If these plans are allowed to go ahead the local running community will suffer.Runner
With plans to build a new sports complex and to fence off part of the land, it is feared it could risk the future of running and athletics in the area.
The row over the land has broken out after plans emerged Westoe Rugby Club want to build a new sports complex on the site.
The venture would be the new home of the Rugby Club and South Shields Cricket Club as well as offering facilities for the community.
The development would feature a clubhouse and function suite, changing rooms, rugby pitches, cricket field, tennis courts and squash courts. The sports complex would be funded through the sale of the club’s existing site for luxury houses in Wood Terrace.
Club chairman Duncan Murray said, previously, the new sports ground would give South Tyneside an exceptional facility for all to use.
Mr Murray added: “We want everyone in South Tyneside to come along, we want to welcome as many people as possible to the club. “This development would bring enormous benefits. It would be a tragedy if it was not allowed, it will be a massive loss to the borough. “Ours is not a private club, we are Community Amateur Sports Club, and anyone can join for around £1.69 a week, or £95 over the year.”
The running enthusiast, who wished not to be named said: “I won my first ever race on Temple Memorial Park when I was a child and if the land goes, so does the opportunity for future generations to have that same experience.
“There are a lot of running events which are held on that part of the land. You have the 5k events, South Tyneside Schools Cross Country events as well as cross country competitions for both juniors and adults.
“You aren’t talking a few hundred people, in the men’s cross country event alone you are talking around 1,000 participants.”
He added: “That doesn’t include the number of people who use the land to train or go jogging. There has been times when events have been cancelled elsewhere and have been relocated to Temple Memorial park.
“If these plans are allowed to go ahead the local running community will suffer.”
In the past a number of athletes have taken part in events including Olympic middle-distance runner Laura Weightman who competes in the 1,500 metres.
Campaigners are fighting to protect the land from development citing a covenant placed on the land by the Church Commissioners who gifted the land, named after Archbishop William Temple, to the people of South Shields for their efforts during the Second World War.
The land is listed as a war memorial on the North East War Memorial site www.newmp.org.uk